After a trip to Nebraska, my friend Andy wrote the first two lines of a poem about the state:
God bless Nebraska, where everyone is nice.
God bless Nebraska, where ketchup is a spice.
What I don’t know is if Nebraska has actual Fancy Ketchup, the way this recently-departed Dairy Queen did.
It’s easy to lament, the way I did yesterday, the loss of a local institution. However, I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have stopped to make photos of a still-in-business Dairy Queen. So there’s that.
I went to college in a town that was an eight hour drive from home (In a Pinto. In a Pinto without an air conditioner. But that’s another topic). A drive that long required several restroom breaks, and small town Dairy Queens were the preferred place to stop. We’d skip the one in Post, as it was only 45 minutes away, but Sweetwater, Abilene, Eastland, Dublin, Hico, Meridian, Waco, Hearne, all the way to College Station – we knew ’em all. Of course, protocol demanded (Yes! Demanded. Protocol doesn’t “suggest.”) that we make a purchase when we stopped. So we’d get a Coke (in the vernacular, “Coke” referenced any carbonated beverage), thus ensuring yet another stop at another Dairy Queen somewhere further down the road.
But they weren’t there just for travelers. Dairy Queens were popular with residents in those little towns we drove through. The Rotary Club might meet there, or the Lions. Most teenagers worked there, and all of them hung out there. Families went there after church, or before a football game. The DQs would be decorated in the school colors, with mascot names painted on the windows. They were so much a part of town it was hard to imagine that someday they’d disappear.
Here’s an article from The Atlantic that’s got some photographs of Texas Dairy Queens.
This one, though, has gone away. It won’t return. You can tell by looking.