In 1963, Bob Farrell opened the first Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. It was in Portland, Oregon and the premise was simple: Serve tons of ice cream in a raucous party environment. People must have liked the idea because by 1970, there were 58 Farrell’s shops and hundreds of imitators. I suspect it was the imitators, with their attempts to out-Farrell’s Farrell’s, that gave that kind of establishment a less-than-good name.

By the time I went to one, it was a place you and your friends would go not so much to dine as to see who could embarrass themselves the most, consuming mammoth tubs of ice cream. One dish was even called the Pig’s Trough. If you finished its twelve scoops, you received a little badge that said, “I made a pig of myself at Farrell’s.” Such an honor. There were also little songs and skits the staff would do in serving the ice cream. One installment of The Bob Newhart Show memorably parodied these, with Bob being humiliated in public over his order of a single scoop. That episode alone probably scared a lot of people off from visiting a Farrell’s. At the very least, it summarized why I never felt too comfy in one.

Mr. Farrell sold the chain to the Marriott Corporation in 1971 and worked with them to expand its reach to 130 parlours across the nation. It is said that every one was successful, at least while Mr. Farrell was involved, but then it all went wrong in a hurry. He left the company and soon after, in 1985, it was sold. The new owners decided the concept had run its course (perhaps it had) and began to play down the “make a pig of yourself” theme and turn the chain into facsimiles of Howard Johnson’s — family restaurants with a great ice cream capability. By 1990, the chain was almost dead. In ’96, a new company acquired the name and trademarks, and has been slowly opening new Farrell’s here and there. In this era of more conscious healthy eating, it’s probably not the same.

73 Responses to Farrell’s

  • Ed says:

    wasn’t there one in La Mesa Ca. I know there was one at Fashion Valley Mall. I lived in Spring Valley back then and it seems there was one close by. Thanks

  • Felicia Thiel says:

    The last time I was at Farrell’s (I think it was on Van Nuys Blvd) in the Valley was 1973. I was in the choir and Chamber Singers at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School (“Poly”) and we always went to Farrell’s after a concert and made pigs of ourselves so we could get the ribbon as a souvenir of that particular concert. We also, I’m sure, made quite a nuisance of ourselves singing the Hallelujah Chorus and other songs every time we were there, but we all had a great time and I have wonderful memories (and one surviving ribbon) of making a pig of myself at Farrell’s.

  • Lisa Abbott says:

    I still have a box of plastic animals and mermaids that came on top if you ordered ‘The Zoo’ at Farrells. Such good memories of going there with family and friends! When you ordered ‘The Zoo’ it was brought to your table by two guys carrying the huge bowl on a litter of sorts that the bowl fit down into. They would run through the restaurant with it while bells and whistles were going off and then bring it to your table. As kids we loved the fanfare- and all the little creatures stuck in to the ice cream. What a great time to be a kid those days were.

  • DAG DAG says:

    I gave FARRELL’S nearly 3 years of my life, working (and honestly, living it) for about 3 full years in the 1970’s at the location in the SOUTHRIDGE MALL in GREENDALE, WI. That job paid for bikes, clothes, school books, and even a down payment for the first car in high school and then college tuition. Wonderful memories. There was such a rival and team quality to work there with one of three local high schools that it attracted employees from, and I mean that in a good way. We competed to have as many employees, customers, friends, and school functions to support causes, from sports to fundraisers, and all with a team spirit that the managers encouraged the employees to have. Today, to most kids, working in a place today is just a job. To us, it was a community back then.

  • Rollin Ressegieu says:

    April 11, 2019




  • Mark says:

    The last time I was at Farrell’s was June 1990 in Rosemead. It was a ghost town inside. Sadly, it went under.

  • Mark Strickert says:

    I enjoyed the rebooted Farrell’s in Rancho Cucamonga and Riverside, but both were gone by early 2017. Apparently the Brea and Buena Park Farrell’s are hanging in there.

  • Ed Hattendorf says:

    I still have a couple of ribbons in a box for eating the Pig’s Trough. We used to go there on Sundays for lunch. That was my lunch.

  • Jack Henry says:

    My friends and family and I always went to the Farrell’s in Escondido after seeing a movie, somtimes before, it was great. But then, we weren’t pussy asses like the author.

  • Lou Gubrious says:

    Kudos to the poster who knows all about Ferd and Beverly Sebastian’s “On The Air Live With Captain Midnight”, which indeed has a crucial scene set (and shot) in Farrells discussing the desperate adolescent craving for all things anatomically female. Even though the film was released in November of 1979, it was shot in 1976 and is an extraordinarily vivid time capsule of the San Fernando Valley during The Gerald Ford Era, with generous footage of the Sunset Strip, Van Nuys Boulevard Cruising Nights, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the variously suburban streets, homes, schoolyards, and apartments of Burbank and Woodland Hills in all their mid-1970’s glory. There is a HD-restored print on the Internet which is beautifully crisp and undimmed, and being that it is such an unseen obscurity, it’s an unmissable artifact of a certain time, place, and sensibility that is now as lost and forgotten as the ruins of an ancient civilization.

  • mike williams says:

    I used to live in Denver, in the 70’s they had a place like this called Soda Straw same exact thing. I always liked the place.

  • Jammer says:

    There was one on Rosemead Boulevard in Rosemead. The building is still there but it’s a Chinese Restaurant.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Weird…Mystery solved! Each time I see the Wil Wright’s pic, it reminds me that there might have been a very popular one (as a Newbie) in the ’70s in Albuquerque. Searching that out, I find there wasn’t, but indeed a place called Farrell’s which apparently was also http://tinyurl.com/y7drrfs2 in Y’all’s Torrance. Caveat…if you scroll down further, you will go down a rabbit hole of getting lost in other nostalgia…LOL (Another uniqueness of the shoppe, was it was not incorporated in the regular mall structure, but it was when developers started the idea of using extra mall parking lot space to develop “pads”, e.g. a Toys R Us followed.

  • Buz Cederlof says:

    Even if you hated a kid, you wanted to go to his birthday party if it was at Farrell’s. Even before “Happy Birthday to you” was finshed you’d have ten or more filthy little kid’s hands in the zoo trying to pick off all the little clear plastic animals, the giraffe being the prize.

  • Elizabeth Sheiman says:

    Apparently Farrell’s has remodeled in Buena Park as is reopened. Also, it seems Brea has one too. I’m up in Portland, OR now and there was talk of reopening the original one, but that never came to fruition. When I get back to LA & OC I will visit it.

  • John Maciejewski says:

    I had my Wedding Rehearsal party there in 1984 at the Whittier Farrells. We constantly visited Farrells where at least 1 of us tried to be a pig. I can’t remember if we ever did though. Fun times. I need to get to the Farrells on Beach Blvd in Buena Park.

  • David Pope says:

    I used to go to Farrell’s as a kid in Sacramento, we had 3 in the area. It was a great time when you were a kid and in the 70s.

    Farrell’s has been making a limited comeback lately. They had a new place in Sacramento that opened 2 or 3 years ago and was around for about 2 years until it closed this Summer, I think it was a rent issue, they seemed to be drawing a good crowd.

    Luckily I visited not too long before it closed. It was ok, no super feelings either way. I think at my age now (late 40s), I don’t care for gimmicks so much. Supposedly they’re looking to reopen at a new location in the area at some point.

  • Brian Preston Bixby Bratsch Hotchkis says:

    I had my 10th birthday party here in 1975. I think the location was Arcadia CA. One of the kids I was with his father had a heart attack from the very loud noise of the ringing bells inside the place. I just remember I had a good time. I’m 51 now . . . Yikes!!!! :) :) :)

  • John Speakman says:

    I first went to a Farrell’s in 1966 when I lived in Huntington Beach CA for a birthday party (we had a Zoo of course). I went a couple more times in childhood (always for birthdays). I moved away from home quite young (15 years old) but came back to live with my parents when I was 21, now settled in Riverside CA, and began looking for work. My best friend from childhood was an Assistant Manager of the Farrell’s in Escondido CA so it was thought by all to be a good place to start my search. I was hired as a dishwasher and quickly worked up to become a full time daytime employee where I would set up the dishwashing operation, then would set up and work the kitchen and ice cream fountain for the first two hours on my own and at noon be joined by a person that would work the ice cream parlor and I would have the kitchen until 4:00 in the afternoon. I would come back a couple nights every couple weeks or so to train all the new employees as well as the new Assistant Managers (Farrell’s had a lot of stores and the Riverside store handled the training of the managers for Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and some of LA counties). I had a group of friends there that were just the greatest people you could meet. We did take it to extremes though and eventually to send a message they fired me (well deserved I might add for many silly pranks I committed). I had already managed to have my Commander in the Army Reserve sign the paperwork so I could go full time Air Force so I was not too worried about my future as I had about six weeks before I shipped out. The weird thing was I was a good worker (when not doing pranks) and it was recognized so the Assistant Managers of the Orange, Torrance, and Upland Farrell’s would all bring me in to work a couple days a week up until I finally shipped out (I had one day off before I went to basic training and ultimately to Okinawa). I of course regret the things I did in those silly bygone days (I happened to notice that the Taylor Mix used to make malts looked a lot like the containers of mayonnaise we used so…of course I decided to try the mayonnaise in the Taylor machine and see what would happen). On one of the Zoo runs I had the lead so I decided to shoot out the front door with the Zoo, run across the street, and run through the rival restaurant shouting for all to behold the wonder of the Zoo, and then back to Farrell’s. I’d also sign many of the old time songs that were on the player piano like “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” to the patrons and would always draw applause (they figured it was part of the show, really just me being extroverted. I became a firefighter eventually and anyone that has ever been a firefighter knows the pranks happen often in the fire house. Today someone left donuts on the kitchen counter, something I’ll usually avoid for good reason but I weakened today, and when I bit in I found they had replaced the jelly fill with mustard. Good gag. Never trust a firefighter except with your life. God Bless!

  • Doug says:

    I’m glad to see Farrell’s making a slow comeback, even though it’s focused mostly in the Orange County and Riverside County areas.

    I will never forget the one time I went, as a kid, to the one that was located in Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego, and there was a commotion involving what was labeled as the “San Diego Zoo” sundae (which I’m sure was because it was in San Diego, and we’d just been labeled as having the largest zoo in the world).

    When someone would order the Zoo (usually for a birthday party or some such celebration, as it was an exorbitant amount of money and meant to be shared amongst several people), there were two servers who would get this set of poles and an odd tarp with a hole cut in the center. The two servers would have a third person place the giant sundae in the cut out hole, and they would then parade throughout the store, making all sorts of hoopla involving the serving of said dessert.

    During our visit, however, someone had spilled a glass of water not 30 seconds before the Zoo was prepped. As they came around, the first server hit the wet patch and down she went – with the requisite sundae – all over her, and the floor. It was a nightmare; ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, water, ice – it was all strewn about, and the table she’d passed had gotten tipped over at the same time, spilling everything.

    Shortly after that, they stopped the run through the restaurant, and instead just brought the Zoo on a trolley to the table, where it was served up.

    I still miss those days, and hope to visit the Buena Park or Brea location in the near future to see if I can capture my childhood again.

  • Kenny says:

    I had my 15th birthday party at Farrell’s on Rosemead back in the mid 80’s. Great place and great memories. Where have all the time gone? Now they are just memories to reminisce over.

  • Harry says:

    When I was growing up in Portland in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Farrell’s was a VERY important part of kid culture. The Pig’s Trough was originally called just the Trough, and the even larger dish eventually known as the Zoo was first known as the Portland Zoo.

    We left Portland in 1974 for Boston, which was a Farrell’s-free zone, so I didn’t witness the chain’s decline and fall. But I recently went to one of the recently-opened new Farrell’s, in Sacramento, and it’s a remarkably well-done revival, hewing far closer to the original format than I would have expected anyone would attempt in the 21st century. And at least when we went there, it was mobbed.

  • Phil Ehrens says:

    Went to the Torrance Farrell’s after every Culver High home football game. We would absolutely trash the place, and the waitresses would egg us on. One night we ordered 50 2c plain and broke all the glasses.

    @Karen – Yep, it was me and Frank P. that turned the Honda sideways!

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