Hiking for Friendly’s: Elizabeth Park and Hartford Friendly’s

12 01 2018

9 January 2018

After a few false starts (due to weather and personal commitments), Cherry and I are off to hike to Hartford for Friendly’s! It’s 33 degrees, the first time above freezing in two weeks and a veritable heatwave compared to the subzero temperatures we’ve been having. And it’s a new year!

The ground is covered by a foot of powdery snow, now topped by a thin glaze of ice due to another inch of snow and freezing rain last night. We decide to keep it simple and head to Elizabeth Park, a 100-acre park established in 1894 by Charles M. Pond and named after his wife.

Elizabeth Park sunrise pointOf course, we have lots to say on the drive there. Cherry has made a list of the things she does that bring her satisfaction and joy and, as a result, eliminated one committee meeting from her busy schedule. I cheer her on, as we arrive at the parking area. Fortunately, most of the trails have been plowed, so we can walk easily around the rose gardens and through the woodland area. We cross Prospect Street to visit Sunrise Park and view the detritus of plastic sled remains. Cherry reminisces about sledding with wooden sleds that withstand much more usage that the modern plastic ones.

Elizabeth Park creekWe continue to loop around the park and I talk about my wildlife rescue training, one of the outlets I’m rediscovering in my life. Cherry observes that it lights up me and encourages me to keep working on it.

We return to the car after covered two and a half miles; it’s only 11:30 and I ask Cherry if we can go something unusual before we head to Friendly’s. I want to stop at Hartford City Hall to get a copy of a death certificate of my great aunt. Cherry is agreeable, as always, and we head into town.

After a few go-arounds, we find parking alongside the building and figure out how to use the meters and navigate the snowbanks. Neither of us have been here and are astounded by the immensity and beauty of the old Beaux-Arts building. I mention how I’ve made similar places a destination in my European travels and am stunned to realize there is such a place right here at home.

The clerk in the Bureau of Vital Records is extremely efficient and I have the death certificate in no time. This great-aunt Lena supposedly died in 1914 of the Spanish flu and my mother, born a few months after her passing, was named after her. When I look at the certificate, I see she actually died from tuberculosis and associated meningitis. I will never know if my family modified the story intentionally or it evolved through the story-telling process.

We then head to Hartford Hospital, where Friendly’s is located. I ask Cherry for help in locating it, since she had spent some time here unfortunately attending family health issues. True to form, Cherry is uncertain about the direction, so I park and call them. Staff walk us down the street and in the front door. Ironically, this Friendly’s is the hardest to find, most difficult to park, and who would have guessed!

Our waitress Keomy brings us water; Cherry and I discuss the unnecessary use of straws (last time, I sent mine back but I missed the chance today). We notice that the special ice cream flavor is Cherry Magnolia, one of our favorites from last year! We are already scheming to get to our next Friendly’s early enough in February so we can have it again and we haven’t even ordered today’s lunch!

Elizabeth Park Friendly's gift cardWhen Cherry tells Keomy about our project, she is impressed (and discounts our ticket 15%). As we wait for dessert, Cherry realizes that the meter time will run out, so I go out to add more money. She is very apologetic, as she was eating slowly. Obviously not a bit deal, we finish up. With our Friendly’s trips now legendary in Cherry’s family, her stepmother has given her a gift card that we use to pay our bill and head for home.

Not yet on the highway, I get a text from my wildlife rescue contact, Tommy. Security at the Gold Building has reported an injured falcon! Cherry agrees to the detour and, as we are only a few blocks away, arrive quickly. The injured bird is protected in a box, which I don’t dare open until Tommy arrives. I have no gloves and their talons can be quite destructive. However, I notice there is no movement in the box. “I don’t think it made it,” I tell Cherry. Within a few minutes, Tommy arrives and we remove the top. It’s actually a Cooper’s hawk and sadly it has not survived.

Hartford Gold building Coopers Hawk

After discussions with security about some modifications the building owner/manager might make, Cherry and I finally head home. I point out that our delay in finishing lunch put us in the right place at the right time. Cherry applauds my ability to find the silver lining in the situation.

Only one more Friendly’s to go! Any suggestions on what we should do next?

 

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4 responses

12 01 2018
Robin Rodensky

Great story! I can only imagine how many family stories are not quite accurate anymore.

12 01 2018
Beth Lapin

I wonder how many more I might uncover…

12 01 2018
Robb Evans

You could try visiting every McDonalds in the state. If you did one a week, you would have to live to 100+ before you finished. Eating that much McDonald’s food though, you probably wouldn’t make it to 100. I will try to think of a better idea.

17 01 2018
Beth Lapin

Yeah, I think another idea. It doesn’t have to be food-related.. Probably better if it isn’t!!

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