By Ginna Parsons
BOONEVILLE – In 1970, Billy Hester opened an ice cream parlor in Booneville across from the hospital and sold cones for 25 cents a dip.
“People literally stood in line to get ice cream,” said Hester, 76. “After church or on Sunday night, you couldn’t even get close to it.”
Hester didn’t keep the parlor for long, but he’s thought about it on and off in the years since. Last May, he decided it was time to bring ice cream back to town.
So he and his wife, Mary, opened Ole Tyme Ice Cream on West College Street in downtown Booneville between a thrift store and the old Goddard’s Jewelry.
“This building was supposed to be demolished and turned into a parking lot,” he said. “Nothing had been in here since 1995.”
Soon after they opened the shop, the Hesters realized they didn’t have enough room to seat customers.
“So we decided to develop an area outside,” Hester said. “In all the history we could find, there’s never been a building here. You can imagine a lot being in town for 150 years and there’s never been anything on it. It was nothing but hard, packed black dirt.”
They’ve added a deck with tables and umbrellas, five fountains, pea gravel, painted stepping stones, pots of geraniums, petunias, ferns and begonias, and a bottle tree filled with Coke bottles.
A local man, Bobby Reeves, built the deck and two “structures” in the area – wood attached to a brick wall that’s made to look like a dairy barn and a house.
The doors on the barn are covered in old farm tools and it has real hay in the loft for the “dairy cows.” The house has an old screen door and two rockers on the porch.
“The wood on the porch of the house is 108-years old,” Hester said. “It came out of an old cabin west of town.”
There’s also a “See Rock City” birdhouse and a milepost listing the distances to such faraway places as Seattle, New Orleans, Miami, Hollywood and New York, and others a little closer to home, like Guntown and Etta.
There’s even a working outhouse complete with red and white corncobs and a Sears catalog.
“This is my masterpiece,” Hester said. “We just took everything we had hanging around the house and made this. Over here is my grandmother’s washboard and over there is my mother’s. Most evenings, I sit out here with my customers and hold court.”
Ice cream and Coca-Cola
But as quaint and inviting as the patio area is, people wouldn’t bother to sit out there if they didn’t have some good ice cream to eat.
Ole Tyme sells only Blue Bell – eight flavors on any given day, although Hester has 50 flavors he can choose from when ordering.
“We always have vanilla, chocolate and strawberry,” he said. “The next popular would be Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Mint Chocolate Chip.”
Others flavors in the rotation include Black Walnut, Lemon, Coconut, Sherbet, Butter Pecan and Pecan Praline.
A small cup or cone is $1.50, a medium is $2 and a waffle cone is $3.50. A milkshake is $4 and Classic Coca-Cola in 8-ounce bottles is $1.50. A Coke float is $4.
“We average 40 to 50 customers a day,” Hester said, “enough reason for me to stay here all day.”
Because the couple has Hester Tax Service, they close the ice cream parlor from mid-December to mid-March.
“That’s not real ice cream season anyway,” Hester said. “People are always wanting to know my days and hours. I tell them if I’m here, I’m open and if I’m not, I’m closed.”