For more than 80 years, summer nights in Milford have meant a trip down to Hayward’s to get an ice cream cone. Starting as a single stand, Hayward’s expanded by leaps and bounds, grew to 20 franchises, and seemed on the verge of becoming a dairy empire. And yet today, Hayward’s is basically back to where it started – a treasured small town ice cream stand that does brisk summer business.
The original Hayward was Charles Augustus. Not satisfied toiling for the Whiting Dairy Plant, he bought a few cows of his own and began pushing a milk cart around town. Scrapping and saving, Charles had cobbled together enough to purchase the old Smith Farm on Elm Street and soon the herd was large enough to supply multiple milk routes. Riverside Farm in Nashua was added in 1931 and as his three sons, Charles, Stanley, and Weston matured, they began managing much bigger milk routes around Southern New Hampshire.
The ice cream stand that would become a part of so many Milford memories opened in the summer of 1939. Featuring 18 flavors of ice cream, 3,000 yards of gravel fill for the parking lot and a humble stand, Hayward’s was an immediate hit with motorists – both from in town and just passing through. An impressive 11,000 gallons of ice cream was sold over the counter in just that first summer.
By the following summer, a second stand was thriving in Nashua and in just a few years’ time, son Charles was managing more than a dozen ice cream stands across the state. Hayward’s continued to expand through the war years despite coping with sugar shortages that sometimes forced midday closures and gas rationing that discouraged motorists from pleasure drives. “The only way to keep a business healthy is to keep on growing” son Stanley told the Cabinet. And indeed, a smoke house was added in 1943, a huge well in 1948, a snack bar in 1951 (featuring “real butter grilled frankfurts”) and a 65-seat dining room and restaurant in 1956. The next year, Hayward’s had their ice cream in local grocery stores. Plans were afoot to expand to Boston and beyond.
And in the late 1960s, drivers along Elm Street were greeted by the “Big Chief,” Hayward’s 15-foot-tall wooden Indian that perpetually enjoyed a giant cone of strawberry ice cream. Long before cultural sensitivities would preclude such an icon, the “largest Wooden Indian in the World” was a hit right away. In June 1965, one hundred local youngsters put on blindfolds and fed each other ice cream, competing to win moccasins and Indian wooden nickels that were redeemable for you know what.
Hayward’s would never become the dairy empire of which Charles and sons of once dreamed. A series of property fires as well as deaths in the family hampered company growth. But today the stand in Milford and a couple more around the state continue to produce memories for any youngster ready to slurp down a strawberry ice cream – or a Raspberry Cheesecake Truffle for that matter.