Thursday, August 4, 2011

Did you DQ today?

Contrary to what some may tell you, I was not born in a log cabin (or a barn).  But my earliest years were spent behind a Dairy Queen store - this Dairy Queen store:

My parents' original store at 2009 North Atherton Street, State College, Pa.  
This shot dates from about 1963.  I think the site is now a bank.  
Like the world needed another bank. Booo hisss!

There's Uncle  Atom on the left, and BTW, I was already
 an uncle in real life when this photo was taken with my Dad. 
With that hood I look like a DQ cone with a curl on top!

Relatives hanging out with us at the DQ

In those days the DQ would close for the winter and reopen in the spring.

By the time I was five, Dad was ready to get out from behind the counter and do something else. So when I was old enough to get a part time job, the man who bought the DQ from my parents offered me a job at another DQ location in town.

Would you buy a Peanut Buster Parfait from this guy?

All of this is background to the real reason for this post. On a recent weekend getaway we stumbled upon a vintage Dairy Queen store in Buckhannon, WV, so I HAD TO STOP and get some photos. The store dates to about 1957 and is styled somewhat differently than the one my father built himself.  Notice in the above black and white photos that that store had the slanted roof, an architectural feature I really love.  Also note that the Buckhannon store's red shingles are not original but were added later to appease International DQ.

I struck up a conversation with the lady behind the first window, and I told her an abbreviated version of my own DQ story.  It turns out she has worked there more than 20 years and she's married to the son of the original store's owners.  Because the franchise is still in the family, they are able to keep the old exterior mostly intact and they still have the old sign on the roof.  She explained that International DQ doesn't really like the old style stores, but because this one operates under the original franchise agreement, the family can't be forced to "modernize".  Now I know there are many of us who like the mid-century styling so much that we might drive hours to buy a product FROM THAT OLD STORE!!! HELLO International DQ!  HELLO!  Why not embrace the past and keep the last few remnants intact.  People care about this stuff.

Anyway, I really enjoyed talking to her about the details of the building and the amazing fact that the same family still owns it!

It was really great to see some of the original old signs inside and out, and make my purchase outside at a window much like Mom and Dad's store was once.  The hot fudge sundae was just the way I remembered it, but somehow it tasted better there.

Oh, and I have to add that whenever I'm somewhere that has a "serve yourself" soft serve machine, I can't resist flicking the old wrist and putting the signature "curl on top" of a cone or sundae.  I've still got the touch. ;-)

Now I have to ask, do any of you readers have an original-style Dairy Queen near you?


  1. A timely story.

    The Dairy Queen was always just a couple blocks away from where I lived as a kid, and now, since I'm back in my childhood home.

    I used to walk up there, first with my brothers, then on my own when I was brave enough.

    Nothing tasted better than DQ on a hot day, and here in southern California, there are 6 months of hot days.

    My brother went to school with the daughter of the guy who ran the place, she was still running it last time I went a year ago.

    There used to be a five and dime up at the same little shopping center. Walters. Joes barber shop, a small diner, TV repair shop, dog groomer, small grocery store. We collected empty soda bottels for a nickle each to get dime store candy.

    Then as is true with everywhere in so. Cal, they finally tore down the faithful old shopping center... for an awful new one.

    The original Dairy Queen tried to fight the city people, it was on the same spot for 50+ years, maybe 60.

    But alas, and this broke my heart, they lost the battle and the old DQ was torn down about a month ago, and they were forced to move into one of the non-descript, new, ugly strip-mall buildings. The neighborhood will never be the same. :(

    Thanks for sharing your memories, and letting me share mine, I don't even have a photo of it because I didn't think they'd really tear it down.

  2. We don't even have a Dairy Queen anymore. Neither does the town I went to college in. The one here became a frozen custard place. Haven't been in there.

    I was driving some place in western Kansas I think and I saw an old DQ still running.

  3. thanks for posting this Uncle Atom! although i don't have a spiffy old DQ around, i used to work at one for YEARS as a teenager and the ol' dairy queen has a special place in my heart! i would love to visit the one you posted, yours looked so cute! that musta been fun growing up in.

  4. Wow! You are ice cream royalty! I would have loved to have been raised out back of a DQ (although I actually was raised in a barn, lol)! We don't have a DQ in town, but do have a Foster's Freeze which I think is a California franchise. It is in the original building, still serving up burgers, fries and ice cream treats. The even have a cruise night once a month! It really does burn my biscuits when companies and cities that have these great cultural icons just don't get it and either force them to change or tear them down. Its a cryin' shame!

  5. Oh my Gosh! Thats just too cool, We had an original one here in small town texas that unfortunatly burned down about 14 years ago. I can remeber seeing the neon of the sign form my bedroom window though! How Truly great it is that A) the original family still owns and B) its just so retro tastic!

  6. We have two DQ's here but neither are original I don't think. But in the previous town I resided in when I was ages 4-10 there was a really cool "older" DQ that had all the inner interior walls painted with Denace the Menace murals. But I looked it up and it says that started in 1971 so hrmm.. thats less exciting. But I am sure the actual building was at least from the 60s.
    I love all the pics you shares and I would have bought a Peanut Buster Parfait from that guy! *lol*

  7. Oh I I love a good dipped cone! I knew when it first opened up in April that summer was just a round the corner. Now I live in Ile Perrot Québec and we still have a DQ It has been the same for at least 20 years. It is a stand alone shop, I hope they don't tear it down.

    I love your pictures

  8. Great comments, thanks everyone, it's nice to know I'm not alone in getting excited about an "old" soft serve store. I'm really glad I have these few photos of my parents' old DQ to share with you.

  9. Atom, cool pics and cool story. Like you I was a dq kid in Abilene TX in the 60s and I too still put the curl on top. I think every kid that grew up beside their folks at their family dq's share a lot of the same cool stories... as well as were working long before we were 16... sweeping floors, picking up trash on the parking lot, making our own special flavored milk shakes, peeling potatoes...

  10. There are modern DQs around. There was one not too far away that was converted into a funeral parlor. True story. Guess they already had refrigeration taken care of.....