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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

“something to do” leads to lasting New Hampshire summer icon

Don Himsel

Editor’s Note: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo and an explanation of how he got the shot.


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Editor’s Note: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo and an explanation of how he got the shot.

It was June 2, 1940. Fredericka Hayward was to give birth that day to her second child, and, because you know having kids maybe wasn’t enough to take up her time, open up her own ice cream stand.

Fredericka had “wanted something to do,” said her grandson Chris Ordway, leaning on one of the three original ice cream freezers still in use at Hayward’s in Nashua. “My grandmother gives birth to my mom the day they sign the paperwork. Two weeks later, they open it up,” he said.

It sat right up close to the old Route 3, the main drag that brought (and still does) flatlanders up north.

“The sign would actually be sitting in the middle of where the building was,” Ordway said.

“It was vacant for two years before my grandparents got it. You walked in. There were no windows. Right around June 15, 1940 they opened up with eight windows. They took two weeks to convert it to an ice cream stand.”

She was at home with one child at the time. Charles P. Hayward was in his 20s. “My grandfather was a milk peddlar out of Nashua and Milford. He delivered milk to Nashua, Amherst Wilton, Milford and Hollis,” he said.

“They had two farms. The Meritdale farm in which everybody knows as Hayward Farms in Milford and the Riverside Farm in Nashua. Both farms had around 150 cows each,” Ordway said.

Next time you drive past the Nashua Mall at Exit 6 on the F.E. Everett Turnpike, imagine those cows at the big, sprawling farm, because that’s where you’d find it.

The family farmed from the late 1800s through the 1950s. Ordway said they got a truck in the 1950s. “Old School” is how he described them.

“The Nashua Fire Department used to run Clydesdale horses to pull their tanks,” he said. “When they got out of that and actually got their first engine, they gave ther Clydesdale horses to my grandparents to run the milk routes. What better horse? It’s a strong horse. It knows the town. It knew everywhere to go,” he said.

“My grandfather had one or two that pulled his buggy. He was able to go downtown on the sidestreets, jump off with a couple of things of milk, go up to the houses and put the milk down into the bins on the steps, turn the corner finish it out, walk out to the street and there’s the horses and buggy waiting for him. The horse would go around the corner and stop.”

“They had them trained so well. So why get rid of that? Why go to a truck when you have to walk all the way back to it, when the horse will meet you at the end of your stop?

Business thrived around the war years, but sugar rationing meant that sometimes they could only make ice cream to last a few days or perhaps a week before their months ration of sugar ran out.

The family grew, and so did the number of shops. Hayward’s sold their homemade treats in Keene, Lancaster, Concord, Manchester as well as Milford and Nashua.

And not only was his grandfather running the farm, helping at the ice cream stand and delivering milk, he decided to start repairing John Deere tractors for neighbors.

“My grandfather ended up selling the business to my dad in 1977.” One of his first jobs was to bring the ice cream from Milford to the Nashua location in a station wagon. “Back then, it was one set of lights. It took you 15 minutes.”

Ordway bought it from his dad F. Michael Ordway in ’97 and it remains solidly entrenched in Nashua as ever and the importance of the family in local history is no way lost on him.

You can stand in the middle of the shop and see every inch of wall space in the small building. No space is wasted. Staff is efficient and equipment runs smoothly. He proudly describes the workings of one of those three old freezers. New ones help hold the seemingly endless gallons of ice cream, some made with decades-old recipes, but can’t keep up with the oldsters.

“This one here used to run off of a motor with a pulley on it with a belt that you would get off your car like a fan belt. That would go around to a bigger one, that would run a piston. It would pump all the refrigeration,” he described.

“The refrigeration guy, he’s been probably working on them for 40 years, maybe longer. He used to call this one Wonka, because when you turned it “wonk, wonk, wonk … that’s all it did from opening to close of the season, it ran 24-7.”

“You’d hear wonk, wonk, wonk when you went downstairs. … We’ve put it in storage. It’s a piece of history,” he said before winding his way down there to show me.

He said it’s hard to continuously maintain the building and not interfere with service. The Nashua shop can see 3,000 people on a busy day, he said, and the season is only about four-five months long.

“The things that we have inside the building that nobody really sees but I see on a daily basis that I can reflect back on,” he said. “The cooler door over there, that’s an original cooler door. Our fountain, if you look closely, it’s marble,” original to the late 1930s structure.

Ordway reflects on his family’s strong work ethic, one that drove them through dairy farming, through the trials of homefront life during wars and into new work when downtime on the farm brought opportunity. He said that work ethic came from Charles P.

“I have something not very many people in the city have. I have a legacy that I’m able to keep going and hopefully my kids will come into it and keep on going.”

Oh, by the way. French vanilla is his favorite. “It goes with everything. It’s an egg custard, you can’t go wrong,” he said with a smile.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).