There is none better anywhere.
The article from the Barnstable Patriot says it all and reviews a book that documents the history of this little piece of heaven on Cape Cod. Well worth the trip from anywhere.
Four Seas Ice Cream Sailing Through the Sweet History of Cape Cod's Favorite Ice Cream Parlor
Written by John Watters - Barnstable Patriot
Book Review - Four Seas Ice Cream
Sailing Through the Sweet History of Cape Cod's Favorite Ice Cream Parlor
By Heather Wysocki
The History Press, Charleston SC, 2012,
Softcover, 142 pgs., $19.99
When one thinks of summer on Cape Cod, one thinks of sunny days at the beach, Cape League baseball games, fried clams and, of course, ice cream. In the town of Barnstable we are blessed to have one of the most treasured and quintessential scoop shops in America, the venerable Four Seas Ice Cream.
As a reviewer of Heather Wysocki’s new book Four Seas Ice Cream; Sailing Through the Sweet History of Cape Cod’s Favorite Ice Cream Parlor, I confess I might be a bit of a “homer.” For well over 50 years I have memories of cones, parfaits, sundaes, frappes, and banana splits frozen in time from the little white clapboard-sided shop on South Main Street in Centerville. In the late 1950s I remember having tuna salad sandwiches on white bread cut into diagonal triangles with a small side of potato chips, followed by a scoop of chocolate ice cream on a sugar cone after a day frolicking at Craigville Beach. I’ve stood in long lines at night bathed by the red and blue neon sign as I prepare to get hooked up with a scoop of black raspberry. I’ve seen fellow Cape Codders, wash-a-shores, neighbors and visitors, a few of them that could be called celebrities, queue up for a dish of the summertime manna being mined from the cardboard buckets deep inside stainless steel freezers. I’m a fan, always have been, always will be.
Wysocki’s book is written from a very intimate viewpoint. The talented journalist is a bit of a “homer” herself when it comes to Four Seas, as her mother and step-dad are the current owners of the long-time family business. Wysocki could have easily mailed it in with a story as frothy as a milk shake; instead, she combines a little history of Centerville with some inside family memories that add a bitter sweetness to the success story that is truly a Cape Cod institution.
The book opens with a short history of the south-side village first called Chequaquet that turned into Centerville, a picturesque village with homes of sea captains, farmers, businessmen and entrepreneurs. One of the first interesting facts is that the structure that houses Four Seas was originally the building of the village smithy. The smithy was originally farther back on the property, but the first man to put Four Seas on the map had the building moved closer to the road so as to attract customers and make room for freezers in the back.
The person that started it all was William Wells Wilberforth Watson, who at first was only interested in investing in the idea of an ice cream stand across the street from Irving Wolff’s family restaurant Ye Old Cape Codder. Wolff opened the Four Seas Dairy Bar in 1934, but by 1936 still owed Watson $600 after running the summertime stand. Watson decided to come to the Cape and manage the store successfully himself. He did so, and in 1938 bought the Four Seas business and property.
Watson ran the stand into the late 1950s and was looking for a full-time manager when in 1956 Boston University student Richard Warren answered a newspaper ad. Warren landed the job of managing Watson’s store. Watson. who wore an all-white dairy outfit, ran his business with an austere hand but the quality of his product brought people from far and wide. Warren readily took hold of the concept, it didn’t hurt that he also met his future wife Georgia Swift, who had worked on the counter for a few years.
Richard Warren bought Four Seas from Watson in 1960, when Georgia and he were well on their way to raising their family of three children. Warren chose not to alter too much what Watson had begun, realizing it was definitely going to be a huge success story one day. To augment the summertime money Warren took a teaching job at Barnstable High School, where he passed an endless string of potential workers in the halls every day. Working at Four Seas Ice Cream was considered a great job.
The author’s stepfather, Doug Warren, “Dick’s” youngest son, runs the stand today with his wife Peggy. Author Wysocki tells the tale of tragedies that hit the Warren family over the years. First, Warren’s marriage to Georgia failed; later his oldest son Randy was killed in a car accident when he was 22 years old; and then in 2008 Richard Warren himself died in a freak skiing accident in New Hampshire.
Wysocki’s book also touches upon the celebrities from all over the country that have stood in line for a scoop. Four Seas ice cream was a favorite desert for all the Kennedys. The book is filled with charming visits by Jackie Kennedy and former professional football player Rosie Grier, both forgetting their wallets and having to sign an IOU. So good was the ice cream that Bob Hope, who was performing at the Melody Tent, visited the stand with his wife several nights in a row. Steven Tyler, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and many more have also stopped by.
There are many reasons to enjoy Wysocki’s book about the family business. It’s a telling story about the building of a family business, it’s also a story about an ice cream store that has gained national attention, and her book is filled with institutional knowledge passed down from family and former employees. It a quick summer read for anyone who has ever tasted Four Seas’ delicious deserts, and that for sure is a great many people.