We All Scream for Dairy Queen

ANDALUSIA—The first thing I always do in this town is eat ice cream. I order a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. If I’m in a good mood I might even get a Dilly Bar.

When I was dating my wife, I took her to this Dairy Queen for one of our first dates. Times were tight, I was really trying to stretch my cash. I ordered a large Blizzard and a tap water. We split the Blizzard.

She called me “Mister Big Spender” after that. She still calls me this.

This is not a term of endearment.

We are rolling into the drive-thru right now. It’s a summer afternoon. I’m idling behind three cars in the to-go line. One Oldsmobile, one Pontiac, and a Chevy Z71 truck.

The Dairy Queen on East Three Notch Street is among the finest in the nation. And that’s not an opinion. There aren’t many like it left in the U.S.

If you’re passing through this Alabamian hamlet with time to kill, order a single dipped cone from this 1950s-style establishment and see what I mean. You’ll forget all about the coronavirus for a few minutes. You might even find that you need a Dilly Bar.

The DQ’s dining room isn’t open right now because of COVID-19, but the drive-thru is. Which is similar to how Dairy Queens worked back in the ‘50s. Most stores did walk-up business only.

I pay for my Blizzard. The girl at the window hands me a tap water and says, “Have a nass day.” She is a ray of sunlight.

I park near a curb. My wife and I remove our surgical masks to eat. I play some early Hank Williams on the radio. We take big slurps from our cups. My Blizzard is so thick it could be used in a Quikrete advertisement.

After two sips I develop an ice-cream headache.

My wife laughs. “Mister Big Spender has a brain freeze! Why don’t you drink some of your free tap water?”

I choose not to dignify this remark.

I’m in too good of spirits. Ice cream does that to me. So does this little town.

Just down the road from this ice cream joint is the place where Hank Williams married Audrey Sheppard. They tied the knot here in ‘44, at a little service station. It was a shotgun wedding. There’s a large mural downtown to commemorate it.

If this Dairy Queen would have been in operation when they got married, Hank would have probably ordered a Blizzard and a tap water after the ceremony.

This tiny DQ reminds me of those former days—when Hank’s tunes were still on the radio. When young women still wore cotton dresses and young men still tuned their own carburetors.

Dairy Queens this old are hard to find. You have to really know where to look. The only ones left are located off beaten paths, situated on crumbling two-lanes, or in small towns with triple-digit populations.

I’ve been to a few. I went to one Dairy Queen in Masontown, Pennsylvania. I found another in Lima, Ohio. And I once visited a quaint Dairy Queen in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where I ate three Dilly Bars.

The tap water was delightful.

When I was a boy, my father would take our Little League team to Dairy Queen after every single game. Our games were usually bloodbaths with few survivors. We would get beaten so badly that several of us resolved to take up new sports. Like backgammon. Or maybe Jazzercise.

My father and Coach Dan would march the whole losing team to the walk-up window. You should have seen us trudge across the parking lot. Sulking. Thirteen unkempt, unathletic, untucked, uncoordinated, underweight, underachieving boys.

We would order enough chocolate dipped soft-serves to put the DQ franchise out of business. And slowly, with each bite, life returned to our faces. Pretty soon we’d be laughing, cheeks smeared with white goo, and we didn’t feel like losers anymore.

Those nights live in my memory forever.

In 1938 J.F. McCullough and his son, Alex, developed a recipe for something they called “soft-serve.” They knew they were onto something great.

Eventually, they convinced a local ice cream shop in Kankakee, Illinois, to serve the stuff on a trial run basis for one day. Just to see what happened.

This was a Great Depression, not the best time to launch a new product. They were ready for a modest turn out that day, but nothing major.

When the store window opened, the crowds were more than modest. Much more. The customers never quit coming. Single-file lines extended toward the horizon. After only two hours they had served 1,600 people. One serving every four seconds to be exact. It was pandemonium.

America’s first Dairy Queen opened in the nearby town of Joliet shortly thereafter. And a few years ago, Dairy Queen reported that it currently had 6,400 stores in 25 countries.

The original store still stands today. It looks a lot like the one here in Andalusia. One day I plan on going to see it. If for no other reason than to pay my respects to a couple of guys who helped make losing baseball games bearable. Who made a pandemic a little easier to handle, even if only for this brief afternoon.

But then, a road trip to Illinois would cost big bucks. So I guess it’s a good thing they call me Mister Big Spender.

Have a nass day.


  1. Sandi. - August 12, 2020 7:38 am

    Who doesn;t like a Blizzard from Dairy Queen? But I haven’t eaten a Dilly Bar since high school days, and that’s been too many years ago to count! Thanks for sharing your DQ remembrances, Sean.

  2. Tim Lacey - August 12, 2020 9:36 am

    “Alabamian hamlet”? What’s wrong with “Alabama hamlet”? You’re the first writer I have ever seen to use the term “Alabamian”. I’ve seen “Alabaman“ used to describe a resident. I enjoy your column, still miss Lewis Grizzard. I’m a native Alabaman, 67 years. WDE, not RTR.

  3. Meredith Smith - August 12, 2020 9:38 am

    Sean, your columns so often remind me of my dad. My dad lost his father at age 12. Although to this day, my dad has never spoken of him. I’ve learned all I know of him from other members of my family. Anyway, my dad grew up in similar environments as you as far as I can tell from your columns. Very simple but very loving. Today was he proverbial cherry on the cake when you brought up Dairy Queen, my dads favorite ice cream, he even gets an ice cream cake for his birthday every year!
    Thanks Sean for all of your wonderful columns.

  4. Cynthia Harmon - August 12, 2020 9:42 am

    When you wrote that DQs used to be walk up only I thought about the store in NSB that still is. I was tickled to see it mentioned as I graduated high school from that town. It is a sweet place to live as my uncle would attest. He moved there with his parents in 63.

  5. Lucretia Jones - August 12, 2020 9:57 am

    Yeah for your wonderful memory and your magnificent magical talent to transport me beyond the “present” to a sacred place, my memory of my past. Thank you! Have a nass day!

  6. TrixC - August 12, 2020 10:49 am

    Such sweet memories! Thanks for sharing. I am a health nut…but love me some ice cream. I grew up visiting our local DQ and loved the soft serve cones. I learned how to make those stacked ones and amazed some coworkers when the hospital cafeteria but in a soft serve ice cream machine for us. I mastered making THE largest ice cream cone in the state! Recently I drove by a DQ and was “commanded” to turn around and go back. Mind you, I have not been to a fast food place in years! I pulled up to the drive through (Thank you COVID) and for some unknown reason ordered a chili cheese dog. I drove off, parked at a nearby park and totally devoured that thing. Made me smile. Next time…soft serve.

  7. rebecca - August 12, 2020 11:13 am

    You are in Andalusia? I watch cooking videos by Brenda Gnatt who lives there. I’ve learned how to make buttermilk biscuits watching her. Check her out. I think there is a great story waiting

  8. Meredith Williams - August 12, 2020 11:36 am

    I,too,love a good blizzard. I just wish our local Dairy Queen in Lexington, Virginia would clean its drive up window. It’s impossible to see through it for all the sticky grossness smeared all over it. It’s hard to ignore! 🙄

  9. cronkitesue - August 12, 2020 11:46 am

    Wonderful memories. When I was young and worked for the Birmingham News, I got a giant blizzard at the Ozark DQ drive through on my way to visit my mother in New Hope, just across the Florida line. Then another one in the way back to Birmingham. Nothing better on a hot nass day.

  10. Virginia Russell - August 12, 2020 11:48 am

    Our 50’s building has been replaced by a modern one. The blizzards are good, though. My father called the burger section the Brassiere to annoy my mother.

  11. Lisa Martin from Oxford - August 12, 2020 11:59 am

    Oh my gosh! Oxford, MS just opened a Dairy Queen and the lines are our into the street everyday! My granddaughter and I waited in line for 30 minutes for a Peanut Buster Parfait, a Blizzard, cheeseburger, onion rings, french fries and the fried cheese thingys. It was so worth it and brought back so many memories. I can’t wait to get a dipped cone and a Dilly Bar when I next have a block of time to kill.

  12. Joe Bolton - August 12, 2020 12:38 pm

    There’s still an old fashioned DQ in Foley, Alabama.

  13. Jan Bruck - August 12, 2020 12:39 pm

    My preacher father would take my mother CB and my two siblings on a road trip vacation every summer. My mom so loved the Dairy Queen that it was hard to drive by one without stopping. But, because of our limited budget, we did as often as possible. My dad would pay for a $.05 or $.10 cone, and if we wanted to have it chocolate dipped, we had to pay for that out of our allowance. Never a sumdae or a shake or a blizzard. Or a sandwich. Only other kids were able to get those. My mother’s favorite was the Dilly Bar. Great memories! So, “Mister Big Spender,” I think my dad had you beat. But then, he was on a poor preacher’s salary. What’s your excuse?

  14. John Jay - August 12, 2020 12:50 pm

    Great article Sean, I live in Andalusia and grew up eating at “The DQ”, I still do. When you eat at the Andalusia DQ, you are eating at one of the 5 remaining Dairy Queen Restaurants in the United States that still maintain the original DQ “footprint”. I believe the Andalusia DQ was built in 1957. Thanks for visiting Andalusia again, and thank for shopping at the DQ!

  15. Dianne - August 12, 2020 12:52 pm

    Sean, your column just brought back a wonderful childhood memory. Whenever we traveled anywhere and if there was a Dairy Queen on the way or back home, my Daddy would pull over, and we all got the soft serve ice-cream that was dipped in chocolate. I loved that chocolate coating and would try to make it last as long as possible. Thank you for making this a nass day!

  16. Whit Springfield - August 12, 2020 12:52 pm

    Sean: growing up in Gainesville,FL in the 50’s my parents would take us to the beach in St Augustine. An excruciatingly long 90 minute drive. He would always say if we behaved he would stop at the DQ in Palatka (half way) and get us a Dilly Bar (10 cents). We behaved. Now we live in St Augustine and go to Gainesville to watch the Gators play ball. I tell my wife if we win and she behaves I’ll buy her a Dilly Bar at the DQ in Palatka. Yep, it’s still there

  17. Kristina Nilsson - August 12, 2020 1:34 pm

    Aaah, DAIRY QUEEN!! My go-to place every summer. There are old-fashioned ones in more places than you may realize: Old Saybrook, CT, St. Paul, MN, Natick, MA are the ones I frequent, and my grandkids go with their parents to a new fancy one in Tallahassee every week or so. All my friends know what a DQ addict I am. (Peanut-Buster Parfait is my “regular.”) I’m a musician and was on tour with a large American orchestra, down in Florida. We had a day off, and some friends and I agreed to go out to dinner. They all knew there was a DQ en route. They made a secret pact: “On the drive to the restaurant, let’s engage Kristina (me) in conversation. When we pass the DQ, if she interrupts a sentence to remark, ‘There’s a DQ!!!’ we’ll stop there and indulge her. Otherwise, we’ll just drive right past.” I was gabbing away on the ride, but halted myself in mid-sentence: “Look, guys, there’s a DAIRY QUEEN!!!” I was rewarded. A Peanut Buster Parfait was my dinner that night.

  18. Judy - August 12, 2020 1:36 pm

    The chocolate dipped soft serve had that little curly q on top…bite it off and suck out the ice cream…also great toasted split bun hot dogs….yummm

  19. Eddy - August 12, 2020 1:46 pm

    My sister Lori and I grew up in Greenville, MS. When I was 10yrs old (1969) and she was 8 we took swimming lessons. Our friend Anita would drop us off and pick us up. Often after picking us up she’d take us by DQ. I always got a strawberry sundae and thought it was the best thing ever! This past Sunday for the first time in several years I got the craving for a blizzard. So I went to the DQ here in Gulfport. One of the new flavors, Oreo Cheesecake. I twas pretty dang good! Btw, I’m still reading WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN and thoroughly enjoying it. We love Y’all!!

  20. Charles - August 12, 2020 1:58 pm

    I needed this today. BTW, if you find yourself near Black Mountain, NC (just off I-40 about 20 miles east of Asheville), stop at the Dairy King. Not DQ, but a great local institution with walk-up only.

  21. Rebecca J Cotney - August 12, 2020 2:01 pm

    If you are ever in LaGrange, Ga. Please try to stop at the Dairy Queen, you will love it. I have been to the one in And six & we loved it too.The one in LaGrange has been owned by the same family as long as I can remember & the food is wonderful, they have Gator tots. Happy trails Shawn.

  22. Rebecca J Cotney - August 12, 2020 2:03 pm

    That should be Andalusia.

  23. Rebecca J Cotney - August 12, 2020 2:04 pm

    And Tator tots. Stupid autocorrect.

  24. Kerry Farrell - August 12, 2020 2:15 pm

    Wes Hardin painted that Hank Williams mural in Andelusia – he’s done dozens across the country, including one on the wall in the courtyard of the thirsty Pig.

  25. Gordon - August 12, 2020 2:58 pm

    I enjoyed the delicious treats from that very Dairy Queen with my Mother and maternal Grandmother many years ago as we traveled from Florala to the big city of Andalusia, usually to purchase school clothes at the J.C. Penny store down the street. I even took my new bride there in the 70’s. Fond, endearing memories. Thanks for the stroll back in time, Sean.

  26. lisa spencer - August 12, 2020 3:14 pm

    You reminded me of the old Tastee-Freez that was in my hometown. It was a walk-up as well. We have a couple of Dairy Queens in Dothan and one in Midland City. I think I hear a Butterfinger Blizzard calling.

  27. Judy Tayloe - August 12, 2020 3:44 pm

    I also watch Brenda Gnatt’s cooking videos! I just love her sweet spirit, not to mention her delicious recipes, and agree with Rebecca that there is a great story waiting! Have a nass day!

  28. Jessie Lawrence - August 12, 2020 4:32 pm

    Hey Sean, in 1949, I was 6 yrs old. The house next door had been torn down,and the next thing I knew,there was a Dairy Queen next door. Right here in Paducah,Ky. Can you imagine growing up next to a DQ? Let me tell you,it was awesome! The owners had a daughter my age,and we could come up with some great combinations. The building is still there,but not a DQ. They sell all kinds of sandwiches,and ice cream but it’s not the same. But every time I go to DQ, I’m a little 6 yr old girl again. Good memories.

  29. Pat - August 12, 2020 4:41 pm

    Funny that I had never heard of Andalusia, Alabama until I started following Cooking with Brenda Gantt on Facebook. Now I want to stay at her Cottle House B&B and visit the local Dairy Queen, too. Thanks Sean and Brenda.

  30. bubbastubbs - August 12, 2020 4:46 pm

    G’morning, Sean. Really loved your article today about the Dairy Queen! As a child of the 50’s- early 60’s, how well I remember going to the “DQ” with my parents and younger siblings. Then, as a teenager taking my sweetheart (who’s now my wife of almost 50 years) to the DQ on the South Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, FL. We now share our “new” DQ in Lynn Haven, FL, with the next generation—all five of our grandkids! Keep those fond memories coming my friend.

  31. Robert M Brenner - August 12, 2020 4:53 pm

    I always order the large sugar cone and double dipped in chocolate! Tried butterscotch once but went back to chocolate after that.
    Great memories, thanks. Ice cream ❤️🍦 Um Um Um!

  32. Patricia Gibson - August 12, 2020 4:57 pm

    Love it❤️❤️

  33. Amy Spurlin - August 12, 2020 4:59 pm

    Sean, I always enjoy your articles. Next time you are in in Andalusia, go to David’s Catfish House for some real local color. Also, check out Cooking with Brenda on Facebook. You will love her. Just check it out.
    We have met at twice. I was at your reading at the Episcopal Church and in Dothan, and have your books. As a former teacher of writing, I love the VOICE in you writing. Check out Brenda Gantt. She has it too.
    Stay well. We all depend on you to lighten our days.

  34. Robert M Brenner - August 12, 2020 5:04 pm

    The locals call it the “Blue Cone” because the neon sign is lit up in blue neon!

  35. Robert M Brenner - August 12, 2020 5:05 pm

    Sorry that’s the Black Mountain store…

  36. Betty F. - August 12, 2020 5:32 pm

    There is still an old fashioned walk-up Dairy Queen on Oleander Rd. in Wilmington, NC, if you get up that way.

  37. Cynthia Russell - August 12, 2020 5:33 pm

    We have a brand new Dairy Queen in our town right down the middle of one the major streets.. During all this craziness.. I’ve stopped & bought 10 – $10 gift cards to give out.. the trashman deserved some,, the lawn guys got a few.. & just here & there people got them… I SO LOVE Dairy Queen.. the chocolate dipped cones.. I live in Slidell La. & drive back home when the homesickness overtakes my heart to Mobile Alabama where the siblings live, my heart yearns for & my burial plot awaits me.. (DO NOT BURY ME ON FOREIGN SOIL!!)….Before I know it.. I’m driving back to Slidell – it’s strange how my car automatically pulls into the Dairy Queen In Diamondhead Mississippi for a dipped cone – after all I deserve it on that long road & having to live in cajun LSU land instead of where my heart is in Beautiful Mobile & ROLL TIDE ROLL land.. Cynthia Russell

  38. William Johnson - August 12, 2020 6:25 pm

    At one time there was a DairyDequeen in Dequeen Arkansas….Yep it is true !

  39. Lynn Pappas - August 12, 2020 6:53 pm

    There is one on my hometown….Alabaster, AL👍

  40. Ann Mills - August 12, 2020 7:02 pm

    Go to the one in Murray, Kentucky! Walk-up only. Opens the 1st of March and closes on Halloween. Best Blizzards on the planet! I live in Texas now, and there are a bazillion DQs, but I sure do miss that one!

  41. Susie - August 12, 2020 7:22 pm

    Live Brenda Gnatt and all her recipes. Love Sean and all his writings. Have a nass day.

  42. Jess Rawls - August 12, 2020 7:46 pm

    Sean, when I read your column every day, it generally turns my ordinary day into a nass day. Today was no exception. Hope you’re having a nass day as well.

  43. Ann - August 12, 2020 7:51 pm

    A number of years ago we were heading from East Florida to Arizona and decided DQ taste testing on the way..I think maybe around Biloxi..( it’s been a while) there was one that we declared the winner..at least 4 or 5 before that…yummy fun….sooo thanks to your column, we remembered we had a DQ gift card from a daughter…so we went from Palm Coast to Palatka for a DQ blizzard lunch….it was fantastic….and after 60 years…we didn’t share ❤️❤️….thank for the idea🍦

  44. Judy - August 12, 2020 8:38 pm

    One of my favorite Dairy Queen’s is in Sherman, TX. This particular one was down the road from my G-mom’s and G-Dad’s house. (They has 9 grandkids and got tired of writing grandma and granddad on gifts so those names just stuck)

    Still to this day when I go and visit family I go to that Dairy Queen. I swear the building and memories of that old Dairy Queen add to the flavors of the food. I have yet to find a Dairy Queen that rivals their food, however, I will get soft served ice cream at all the others.

  45. Tara - August 12, 2020 9:03 pm

    I live her videos as well! I was thinking the same thing when I saw Sean was in her hometown. What a great story that would be to get Sean and Ms. Brenda together!

  46. Linda Moon - August 12, 2020 9:29 pm

    My guy and I love Dairy Queen Blizzards, too. Totally off topic here, but we’ve been to the houses where “Terms of Endearment” (the movie) was filmed while we were on a very endearing road trip to visit family. The next time we’re travelling, we might go to that Dairy Queen in Andalusia, Alabama. You and Jamie might enjoy Andalusia Farms in Milledgeville, Georgia. It was the home of Flannery O’Connor with 554 acres that includes a peacock aviary. I bet there’s a Dairy Queen somewhere in Milledgeville. I’ve had a “nass” day, Sean, involving the last 3 letters in that word and a former student who puts monthly doses of reality in that 3-letter anatomical place!

  47. Rita Walling - August 12, 2020 9:41 pm

    Loved the Dairy Queen story. I was raised in a small town in North Dakota and our Mom worked at the local Dairy Queen. Two old maids owned it & they would have had an early grave if they had ever found out how much free ice cream my Mom gave out to all our friends. The Dilly bar really hit home! You make me want to go to all the little places you have been!! Rita Walling

  48. MAM - August 12, 2020 11:13 pm

    It’s so much fun when you throw in the occasional southern talk like ‘nass day.’ I suspect that day is two syllables, too. I tried to spell southern a different way, but it wouldn’t let. So I’m trying in all caps to see if it will – SUTHUN. aha! that’s it. I miss real Texas accents like my mom had. I always lapsed into it when I called her or she called me. I haven’t figured out a typical New Mexico accent. I think it’s too overrun with FURRINERS lak me. P.S. Auto-correct is a nemesis when one wants to get creative!

  49. Pat Cole - August 13, 2020 12:41 am

    Wonderful ice cream,,, miserable hamburgers, Brazers. Yikes!

  50. Melanie - August 13, 2020 1:15 am

    I love chocolate chocolate dipped cones. LARGE only. It’s a tough job turning a huge soft serve upside down to dip it but somebody’s got to do it. Thanks for the reminder that I haven’t had one of these in years. I know where I’m going this weekend.

  51. cajuntiger74 - August 13, 2020 2:21 am

    Sean, I have consumed many cones of Ice Cream from this very same DQ when I was a boy. So that makes this location at least 60 years old, or older. Thanks for the great memories. Hey, do you know why the street is named “Three Notch”? After the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson, legend has it, came from South Carolina and traveled through this area in route to New Orleans. He cut three notches on trees as he passed through this wilderness to enable him to find his way back.

  52. Betty - August 13, 2020 3:44 am

    I live in Dothan, Al. with my handsome husband of 60 years. We LOVE our Dairy Queen and have to go just about every week. He likes the peanut buster bar but the Dilly Bar is Always my choice!

  53. Debra Naples - September 17, 2020 6:52 pm

    Loved that Foley DQ for 60 years 💯💯💕💕♥️♥️

  54. Donna Jordon - September 17, 2020 10:43 pm

    When in college (early 70s), I spent a weekend in Red Level with my best friend at her grandmother’s. The only entertainment was in Andalusia. They had a mall. Sorry we didn’t make it to the DQ., Nice memory.

  55. Janet Duke - September 17, 2020 11:19 pm

    Next time you are there, eat a Buster Bar. Soft serve frozen with fudge, peanuts & coated with chocolate! Heaven!

  56. Susan Culbreth - September 18, 2020 6:55 am

    I love watching Miss Brenda’s videos! Sean would love her! ❤️

  57. Sam Seetin - September 19, 2020 9:26 pm

    Good one Sean, but … big spenders with brain freeze may be in hot water particularly when they spend too much since their nass spouse controls purse strings. Uncle Sam

  58. Cheryl Buchanan - April 18, 2021 11:49 pm

    Dairy Queens are about all gone in Texas. I miss them. Thanks for the memories!

  59. Steve Hall - April 19, 2021 1:32 am

    My aunt Euna and uncle Melvin Faulkner owned that Andalusia treasure for decades. Their son Jimmy stepped in to run it after them. He added the cool dining room option. Aunt Euna introduced me to butternut cake from Mrs. Dean with soft serve before there was an official Deans. She used to pick them up at her house. My favorite meal there was the footlong chili dog with the cherry coke with the little pieces of cherries that got caught in your paper straw.

  60. Mary Katherine Arens - April 19, 2021 3:20 am

    The best Dairy Queen is in Baxley, GA . The DQ has been run by the same family since opening in the 1950s. I am 73 and my memories as a little girl and teenager and in my late 20s expecting my first child my Daddy picked me up to go with him for a milkshake. My children are in their 40s and still need a Blizzard and cheeseburger. Go to Dairy Queen and enjoy!

  61. julia a deas - April 19, 2021 2:53 pm

    There is a Dairy Queen in Jackson, Alabama and also one in Destin–on old highway 98. Love the vanilla soft serve.


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