June 1984: Dairy Queen recognizes three 'Queens for a Day'


The Dairy Queen in downtown Jasper was getting remodeled during the summer of 1984. 

Carl Key, owner of one of the oldest eateries in town (35 years and counting at the time) invited three women associated with the business to come down and talk to the Daily Mountain Eagle's Martha Pennington.

One was Effie Sims, who had lived next door to the original owners of the Dairy Queen, C.A. and Ella Lee.

The Lee saw their first Dairy Queen on a western road trip in 1950. Upon their return, Ella Lee announced to Ms. Sims, "We are going to open a Dairy Queen. How about helping me?"

"I enjoyed every minute I spent at it," Sims said. "This was a place for young folk to do their courting. We watched them court, marry and then another generation come along. We knew our customers. We sort of acted as chaperones."

Ruby Taylor bought the business from the Lees in 1957, and Mable Deavours did the bookkeeping for Lee and Taylor and for a short time for Key, who became the owner in 1974.

Taylor put two children through college on money made from the Dairy Queen.

"I'm still living on Dairy Queen money," she told Pennington.

Sims and Taylor swapped stories about life in the DQ kitchen.

"One of the hardest things we had to do when we went to work was to learn to curl," Sims said. She meant finishing off each cone with a curl, the DQ trademark.

In the early days, ice cream mix came in 10-gallon containers that were difficult to lift into the machines.

In 1984, the mix was delivered twice a week in half-gallon paper containers, according to Key.

Chopping machines for onions was another modern convenience.

"We had to take turns chopping onions for the foot-longs and hamburgers since we had to chop gallons," one of the ladies confessed.

Taylor recalled one time that she hurriedly threw a white starched apron onto the ice cream machine, an infraction that the health inspector found.

"I said, 'If you want me to smile at you every time you come to look us over, you'll forget the apron. Of course, I wouldn't have told him that had it been a dirty apron," she said.

The aforementioned cones cost between 5 and 15 cents in the '50s and '60s, and the first footlong cost 25 cents. By 1984, the cost of a footlong had gone up to $1.35.

Taylor recalled how many kids used to make the trek from Central Elementary School to the DQ, nickels in hand.

"Sometimes they would only have three or four cents and wanted ice cream so bad. We'd always let 'em have a cone," she said.

Sims was with DQ for 10 years and four months. Then her mother got sick, and she retired to care for her.

"Guess I would have worked here until I was 65 if I could have," she said.

The renovation in 1984 included moving the kitchen back to make room for the salad bar, adding extra space for booths and replacing flooring and kitchen equipment.

"We have just increased our capability over 250 percent," Key said.

Taylor lived to be 102. I spoke to her around her 100th birthday in 2012.

She was born in a mining camp in west Corona and was valedictorian of a class of 13 graduates in Eldridge.

She was widowed at 37 and went to work for 50 cents an hour at the downtown Dairy Queen  to support her daughter and son, who were then 14 and 10.

She bought the business several years later and retired at 62. 

As 100, she still lived independently, had no major health problems and didn’t require any medications stronger than an aspirin.


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.