There were those gentle Sunday evenings at the Dairy Queen along Bragg Boulevard in the late 1950s and early 1960s, where banana splits and butterscotch and cherry sundaes were such a treat. And not to forget Howard Johnson’s 28 ice cream flavors, the Scoop-Scoop and Willie Edge and John Manning with the ice-cream truck that bewildered all the kids in the neighborhoods.
You just can’t go wrong with a cool scoop of ice cream in these dog-days of summer, and ice cream got me to thinking about days gone by at the old Dairy Queen along Bragg Boulevard, right where the Mi Casita restaurant stands today, but once the little ice cream destination of the 1950s and 1960s.
“Let’ go to the Dairy Queen,” my daddy would say as twilight fell on Sunday evenings.
Now this was quite the treat for a kid.
For my daddy, too.
And it seems for just about every other family in town, and where fathers and mothers and their children hopped in their automobiles and parked around the Dairy Queen, and where this was a different kind of ice cream; not the hard scoop with something of a resistance to the bite, but that Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream with the twirl on top that looked so picturesque you almost were reluctant to bite into it.
Remember, this was the Dairy Queen on a Sunday summer night before you high-tailed it back home to watch Ed Sullivan on your black and white analog Mathes television with guest stars like Elvis, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Russian acrobats, and not to forget Ed Sullivan’s little puppet friend Topo Gigio, who always reminded Ed Sullivan that “I love you, Eddie.”
You could order a vanilla or chocolate cone of Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream, or the vanilla cone dipped in chocolate. I never could figure out how the Dairy Queen ice cream folks could take a glob of vanilla ice cream, turn it upside-down and dip it head-first without the ice cream falling into that vat of chocolate. Still, to this day, I can’t understand how it works. Call it, if you dare, a Ninth Wonder of the World.
“Because the ice cream is so thick,” says Dawnielle Harrison, manager of the Dairy Queen in Westwood Shopping Center.
But, I countered, it’s soft ice cream.
“It’s magic,” Harrison said, with something of a smile.
So there we were, my daddy and my mama and me at the Dairy Queen on a Sunday evening, and I just couldn’t help but ordering the cherry sundae, with the cherries and the cherry syrup glazed over the soft-serve vanilla ice cream. Mama liked the butterscotch and Daddy would go all out with the banana split, replete with chocolate syrup over vanilla ice cream on one end, pineapple in the middle and strawberries on the other … and two banana slices.
Daddy could lap up a Dairy Queen banana split. After all, Ed Sullivan hour was near. I would lick my cherry sundae slowly and make it last for as long as I could. Remember, Sunday night at the Dairy Queen only came around once a week, and you had to make the most of the ice-cream night out.
Howard Johnson’s and Scoop-Scoop
And then there was the Howard Johnson’s restaurant with the signature orange-shingle roof that came along somewhere in the early 1960s, just down the boulevard and adjacent to Eutaw Shopping Center, and where the restaurant chain promoted 28 flavors of ice cream, i.e., Banana, Black Raspberry, Burgundy Cherry, Butter Pecan, Butter Crunch, Butterscotch, Caramel Fudge, Chocolate Chip, coconut, Coffee, Frozen Pudding, Fruit Salad, Fudge Ripple, Lemon Stick, Macaroon, Maple Walnut, Mocha Chip, Orange-Pineapple, Peach, Peanut Brittle, Pecan Brittle, Peppermint Stick, Pineapple, Pistachio, Strawberry, Strawberry Ripple, and vanilla, chocolate and strawberry among the flavors.
Deno Fasul later operated Howard Johnson’s as Deno’s Steak House and later operated The Barn restaurant.
And not to forget other iconic ice cream venues to include the Tastee-Freez on Ramsey Street, where the kids from north Fayetteville liked to hang out, and the one at the corner of Raeford and Hope Mills roads. Nor to forget Baskin-Robbins on Bragg Boulevard and later on Owen Drive or Buttercup out on Bragg Boulevard toward Fort Bragg and Sealtest at the corner of McPhee Drive and Raeford Road, too.
Or my old friend Don Clayton of Putt-Putt Golf Courses of America franchise fame and who opened his Scoop-Scoop at his Bragg Boulevard miniature golf entertainment center sometime around the 1980s.
I loved Don Clayton like a father. He treated me like a son.
He was a business entrepreneur, and always coming up with an idea to complement his Putt-Putt Golf Courses of America franchise system with venues throughout the country, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Japan. Putt-Putt was his pride and joy, but he also tried business ventures here to include Slide-Slide, which was successful; Skate-Skate, which wasn’t successful; the Wow-Wow restaurant; and Scoop-Scoop, the ice-cream with a drive-thru that proved something of a problem.
“Notice anything about the drive-thru?” Todd Lecka, who was Don Clayton’s brother-in-law, was asking me one night when business wasn’t exactly hopping at the Scoop-Scoop. “My brother-in-law put the entrance to the drive-thru backward. You have to order from the passenger’s side of your car.”
If you want to know about life, and construction, acquaint yourself with Todd Lecka – 93 years young and still the smartest man I’ve ever known.
‘Stop, Mr. Ice Cream Man!’
OK, back to ice cream. You can’t go wrong with ice cream. Kids love it with birthday cakes. So do adults. My favorite is vanilla, but I’m becoming partial to cookies-n-cream … not by the quart, but by the tub. And my old pal, Gary Hinshaw, and I always stop at the Dairy Queen off I-64 at Gum Spring, Virginia, on the way back from Charlottesville from a putting competition. He orders the Snickers Blizzard. I order the Strawberry Sundae. We don’t tell his wife about our reason for being late. But we swear on the Bible traffic was busy along the interstate.
All of us have ice cream memories, from the serenade of the Popsicle bike bells to Mr. Softee coming down the streets of our neighborhoods in those days of yesteryear. Which reminds of the story about the late Willie Edge and John Manning, who once decided to operate a neighborhood ice-cream truck. Ice cream lore has it they’d get so wrapped up in “the spirits” of swapping tales of their life’s adventures they’d forget to stop when the kids came out to wave down the ice cream truck.
“Mr. Ice Cream Man, stop!” the kids would yell in dismay. “Stop Mr. Ice Cream Man, stop! Please stop Mr. Ice Cream Man, please stop.”
Willie and John, ice cream lore has it, would just drive right on by. Their ice cream-truck business, ice cream lore has it, went broke before summer’s end.
We’ve had some tough months with this coronavirus that keeps us home, away from one another and tests our patience and our resolve. But we still have Dairy Queens and other ice cream venues.
All of these memories, and I’ve worked up a hankering for a scoop of soft-serve vanilla at the Dairy Queen in Westwood Shopping Center. Make that, if you will, a cherry sundae … just like those sweet Sunday evenings of such gentle times gone by.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@CityView.com or email@example.com or 910-624-1961
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