My mom reminded me the other day that this year, the Dairy Queen Blizzard celebrates its 25th birthday. Wow, how time flies, because I remember when that sweet little thing was born. So many Dairy Queen Memories!
My dad was an elementary school principal, and during my college years, he bought the local Dairy Queen along with 2 other principal friend buddies. This worked out great for me, providing me with an easy-to-get summer job. I remember the first night I worked; nervously observing the crew bustling around. Would I ever remember which ingredients went into each item? Would I ever learn to make the signature DQ curl?
Yes, I would. And along the way, I got to know some good friends (and a few real characters). Terri and Rhonda, sisters who had worked at DQ for years. It was their calling and their passion, and as a college kid, it was unusual (yet kind of nice) to see people so devoted to what most of us would consider a pretty humble job. They would relate bits of DQ history to me … the dried booger on the chip rack, the dreamy “banana man” who delivered the bananas each week, the background of almost every regular customer …
JoAnn, or “punkin” as she was called (she was short and red haired) – another DQ old-timer who would entertain us with stories of her favorite soap opera or her equally colorful family. Most nights, her husband would meet her at the back door of the DQ for a brief discussion and some free food. It was only later that we discovered that he was getting more than just the food for free. JoAnn had worked out a system wherein she didn’t ring up certain items that people purchased; she would just pocket the money and make a deposit each night to her husband. When this was finally proven, JoAnn’s lengthy DQ career came to an end. I still remember the stress of the night we planned to confront her about this.
Ah, memories of the DQ music! Our DQ was small; a walk-up affair with no indoor seating area; just a few picnic benches by the road. Folks walked up to the window and ordered. The music we heard came from a small radio, and it played all the popular music of the day – most of which was all new to me. I can never forget how Rhonda loved “Almost Paradise” from Footloose, popular at the time.
The Blizzard was first introduced during my DQ years. The correct way to serve one was upside-down, the better to prove its fabled thickness. It was a DQ rule that employees could eat whatever they wanted for free while they worked, and believe me, I took full advantage. It’s a wonder I didn’t weigh 300 pounds after a few years of that, but youthful metabolism is kind, isn’t it?
Memories: the cry “ball team!” going up when a large group of kids in uniform would pull into the parking lot; we would dedicate one window just to serving the team … the hot dogs turning on the rotating grill (each night, unsold dogs would go into a tub in the freezer, only to reappear on the grill the next morning. No one particularly wanted these warmed-over dogs, which had a different color from the fresh ones) … the call “Ten O’clock!” at which time we could, mercifully, turn out the street sign and begin closing up for another night.
Terri went on to buy the DQ with her husband in later years, and she is currently running it very successfully. I still stop in often when I’m in my hometown, just to enjoy another blizzard or hot fudge-caramel sundae …
I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream. ~Heywood Broun