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ONE DELICIOUS JOB Richard L. Connor Opinion

Sampling sundaes on a busy Friday is a dog’s life, alright

Times Leader Editor and Publisher Richard Connor chats with Chet Mozloom, executive director of the Lands at Hillside Farms, while sampling the hot fudge sundae at the dairy.

The hot fudge sundae at the Lands at Hillside Farms – old-fashioned goodness.

Mary Ann and Carl Peterlin and their sons, and Joel, left, and C.J., operate the new Back Mountain Creamery. It was sundae number two for Connor.

No hot fudge touches the special vanilla ice cream at the Back Mountain Creamery.

And Blue Ribbon Dairy makes three. Connor chats with Kiki, left, and Ann Sorick of the landmark dairy while sampling their hot fudge sundae.

Times Leader Editor and Publisher Richard Connor digs in to the Blue Ribbon Dairy’s hot fudge sundae on Friday.

S. john wilkin photos/the times leader

In the parlor, Blue Ribbon Dairy’s sundae is crowned with a black cherry.

I hate this job.

Where is Johnny Paycheck when you need him?

You remember Johnny. “Take this job and. …”

Friday was a perfect example of the miserable existence of the publisher of The Times Leader.

I had to eat three ice cream sundaes in a three-hour time span. Three. Vanilla. Whipped cream. One with nuts. Cherries. Chocolate sauce — two hot, one not.

Miserable existence.

Barely had I finished the second one when I had to rush back to the office for the judging in “Bring Your Pet to Work Day.”

Chester, my DeCoverly Setter, looked like even he doesn’t enjoy being publisher at The Times Leader.

He comes to work with me every day so he is fully versed in the rigors of this job, but waiting in the car for me to finish the ice cream pushed his patience to the limit.

Besides, he had a pet contest to try to win. His competition was far tougher than just meeting other canines head-to-head, Fido-a-Fido. There was also a lizard in the competition. And some turtles.

He was even more disappointed when I explained to him that the publisher’s pet had to be barred from competition. After all, this is a newspaper built on a foundation of fairness principles.

Arduous as the day was, though, by twilight we agreed the job’s not so bad after all.

We try to have fun at work. My view is that lots of companies preach it but few practice it.

The point is for us to take what we do for a living — which I see as a form of public service — seriously, but not to take ourselves too seriously.

Last week I wrote about the Best of Northeastern Pennsylvania series of stories we begin publishing today. The stories highlight businesses and services that members of our staff believe offer “the best” in the area. The first piece, which can be found on Page 1A today, is about the best ice cream. I thought I would introduce the series last week, writing about my transgression.

I’m not much better than the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. I cheated on my favorite Luzerne County ice cream spots and went to Clarks Summit for a cone at Manning’s.

Last Sunday, when I might have written about heavy topics such as the presidential elections in Iran or the nuclear threat of North Korea, I was writing about ice cream. The column drew more local response than almost every previous column I have written.

It turns out that everyone, or so it seems, has a favorite ice cream parlor. So, I decided that I needed to make amends and go to three Luzerne County ice cream shops for a taste test of my own.

I chose Hillside Farms on Hillside Road, Back Mountain Creamery on Carverton Road, and Blue Ribbon Dairy on Susquehanna Avenue in West Pittston. Here are the results.

I loved them all. You can not go wrong at any of the three.

Hillside was first. Will Conyngham met me at the dairy store but said I needed to deal with Chet L. Mozloom, executive director of the Lands at Hillside Farms. Will can talk ice cream and milk with the best of them, but these days he and I like to talk draft horses, a passion we share.

When I first moved here in 1978, Will and brother Frank “Parky” Conyngham had been making their own ice cream for a year. On my first visit to their store then I thought their ice cream was the best I had ever eaten. Now, I live about a mile from the shop so I can almost walk there and waddle back.

I ordered the hot fudge sundae. It had creamy, luscious vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a Maraschino cherry on top. All I can say is that it reminded me of the sundaes of childhood and the ones my mother loved best. Sumptuous.

Pointing out that I had to eat three in succession, I announced I would only be eating a few spoonfuls. I almost finished the entire bowl and it was only 11:30 a.m.

From there I drove to Back Mountain Creamery, a new shop that just opened a few months ago. It is owned by Carl and Mary Ann Peterlin. Their two sons, C. J., 19, and Joel, 15, also work there.

Carl is known as “Big C.”

I was dumb enough to ask him how he got the name while standing next to him, dwarfed. You get the picture.

Big C has rules and I decided not to argue with him. For instance, he will not heat his chocolate sauce.

“Not going to scald my ice cream,” he announced.

Fine Big C. Whatever you say.

He insisted on a homemade waffle cone placed in a cup and surrounding the ice cream. This turned into an event much like a wine tasting.

“Floral tastes,” said Mary Ann, a special education teacher at the Wyoming Valley West school district. Carl also has a full-time job working for CVS pharmacy.

Their vanilla is made from a combination of Madagascar beans and Tahitian beans. Carl has invented his own vanilla.

The taste?

Exotic and rich. I may go back to eat the waffle cone by itself for breakfast.

Next stop was Blue Ribbon, in business since July 4, 1945. The business was started by the Lombardo family, well known for pharmacies as well as milk products. It is still a family affair, run by Ann Sorick and her husband, Ken. Ann works with Mary Ann Peterlin in the Wyoming Valley West school system.

Something in the water there, I guess, that causes school employees to run ice cream businesses, too.

Their twins, Kiki and Kenny, also work there.

Using their own mixes — apparently the secret of the best ice cream shops — the Soricks are known for many great flavors. Once a customer ordered the Cherry Vanilla to be packed in ice and shipped to them for a special birthday.

The sundae there, like Hillside’s, had hot fudge and homemade whipped cream. But on top of it was a black cherry, the secret to their Cherry Vanilla blend.

Served in a glass bowl, the sundae had a special ambiance to it. Old fashioned, nostalgic, and homey. Plus the place is a real “parlor.”

I explained to Ann and daughter Kiki that I could not possibly eat an entire third one. Then I devoured it, unable to stop.

I felt like I slept most of the way back to the office, even though I was driving.

A newspaper worth its salt should be local. It should connect with its readers on many levels. We should have fun together.

Our employees have had fun putting together the Best of Northeastern Pennsylvania series.

Our readers shamed me into coming back home and shamed me into the work — the fun — of a whirlwind ice cream tour and being a glutton for a day.

The employees at work demanded equality and wanted to bring their pets to work, too. Yes there was barking. Yes, productivity was interrupted. But none of these interruptions mattered.

What mattered was the smiling.

Those smiles were on the faces of our customers who stopped in the lobby and saw the place had gone to the dogs. The smiles were on the faces of pet-loving employees. The smiles were on the faces of people who saw the paper Saturday and saw all the photographs of our employees and advertisers with their pets.

This job of being a community newspaper publisher is not so bad after all.

I just hope the next spate of e-mails and phone calls are not from Weight Watchers.

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