May 19, 2011

The Cheerful Charlies

So yesterday, I was picked up from school by my buddychum Henry's stepmom Jennie. We were going to Friendly's for his nine-year-old stepbrother Sam's birthday. We picked Sam up from his school and went on our way.

Shortly after picking Sam up, Jennie asked, "Would this technically qualify as a meeting of the Cheerful Charlies?" Henry and Sam were both unsure. I asked what a Cheerful Charlie was; Jennie told me to hold on for a minute while she got on the phone with the Grand Poobah.

We called the Grand Poobah (using a hands-free wireless device) and put him on speaker. He turned out to be Jennie's father. Jennie asked whether this would count as a meeting of the Cheerful Charlies even though it's not a Friday, and if so, could Greg be initiated, and if so, would you like to come by and initiate him, and if not, can you talk to him and give him a brief explanation of what this is all about. Thus came the Grand Poobah's response:

"Now, the Cheerful Charlies typically only meet on Fridays. That is in the bylaws. However, a Lodge Meeting may be held if there is some sort of special occasion, and as today is Sam's birthday, there is reason enough to hold a Lodge Meeting. The Grand Poobah of a Lodge is not needed for initiation, so you as the senior member would be in charge of initiating him, but really, anyone can. Now, put me on with him." (Clearly not recognizing that he was on speakerphone.)

After a brief introduction, the Grand Poobah continued: "The Cheerful Charlies are a society dedicated to the consumption of Friendly's ice cream. We are a non-denominational, multi-generational, multi... multi-everything group. The Greenwich Lodge is very small, but there is a Lodge over in Boston that's relatively active. Lodge Meetings only occur on Fridays or particularly special occasions. There is no limit to how much ice cream you eat, so long as you enjoy it. This is a very low-commitment group, and I wish you the best of luck with it."

We chatted a little, and he wished Sam a happy birthday and promised to sing to him later (much to Sam's dismay, as the Grand Poobah apparently sings a somewhat morbid rendition of the birthday song). One breath-holding contest later, we found ourselves at Friendly's.

Since it was still early in the day, we made the executive decision that we would be having lunch in addition to our ice cream. Upon sitting down and beginning an inevitable game of crayon-placemat-hangman, I was told that it was time to begin my initiation.

Jennie held up one of those tiny containers of half-and-half you get with your coffee, and told me that in order to be initiated, I had to create butter simply by turning my tiny half-and-half container over and back in my hand.

I worked steadily through my soft-pretzel bacon-burger (in related news don't attend Friendly's if you are at risk of heart disease), churning my milk all the while. I had it explained to me that active non-members of the Cheerful Charlies are called Grumpy Gretas - that is to say, those who are offered initiation but choose not to join. At one point, Sam, who had been bouncing around next to me throughout the entire meal (literally bouncing, because that would push my side of the booth upward and send me flying a little) bit into another half-and-half that he just wanted to drink, sending milk flying all over my face and jacket. I received official word from the standing senior Lodge member Jennie that this was the first time that that had ever happened during initiation.

By the end of the meal, I was coming to question whether this milk was actually churnable, or whether the entire initiation was but a playful ruse. I didn't want to open my container yet because it still sounded very liquidy, but Jennie gave it a shake, and officially decreed that I was making good progress and that I had the special situation of being milked upon, and that therefore my initiation was complete: I was a Cheerful Charlie.

I later returned to their house for some gaming, and discovered that my churning was ultimately successful. I had a healthy wad of half-and-half butter sitting in my tiny milk container.

Now, the year is just about over, and Friendly's is a bit of a hike from my house, but I just so happen to be going to college about fifteen miles from Boston, where there is reputedly an active Lodge of Cheerful Charlies. I plan on finding their Grand Poobah and requesting membership; moreover, I encourage all those reading this post to seek out a local Lodge, or if none exists, to create one , and thus be your own local Grand Poobah.


  1. Notable fact: When you search Google for "Cheerful Charlies ice cream," without the quotes, the first two results are your blog.
    Possible consequence: The Cheerful Charlies are not, in fact, a thing that exists in the real world. Because what self-respecting organization would not have a web site?

  2. Optionally, it's a society passed down through oral tradition.

  3. Fair. But oral tradition wouldn't allow for wide geographical proliferation, unless it had been passed down since before some diaspora or another. Now, according to Wikipedia, Friendly's was established in 1935, at which point it was a "modest ice cream shoppe." (At that point it was called "Friendly," but that's not important--the Charlies could easily have adapted their fetish as the name changed.) Now I've written this far, but I don't have any statistics to back up my initial claim, so I'm just going to end this post here and hope that only Greg has enough manpower to read through it all.

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