The last time I visited a Dairy Queen – the one on Montgomery Street – there was only one guy in front of me in line and no one behind me. The dude proceeded to order food for his entire office, which would have been fine had he not also been on the phone modifying orders and waiting languidly for Nancy in HR to look over the menu one more time. When I asked if I could go ahead and order for just myself, both the guy and the cashier looked at me like I’d just kicked a puppy. I left angrily, my hunger un-busted. I vowed never to return, which wasn’t a big loss for me since I hadn’t stepped foot in a DQ in nearly 20 years.
As of a few days ago, it appears the once-pervasive Texas-based fast-food chain is headed the way of the black rhino, shopping malls, rap-metal, frosted hair tips, terrestrial radio, and *sigh* print news. Nine area locations recently shuttered, and only a handful remain in the county. I didn’t think I’d care when I first read the news on the social media feed of Star-T reporter Bud Kennedy, but DQ and I have a history.
Not too long ago, you couldn’t take a road trip to anywhere in Texas without encountering at least a dozen locations of the erstwhile popular chain. The ’90s were a golden era for DQ, which was something of a cultural hub for kids who lived in the sticks. In my youth, I spent the time before and after countless sports tournaments at DQs in small towns soaking in the local social dynamics of youngsters who wore starched jeans and giant, shiny belt buckles. Sonic replaced DQ in the hearts and locales of drive-through burghs, and you definitely can’t bathe in a town’s color from the comfort of your own car.
When I was a senior in high school at Arlington Heights, I would typically leave campus for lunch – a privilege afforded to upper-classmen only back then. My two reliable lunch pals and I would frequent the Queen on Montgomery, which gave a 10-percent discount to us Yellow Jackets. I once found myself in the principal’s office after two classmates started a fairly contained food fight. She knew I was there because I had used my discount card, and she wanted me to name names. I wasn’t no snitch, though. “Send me to detention, Ms. Taylor,” I said. “You’re just sending me home.”
I couldn’t really tell you what I ordered at DQ, aside from the occasional Oreo Cookie Blizzard, an option I took off the table year ago. Since I’ve grown old, anxious, and doughy, I’ve replaced those calories with soothing, delicious alcohol. Talk about a growth industry!
Dairy Queens aren’t gone yet. You can still get your fix at nine area locations, including ones on Basswood Drive, Beach, and Bridge streets in Fort Worth. Still, that’s a huge fall from grace for a company that hasn’t really done anything wrong, and, according to me, makes food that’s just as good if not better than many other chains. To my knowledge, DQ hasn’t suffered any meat recalls, PR foibles, donations to hate groups, or any of the nonsense a few other prominent fast-food chains have overcome. Maybe that’s the problem. DQ needed a salacious scandal or a few heads of tainted lettuce to stay in the news.
This isn’t exactly a love letter. Rather, I just wanted acknowledgment that our ever-changing landscape has once again evolved. Things aren’t better or worse without DQ. I’m just older and have a harder time letting go – even of fast-food chains I’ve sworn off. I guess I’ll miss the ol’ Queen but not enough to drive 30 minutes to the one closest to my house.