Albert Wallace "Wally" Kelly, chief baker at Kelly's Pastry Shop in Berlin, still sets the gold standard for snowballs, one of the region's sweet specialties. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
February 26, 2014BERLIN — A friend of mine was dumbfounded recently when she discovered that I had never eaten a Berlin-baked vanilla frosted snowball, sprinkled with coconut.
It turns out that IGA market owners Steve and Sue Tardiff of Berlin pride themselves on coming as close as possible to replicating the snowballs made for many years at Kelly's Pastry Shop on the City's Main Street.
And the City's mother-and-daughter team of bakers — Pam Jesseman and Heather Marquis — that run Sweet Mama's at 751 Main Street in Berlin also believe that Heather's snowball is very close to the ones once made at Kelly's Pastry Shop. Sweet Mama's also makes a "muddyball," rolled in crushed Oreo cookies.
Cindy "C.J." Moreau, who operates Sweet Wishes Cakes in her fully licensed residential kitchen at 140 Jasper Street in Berlin, is also frequently complimented on how close her snowballs come to those made at Kelly's Pastry Shop. C.J. made pink snowballs dotted with little candies for Valentine's Day that she sold at Maureen and Dave Patry's Vintage Junky on Glen Ave.
Senator Jeff Woodburn of Dalton recalls that when he was a reporter for this newspaper that he photographed one of the delicious snowballs made in the kitchen at the Eastern Depot Restaurant on Unity Street.
Inspired by the taste of the two traditional "snoballs" that I bought at the IGA that was made in its state-of-the-art bakery, as well as the frequent references to Kelly's Pastry Shop, I called on Jackie and Pat Kelly in their house in Groveton.
Pat is the son of pastry shop owners Albert Wallace "Wally" and Aurea Kelly.
Pat and Jackie, who've been married 45 years, were pleased to talk about the warm, bustling, family-oriented and multicultural City they remembered from their youth.
Pat's mom ran the front end of the shop; his dad, the back.
He said his dad made wonderful snowballs from chocolate batter. "They were moist, fluffy and sweet," he said. "He used a very big bowl and a big mixer."
Pat's dad often worked from midnight to 11 a.m., and his mom from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. "I'd come home from school, and Dad would be sleeping," Pat explained. "My sister helped our mom, and I worked with Dad. I often slept on the floor of the pastry shop on flour bags. It was a family business, and my aunts also worked there."
The obituary of Laura Kelly Allain, Pat's 89-year-old aunt, who died on Jan. 10, reads: "She was a lifelong resident of Berlin; you can remember her smiling face and friendly personality from working many years at Kelly's Pastry Shop."
Pat recalled his dad cooking turkeys from which he made the turkey pot — "holiday" — pies and baking 1,000 meat pies at Christmas and beans every Saturday. He recalled the pride his father took in his cake decorating.
"I grew up on bakery food; I still can't stomach salmon pie," Pat said.
Mill workers came by to buy their morning donuts on their way to work, and his father would bake 50 to 100 loaves of bread at a time.
From before Thanksgiving until Christmas, Kelly's Pastry Shop was open seven days a week.
"Even when I was the principal at White Mountains Regional High School in Whitefield, I worked weekends at the bakery," Pat said. "We served the people who lived and worked in the community."
Wally served on a destroyer in the Pacific in World War II, and Pat treasures the photographs he has of his then-young father wearing his Navy uniform.
He also treasures a 33-year-old copy of "The Berlin Reporter," published on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1981, that features a story by reporter Martha Petrowski along with five of her photos, including one of his mother and his aunt Laura Allain joining "forces to get their famous 'snowballs' ready for eager customers."
His father is featured in two of the photos.
"He says his hands are his most important tools, but he doesn't use them for surgery," reads the lead paragraph. "Albert Kelly, owner of Kelly's Pastry Shop, relies on his hands for tasting and flavoring. And they must be working well for him because he's been baking in Berlin for 25 years, and over those years he's satisfied a lot of customers.
"He attributes the popularity of his sweets to the fact that everything is made from scratch," the reporter writes. "'Everything we make is done the old-fashioned way,' Kelly said.
He says he started working at Toussaint Baking Company when he was 16. He later baked in the Navy, and then managed a bakery for 11 years in Auburn, Me.
'In May of 1957, we bought the bakery which was only a small shop, and we have seen it grow over the years,' Kelly says."
Pat and Jackie Kelly also treasure some of his father's tools that are displayed atop a high shelf in their neat-as-a-pin home: the wooden paddle he used to pull loaves of bread from the ovens; his donut-making machine, his jelly filler he used to make cookies; a wooden pestle with which he prepared pork for pies, his portable tool kit in case one of his special-occasion cakes had to have its frosting touched up, his large-quantity recipe boxes, and the shop's original "Kelly's" sign.