Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday destinations: Farrell's and Shakey's

So yesterday was my birthday, and it got me thinking about the birthday destinations of our youth. We didn't have Chuck E. Cheese or Showbiz Pizza, I was a little too old for them--video games came in when I was a little old to have a party out. No, the two I remember most were Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Shakey's Pizza. (Oh, and sometimes people had parties at McDonald's--remember those? With GALLONS of that orange drink only they have, and Grimace plastic-bag hand puppets for everyone?)

Farrell's (warning: link has annoying music) was my favorite, since I like ice cream more than I like pizza. Here's their history: The first one opened in 1963 in Oregon, but they were everywhere by the early 1970s, just as I was starting to have birthday parties.

It's supposed to look like an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, with striped shirts on the employees and those goofy straw hats. The menu looked like a vintage newspaper and they had jars of penny candy.

The big treat, however, was The Zoo. It's like 40 scoops of ice cream (and a bunch of plastic animals, I think, which inspired the name?) and they bring it out on a stretcher with accompanying fanfare--sirens, drums, the staff running it out. I have no idea how much it cost when we were kids, but this blogger went to a Farrell's recently and it's $50!

You could certainly make a Zoo at home for a ton cheaper, but it's the experience, dammit. And Farrell's are expanding--they even have a Facebook fan page--so one might be coming to a mall near you. Rob and I laugh every time we go past what obviously was a Farrell's in L.A., and whoever bought it just turned the F into a B and renamed it "Barrell's.)

Shakey's was a big birthday party place, too. And they also had that turn-of-the-century feel, with banjo and employees in red striped shirts and hats. When we were kids, chain pizza places were a lot more rare than they are now, so going out for pizza was quite novel, and Shakey's party atmosphere made a lot of us grow up associating pizza with parties.

There are apparently 400 Shakey's globally, but less than a quarter are in the U.S., or so saith Wikipedia. It's also interesting to me that Shakey's was named for the founder's malaria-caused nerve damage, which I guess made him shake.

Where did you go for your childhood parties, whether yours or a friend's?


Anonymous said...

I don't recall Farrell's and have only dim memories of Shakey's. For us, the big pizza place was Pappy's. In fact, I think that was the first place where I had actual pizza (as opposed to frozen pizza or whatever it was that passed for pizza in school cafeterias). I'm a veteran of many a Pappy's birthday party; the birthday boy/girl got a plastic "straw" hat. I also remember being impressed by the big pitchers of root beer. Pappy's disappeared sometime in the early '80s, I recall. Today, mom-and-pop pizza shops are all over the place, but when I was growing up in the '70s, it seemed that pizza was a fairly exotic dish, pretty much up there with Mexican and even Chinese food. Casual restaurants like Applebee's didn't exist back then, and most restaurants were reserved for special, formal occasions.

Annie said...

I had my sixth birthday party at Shakey's in 1982! That was the big thing in our town before Showbiz took over. We never had a Farrell's.

Sylko said...

Farrells!! Until a plane crashed into it. Not kidding. My first real pizza was at a party at Straw Hat. Befor then, I'd only had the boxed Appian Way kit my mom
Made with dried Parmesan instead of mozzarella! Straw Hat was a revelation! Stretchy cheese!!! For years I referred to non homemade pizza as pizzeria pizza so people didn't think I meant Appian Way, as if everyone grew up with it.

KL Crab said...

Shakey's was a once in awhile treat...ditto the Appian way pizza. When my brother was little we took him to Farrell's for his birthday and the guys running the 'zoo' around bumped into his high chair, after that he shook whenever we went there.

metalrob72 said...

I actually a party at Farrell's back in the 70's for my 5th or 6th birthday and then again 20 years ago.....For my 20th birthday.