Dairy Queen is open!

Published 9:46 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

The four greatest words in the English language are, “Dairy Queen is open.”

I have a confession to make. Of all the typical early signs and indicators of spring — the first robin, opening day at Wrigley Field, the roar of a half dozen motorcycles rumbling across the Main Street Bridge — my absolute favorite is the red and blue “OPEN” sign, lit up in the window at the Dairy Queen.

Here at the Center of the Universe, Niles, Michigan, we are curiously blessed to be in close proximity to a plethora of Dairy Queens. The original location on Oak Street at 15th, on Grant Street at State, and on 11th Street near the state line — or is that Old-31, or M-51, or 933, or US-33, or Dixie Way? I get confused. In my lifetime, that stretch of asphalt has had an identity crises on a national scale (when I was a kid, we just called it “the highway.”)

Are three Dairy Queens really necessary? Is this just soft-serve over-indulgence gone amuck? I know there will be some folks — you know the type: the out-of-town know-it-alls, the interloping busy-bodies, those politically correct equity inspectors — that will come through our fair city and decry the inequitableness, the avarice, and the downright unfairness of a community the size of the Center of the Universe having three DQ’s, when so many other villages, towns, and cities have none. To those fine folks I say, “If you don’t think it is fair for us to have three DQ’s, you have our permission to build four in your town. It’s okay. We won’t complain.”

Unfortunately from the end of October to the beginning of April, life, here at the Center, adjusts abruptly — and (in my opinion) not in a good way. It is not just the vivid colored leaves falling from the trees — leaving behind barren deciduous nudity. It is not just the depths of the temperature plummet followed by the height of the snow accumulation. It isn’t even the few short hours of daylight each day that are masked in cloudy gloom.

It is the lack of soft serve ice cream!

For me, the first time I walk up to the little window, place my order for a Peanut Buster Parfait and sit in the sunshine on one of the octagon-shaped wooden picnic tables, that is my true first sign of spring.

There are some things that just naturally go together — peanut butter and jelly in a sack lunch, a full tank and a carwash on a Sunday afternoon, the Cubs and the Bears having winning seasons (it’s my story and I’m telling it my way) — but, the best combination is sunshine and soft-serve ice cream, eaten outside on a picnic table. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

No, I do not have any financial stake in DQ. I am not personally acquainted with any of the ownership. The only thing I have to gain, from my joy over associating their openings with springtime, is a few unnecessary pounds.

Have you tried their new Blizzard with Oreos? I have!


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.