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Dairy Queen: 1977

Dairy Queen: 1977

Late one evening, summer of '77 on Mount Auburn street in Watertown, Massachusetts; it is now long gone. I loved the sign and the car. Taken with a 4x5 view camera. I can still taste the ice cream -- dipped in chocolate of course -- and the sticky fingers. View full size.

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Today’s Top 5

Dennis the Menace

Yup, I remember when DQ used him as their mascot in the 70's!
I still love DQ, but they have apparently stopped using the term "parfait"; a few years ago I had asked for a strawberry parfait and the girl at the counter just stared at me like I was crazy!
What's sadder is that I remember them still using the term a recently as a year or two before that incident, but at least the same product is available, it's just simply known as a strawberry sundae.
Best DQ I ever went to was in Jedda, Saudi Arabia - they kept everything spotless and the ice cream perfect in case King Fahd dropped it! :)

I could be wrong about the location

My memory could be faulty. It could have been any community around Boston including Route 1, but surely within a less than 25 mile radius. Sorry if I misled anyone.

Wish I'd done this

I know from an earlier photograph, that these were done as part of a photography class, but I wish I'd gone around my town and taken night photos like these while the icons of my teenage years were still standing.

Great Photo

Great Photo, wrong location. I grew up in Wtaertown and have many family members and friends there. There was no Dairy Queen on Mt. Auburn St. There was however a similar establishment called Dairy Joy. It also sold soft serve ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, fried fish, etc. I can see how the two places could be mistaken for each other. Keep the great pictures coming, I love ice cream and old cars.

[Perhaps rizzman will chime in to clear this up. He took the photo. - tterrace]

Blizzard anyone?

Seeing this picture reminds me of my Uncle George who always made it a point to stop at the Dairy Queen on any adventure trip we took. Usually, it was stop once on the way there, and once on the way back; a double shot of ice cream fun. I also remember him telling a story from back before I was born. One of his other traditions was to take my sisters to the Dairy Queen on the last day it was open for the season (usually November 1st in Maine). He would always tell my sisters they had to wash their hands and faces before they could go. One year, there was a blizzard on the last day of "ice cream" season, and my uncle had stopped by to visit my father. He had no intention of going to the Dairy Queen (due to the heavy snow) and figured my sisters wouldn't think of it either. My sister Sue came running out to the kitchen and began tugging on my uncle's pant leg. He ignored her for a while and she went away. A few minutes later, she was tugging at his pant leg again, and when he looked down, she was there with a washcloth, washing her face and smiling up at him. He felt so guilty he packed them all in the car and took them out for ice cream. The Dairy Queen attendant said they had actually planned on closing early because they hadn't seen any customers up until them. Since my uncle's passing in 1992, I have had to assume the role of "Uncle George", and whenever taking my nephews and nieces (or their children) on adventures, we always make plans for a stop at an ice cream location. Some traditions are just worth hanging on to.

Uncle George: The Next Generation


Great shot. You can almost hear the sound of the bug zapper.

Ice Milk, not Ice Cream

I worked in a DQ in the 1970s while attending high school in Vancouver, B.C. The product we served was called "ice milk," lower in fat than ice cream. I have no idea what they call it now in Canada but Google suggests that in the US it is now called low-fat ice cream. Restaurants were either a "Sizzler" (electric flat grill) or a "Brazier" (gas BBQ type grill). Some would get confused and try and order a "brassiere" burger.

The first DQ opened in Canada in 1953 in Estevan, Saskatchewan.

[In its early years, Dairy Queen advertised its product as "freshly frozen dairy food." - Dave]

Film Noir

Thank you Rizzman for another beautiful moody nightshot which brings back memories of my father's solid black '55 4-door Buick Special V-8. Also, I love that Eskimo sign which reminds me of Dairy Queen's old jingle singing "the cone with the curl on top". With your obvious talent for photography, I hope it is still a big part of your life. The purpose of any art is to get an emotional response from the viewer and you have definitely touched the Shorpy audience with each and every one of your shots.

Big Business

Dairy Queen, those local roadside ice cream stores are now part of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. The now approximately 6000 world wide locations were purchased by Warren Buffett's company in 1998. Berkshire Hathaway's class A stock closed on May 11, 2012 at $122,795 a share.

Nov 28, 2014 closing price $223,065


I am positive more than one fellow Shorpian will know what Marvel Mystery Oil is. Back in the late 50s when my ride was the Chevy V8-powered '54 Studebaker you see here, posed next to my friend Roger's chopped '48 (I think) Mercury ragtop, we hung out at Ted's Drive-in Diner in Altoona, Pa. One summer night one of the guys filled his windshield washer bag with Marvel Mystery Oil, ran the hose into the top of the carburetor of his '57 Ford convertible, and while someone held the diner's door open, backed his car as close to it as he could and triggered the windshield washer pump. An hour later the place was still pretty much swimming in Marvel Mystery Oil smoke. Ted was the opposite of well-pleased.

How to in digital?

This is a beautiful shot taken in the days of analog photography.
How would you accomplish this with a digital camera?

[The same way. -Dave]

Those were the days, indeed

The snow tires (studded?) in summer suggest a number of possible scenarios. Maybe the 22 year old car was owned by a high school kid working at DQ for the summer, too poor to buy a conventional set. The chrome strip at the base of the car between the rear wheel well and bumper is aftermarket. (JC Whitney?) Maybe someone was trying to cover up a little rust, or perhaps the owner didn’t think Harley Earl had arranged enough chrome on the model. I understand Earl was particularly partial to the 55 Century, which looked almost identical to the Special. (The Century had four portholes.) The grille of the 55 was, like Earl himself, massive and imposing, if not charming. It may be a bit trite to say it, but it’s an unmitigated fact: those were the days, my friend.


The noticeable soot from a tailpipe on the wall of the DQ shows an incredibly rich mixture, probably a choke that was stuck closed. These old behemoths broke down a lot, required annual valve jobs and tuneups and it was just understood this was the way it was. Now you can go over 100K on a set of spark plugs, and I can't rememeber the last time a car came in for a valve job.

"Summer air"

The snow tires still on in the summer? About 30 years ago an old lady came into the shop wanting us to put summer air in her tires and take out the winter air. Seems another shop had been charging her $5 to do this twice a year to go along with the snow tire removal in the summer.
And the oil spots under the engine were the norm, as was having to feather the gas pedal on a cold winter startup because the choke was finicky. Sometimes you had to put a stick in the choke to get the engine started.

Yep, that's summer in balmy New England

Snow tires.

1955 Buick Special

It is rather clean looking to be a 22-year old car in 1977.

Another great picture!

Love these night shots, like a scene from a movie!

Director yells "Action" two guys with stocking masks come running out of the DQ, they jump into the Buick they backed in for a quick getaway, they burn rubber out on to the street and take off into the night. Cue Rock & Roll Soundtrack.

So reminiscent

of my first trip to the United States to Glasgow, Montana, from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in the 1950s, long before Dairy Queen came to Canada. I kept the milkshake container for years.

Twenty-two-year-old Buick on snows!

That 1955 Buick Special two-door sedan appears to be wearing a set of snow tires on the rear. Wonder why it'd have them on during the summer? After all, if that car was driven during twenty-two Massachusetts winters it would've rusted completely away.

Rizzman rocks

I do hope you publish a book of your photos at some point. They are really strikingly beautiful. Thanks for this latest.

Boy that looks familiar

Would you know if this was anywhere near (what was then) Westover Air Force Base? That's where we moved when we left Okinawa, and where I spent the 6th grade (so it would've been 1973, '74). Looking at this shot I can almost FEEL myself walking in that door again. Maybe it was on the route of one of the many sightseeing trips my family took, but this is an incredibly evocative picture (and thank you for it); I'm SURE I've been there.


I used to love this place. My grandfather would often take me there.


Holy CRAP!!

What an incredibly well-done picture this is!

I'm reminded of Ansel Adam's "Moonrise Over Hernandez New Mexico" -- he was driving along, saw the shot developing and jumped from his car, set up his camera and took it, then, while reversing the slide for another, the light changed and that was that!

My 'umble opinion is that your image is in this class.

So dreamy

The lighting is phenomenal! What a great surreal/hyperreal quality. I want to go to there.

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