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An unwelcome change: Historic Tastee Freez closes

29 Jan

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

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, captainerniesshowboat.com, 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,” captainerniesshowboat.com 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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