Dairy Queen Days

A summertime tradition

June 22, 2021

Dairy Queen’s famous soft serve vanilla cone

Nothing says ‘summer’ to me more than a trip to a drive in burger restaurant on a warm afternoon for something cold and frosty. Back in 1960’s Yakima, Washington there were only two places our family went when we wanted an ice cream based treat. The first was the A&W root beer stand for a float. The second was Dairy Queen. McDonald’s didn’t come to Yakima until the 1970’s and I’d never heard of Burger King or Wendy’s during my childhood.

Dairy Queen was the quintessential fast food joint for a hamburger, fries, and a milk shake. But more than that it was the only place one could get a soft serve ice cream cone.

It was the development of soft serve which led to the founding of the first Dairy Queen, in Joliet, Illinois, on June 22, 1940.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“The soft-serve formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont ‘J.F.’ ‘Grandpa’ McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced friend and loyal customer Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois. On the first day of sales, Noble dished out more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within two hours. Noble and the McCulloughs went on to open the first Dairy Queen store in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. While this Dairy Queen has not been in operation since the 1950s, the building still stands at 501 N Chicago Street as a city-designated landmark.

Since 1940, the chain has used a franchise system to expand its operations globally from ten stores in 1941 to one hundred by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955.”

On the Dairy Queen website they list 4,421 locations in 49 states. Texas boasts the largest number of restaurants with 594 stores. It continues to be a popular chain throughout the Midwest and the South with between 130 and 260 stores in each state. The only state without a DQ is Vermont. Washington State has the largest number of Dairy Queen restaurants of the Western states with 101 locations. Any way you scoop it, that’s a lot of ice cream.

When I became a teenager my friend Karen and I would sometimes walk to the Dairy Queen which was less than a mile from my house – and only four blocks from hers – just for one of those soft serve cones or, even better, one dipped in chocolate.

The summer my kids were 9 and 6 I dubbed it the Dairy Queen summer. Once a week we’d go through the drive through at the Redmond Way Dairy Queen for those same soft serve cones. In those days I would often just get a Dr. Pepper. What was I thinking?!

In the last year of my Dad’s life his world grew smaller and smaller. But some things never changed. One of those was the joy he got from getting a chocolate chip Blizzard from Dairy Queen. He’d been having increasing difficulties swallowing and the treat seemed to help soothe his throat.

One afternoon in August of 2019, I decided to take him on an outing to Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. This was no small task since getting him to the car, settled into the passenger seat, and then stowing his walker, was always an ordeal.

As we were headed to the restaurant located out in West Yakima he grew more and more agitated, questioning where the ‘he**’ I was taking him and proclaiming the adventure as ridiculous. “Dairy Queen,” I answered him, but he was not to be placated. That was NOT the right Dairy Queen.

The west Yakima Dairy Queen which caused so much angst

At the time I didn’t realize there were actually a half dozen stores in the town. I only knew of two. One in downtown Yakima and the one where I was heading.

Those were the longest 5.2 miles I’ve ever driven; eventually we arrived and got the treat but he carped about the amount of time it took all the way there and then the 5. 2 miles back again to his adult family home.

A few weeks later I had the chance to redeem myself. Off we headed to Dairy Queen, but this time I was taking no chances. I headed to the one I was sure he wanted; located in downtown Yakima it was a much closer 3.2 miles.

We were stopped by every traffic light in town (it was late afternoon and folks were headed home from work) and the carping started up, with a repeat of the previous trip. When we FINALLY got to the Dairy Queen some 20 minutes later. There was a bit of a line for the drive through. I figured the car ahead of us must have been ordering for a family of 15 based on how long it took. But I was desperate. No way was I exiting that line and driving anywhere else without that Blizzard. Eventually he got the treat and was placated for a few minutes while I needed a nap.

It was only after we were back – nearly an hour later – and he was dozing in his chair that I put Dairy Queen into the map application on my phone. I was dismayed to discover that the nearest store to where he lived was… 1.4 miles away. Next time, I promised, we would go there. Alas, the weather changed and the Dairy Queen trips were done for the summer. By the end of October he was gone.

One of these warm June or July days I think I will splurge and raise a chocolate dipped cone in a toast to Dairy Queen for its place in our family history. Maybe I’ll even try a chocolate chip Blizzard in honor of Dad. Naw. I’m a chocolate dipped ice cream cone girl all the way. Some things never change.

The link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dairy_Queen

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