Monthly Archives: January 2012

An unwelcome change: Historic Tastee Freez closes

Iowa's oldest and only Tastee Freez has closed. Photo from

One thing in life is constant. That’s the fact that things are always changing.

Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it — the one thing in life that never changes is the fact that everything in life is always changing?

Depending on how it affects you, sometimes a particular change is good. Sometimes it isn’t. Often I can see both the good and the bad in a change.

One change I can’t find anything good about is the recently announced closing of a landmark drive-in restaurant in Davenport that was built in 1954.

The Tastee Freez at 3950 Rockingham Road was due to reopen from its winter hibernation in April, but it won’t. The signs have been removed from the building.

Owned by a franchisee from Moline, it was one of the oldest Tastee Freez’s in the country and the last one in Iowa.

A local nostalgia website,, calls the Rockingham Tastee Freez an “incredible flashback to the 1950s, time warped as if you never left the decade. It remains an original twin-window walk-up drive-in experience. This is the way that all drive-ins originated, and it is unbelievable that it is still in existence to this day.

“When the store first opened its doors in 1954, it just served soft serve ice cream. A few years later they started serving pop, chips and hot dogs. Today it serves all types of sandwiches and side orders along with Tastee Freez soft serve ice cream.”

My favorite menu item was deep-fried mushrooms and the ranch dressing dip that came with them.

The website says the Rockingham Tastee Freez has had only three owners in its long history. The current owner, Tara Kirshenmann, had operated it since 1993. The owner before her had it for an amazing 38 years.

Located not far from U.S. 61 on Davenport’s west side, the Tastee Freez was a convenient stop for our family as we were driving by, and it was the perfect place to pause for a cool ice cream treat after a youth ballgame on a warm summer night in Davenport.

Customers there ate at one of a couple of picnic tables located outside in front or in their cars.

My wife and I continued to stop in now and then even after our children were grown and gone. The food was good, and the place was a comfortable reminder of times gone by.

I’ve been known to go out of my way to dine there when I was a second-shift newsman at WOC Radio.

One night a WOC co-worker questioned why I’d bought supper at Tastee Freez.

“It was Jumbo Day. You pay for the regular size of your food item, but they give you an extra large,” I explained as he broke into laughter.

He still teases me about Jumbo Day.

“It is one of the greatest pieces of Americana that there is,” says of the Rockingham Tastee Freez. Now it’s gone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

Those of us who loved it have lost the Rockingham Tastee Freez.

Copyright 2012 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This has been submitted as a column to North Scott Press.

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Feds enact new regulations to protect airplane passengers

You don't look forward to flying? Things may be getting a little better. Phil Roberts photo.

If you, like me, fly now and then but always end up feeling taken advantage of and/or battered by the experience, some help is on the way. Following is an unedited DOT news release. Perhaps the friendly skies will now be a little friendlier thanks to some new regulations. To bad more rules are needed when a little common sense/fairness and good customer relations should have sufficed.
Monday, January 23, 2012

New Airline Passenger Protections Take Effect This Week

New regulations going into effect this week will help ensure that consumers are treated fairly when they travel by air, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today. Among the new provisions, part of the airline consumer rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation in April 2011, are requirements that airlines and ticket agents include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares and that they disclose baggage fees to consumers buying tickets.

“Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.”

Also beginning this week, passengers will be able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date. In addition, airlines will be required to promptly notify passengers of flight delays of over 30 minutes, as well as flight cancellations and diversions, and they will generally be prohibited from increasing the price of passengers’ ticket after it is bought.

The new rules also will make it easier for passengers to determine the full price they will have to pay for air transportation prior to travel. Currently, airlines and ticket agents are allowed to publish ads that list government-imposed taxes and fees separately from the advertised fare, as long as these taxes and fees are assessed on a per-passenger basis. However, sometimes the notice of these taxes and fees is not obvious to consumers. Under the new requirements, all mandatory taxes and fees must be included together in the advertised fare. The advertising provision takes effect Jan. 26, 2012 while all of the other consumer protections go into effect on Jan. 24 of this year.

In addition, airlines and ticket agents will be required to disclose baggage fees to consumers when they book a flight online. The first screen containing a fare quotation for a specific itinerary must show if there will be additional baggage fees, and inform consumers where they can go to see these fees. Information on baggage fees also must be included on all e-ticket confirmations, and for most trips the same baggage allowances and fees must apply throughout a passenger’s journey.

The new requirements are the final provisions to become effective from the Department’s most recent airline consumer rule. A number of new measures required by the rule took effect on Aug. 23, 2011, including requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost and provide increased compensation to passengers bumped from oversold flights.

Also beginning last August, the Department set a four-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports, and extended the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights to smaller airports. It also required additional airlines to report their lengthy tarmac delays to DOT.

The Department is looking at other airline consumer protection measures for a possible future rulemaking, including requiring that all airline optional fees be disclosed wherever consumers can book a flight, strengthening disclosure of code-share flights, and requiring additional carriers to file on-time performance reports.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized



Twinkies, a combine of cans and other stuff on my mind

The world record breaking John Deere Can Do sculpture. Photo from PRNewsFoto/John Deere.

Twinkies are shown in production at Hostess Brands. Photo from

I guess it’s partially our fault.

Hostess Brands, the maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Fruit Pies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and Sno Balls, is seeking bankruptcy protection.

News accounts point to several problems the company has: Rising labor costs, increased competition and healthier eating habits.

We’re responsible for that third problem. Yes, we’re not consuming as many Hostess products as we used to.

Many of us are eating whole wheat bread these days instead of white bread, and we’re eating healthy snacks instead of, well, you know, those Hostess items that shout “Buy me. Eat me!” to us and nearly propel themselves into our carts when we pass by them in the store.

When I worked in the produce department at a supermarket in the mid 1970s, we had a store assistant manager named Al who loved his Twinkies.

Once in the morning and once in the afternoon he’d announce, “I’m going on a Twinkie break.” And he’d sit in the break room and dive into a package of that delectable delight.

These days I’m guessing the Als of the world have been replaced by people snacking on yogurt or fruit – not Twinkies.

I’m sure of two things about Al: He died a happy man, and he died with the smell of Twinkies on his breath.


My wife and I recently had great fun with some friends while participating in a trivia competition that benefitted the Buffalo Volunteer Fire Department.

If you ever need a reminder of how much you don’t know or how much don’t remember, I urge you to take part in a trivia game.

Or you can just ask your children.


Bravo for John Deere!

Moline-based Deere & Co., the world’s largest ag equipment maker and Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, is now in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Last November, Deere’s Project Can Do created a full-sized combine made entirely from food at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline.

It took more than 308,000 cans of 15 different kinds of food and more than 11,000 bags of popcorn, peas and beans.

Guinness folks say that is by far the largest sculpture ever built from canned food, more than doubling the number of cans used in the previous record set two years ago.

Deere’s sculpture, appropriately dedicated to America’s farmers, was 60 feet wide, 80 feet long, 16 feet tall and weighed about 170 tons.

It took 450 volunteers more than 1,800 hours to build it.

The sculpture was dismantled in December, and the food was donated to River Bend Food Bank, which serves food pantries in the Quad-Cities and 22 counties in eastern Iowa and western Illinois.


They say if you don’t like the Iowa weather, you should stick around because it will change in five minutes.

The snowstorm and mid teens cold snap that arrived Jan. 12 were in sharp contrast to highs in the mid 50s and the still-green grass that we enjoyed just a day earlier.

On the plus side, though, volunteer firefighters will no longer be called out to the grass fires that had them scrambling earlier this month.

Copyright 2012 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece submitted as a column to The North Scott Press.

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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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