Award-winning journalist Richie Davis is back with a new book entitled Good Will & Ice Cream. The collection picks up where his last book, Inner Landscapes, leaves off, sharing more true tales from the extraordinary lives of western Mass residents. 

The stories span four decades and were originally published in The Recorder, the daily newspaper in Franklin County where Davis worked as a reporter for nearly 45 years.  

Davis joined Zydalis Bauer in the studio to talk about the book and the importance of local journalism.

Listen to Davis read excerpts of Good Will & Ice Cream.

This interview originally aired on July 30, 2021.

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Award-winning journalist Richie Davis is back with a new book entitled “Good Will & Ice Cream.” This collection picks up where his last book, “Inner Landscapes” leaves off, sharing more true tales from extraordinary lives from throughout our region.

The stories span four decades and were originally published in “The Recorder,” the daily newspaper in Franklin County, where Davis worked as a reporter for nearly 45 years.

Davis joins me in the studio to talk about the book and the importance of local journalism.

Richie Davis, Author of “Good Will & Ice Cream”: One of those stories was about a — unlike any any of the other stories, it was basically a tour of all of the Franklin County ice cream places, of which there aren’t that many. I mean, they all kind of sell the same stuff. A lot of them do. And 10 ice cream places on the first day and seven on the second.

The “we” is a friend of mine, who’s 13 years old, who I took along because I figured, how can I describe, like, the differences between ice cream. And so Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin came along with me. And because I knew he could, he could articulate things in a way I could never do it.

And we finished up the second day and we went to Ashfield Hardware Store where Laura Bassett, who co-owns the store, said, “we want the spirit of goodwill and ice cream to prevail,” because they was selling ice cream for a dollar a cone or 50 cents for kids.

And goodwill and ice cream…just kind of spoke to the spirit of the whole book for me.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, Goodwill and Ice Cream serves up true stories originally published and the Greenfield Recorder, spanning over four decades.

How did you go about choosing which stories to include in these collections and how did it feel to revisit the stories?

Richie Davis: Well, you know, there are stories that are there to entertain. We tell stories to inform. But what was really important for me, stories that really nurture the soul and the stories that are local, but stories that really are universal and where you can read between the lines and come away with a lot more than the black and white that’s in front of you.

And so the first book was was really focused on personalities, profiles of people I really thought were — should be included because I didn’t want them to be forgotten. And the second book, there were a lot of different kinds of stories, some of them not all local people. But there are stories that I felt were universal and they had something to say to people.

There is a story about Auschwitz, there is a story about Robert J. Lurtsema, who is a public radio announcer. And there’s a story about a documentary about farming families that I thought really spoke to the the area.

Zydalis Bauer: You’re speaking about this wide-range of stories that are included in these collections and the personalities that are in them as well. You have a recovering substance abuser who becomes chauffeur, a bodyguard and sometimes a wrestling buddy for the Dalai Lama, to a self-taught fiddler who weaves community with his bow and heart.

Which story or themes in this collection really speak to you the most?

Richie Davis: Well, you know, I dedicated the book at the very, very end to David Kaynor, who was that fiddler, who died about a month ago. And who is really central to not just the community I live in, but to fiddlers around the world. And he’s very inclusive in inviting people to to just play and to come in and join in. And I think that’s the spirit of goodwill.

Zydalis Bauer: In the book, you also touch on the changes and struggles of the newspaper and print industry that you have witnessed in your nearly 45 years as a reporter and editor.

What is the value and importance of community journalism?

Richie Davis: I think newspapers, and, you know, local media, can really help bring people together and really inform people about not only who’s in the community and what they’re doing, but give people a taste of the richness of the diversity in within the community and also ideas that people adopt and bring in and ways to share. And I just think it’s really important.

Zydalis Bauer: One part in the book that really stood out to me was when you said, quote, “For years I was seemingly left behind as I watched fellow reporters leave for the big time or give up newspapering for what others considered a real job.”

Why did you choose to stay in this area? What is it about living in this region, specifically Franklin County, that is so special to you?

Richie Davis: I just feel like we are so lucky to live in a place that’s just rich in just having the space to suggest for — that people should be inviting each other into to participate and — in fiddling and playing and dancing — if you can’t dance to it anyway. A lot of the pretense of, you know, more areas that are that are more built up and more rigid is really somewhat absent here. And I think that there’s a lot of latitude for people to be themselves and that just appeals to me tremendously.