Ice cream has been around and enjoyed for centuries, but the soft-serve concept wasn’t developed until 1938 by Iowa-born John Fremont McCullough and his son Alex. Together they convinced a pal, Sherb Noble, to offer the innovative product in his soft ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois, a small town south of Chicago. On the first day of sales, to everyone’s surprise, Noble dished out more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within a couple of hours. (Seems like it was popular.) Knowing they were onto something big, Noble as well as the McCulloughs went on to open the first Dairy Queen near me two years later in Joliet, Illinois, placing Mr. Noble at the helm (who better) which opened for business on June 22, perfect timing for the long, hot summer. Although this original site has not been functioning since the 1950s, the building still stands as being a designated landmark, hearkening back to simpler times for Boomers who go by.
For many years, Dairy Queens were and they are a fixture of social interaction in small towns of the Midwest and South and by the 70s, checking up on the days (and the competition), most DQs added fast food, including sausages, hamburgers and fries, referring to their newest menu items as “Brazier.” Although a few shops are just open in the summertime, most stay open year-round. After all, why consume frozen treats just seasonally except if you live in North Dakota? The largest store is situated in Bloomington, IL, home of any state university, Busiest honors go to Prince Edward Island, Canada (go figure). In 2014, Dairy Queen listed over 6,400 stores in than 25 countries (75% in which will be in the U.S.). For decades, the old adage boasted every Texas town experienced a DQ. While no more literally true as small-town America dwindles, the largest concentration is still in the Lone Star State.
All DQs now provide you with the Orange Julius drink, a brandname that they can acquired in 1987, and several shops can be found in food courts and shopping malls nationwide. DQ actually has two official fan clubs: Blizzard and Orange Julius. Blizzard fans, over 4 million strong, take their choices seriously, with many different ingredients and mix-ins available. DQ also provides specialty soft ice cream cakes, along with their traditional choice of soft-serve treats, cone dippings and toppings.
Across the country, many single-unit mom and pop stands took notice and opened on Memorial Day serving the local children, with walk-up stands, often calling themselves “frozen custard.” No person cared what the name was, dairy queen blizzard meant vanilla and chocolate creamy cones and cups, maybe a few picnic tables to linger at, as well as an after-dinner treat within walking distance of home. Local kids looked forward to their short but sweet hours, which sadly closed after Labor Day. Simple names like Al’s, Bert’s or Tastee Treat started yfewqe appear on busy corners and children rode their bikes eagerly anticipating what awaited them, having a dime or perhaps a quarter stashed in their pocket. Rarely did these stands offer more than the two basic flavors, however, if one was lucky, there can be a strawberry flavor as well (oh, boy). (Author’s note: her local soft-serve stand featured green mint, that was on the top, especially with hot fudge.)
Minor competitors like Tastee-Freez and Fosters Freeze both were only available in California within the 1950s and also have lower than 50 locations each but still thrive using a cadre of loyal customers.
So who may be up for a few soft-serve? Any season it hits the spot. If you don’t have any shops near you, maybe a frozen yogurt, nevertheless it won’t be the same. Check your local shopping mall and you just might luck out. And don’t worry: mom was wrong, it won’t spoil your dinner.