Keeping the 50’s Alive: Happy 80th Birthday, DQ!

Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.

Hello folks! I’m Retro Dee and Welcome to another edition of “Keeping the 50’s Alive!”

The other day, I was sitting at the table sorting out my pennant collection, when a commercial for Dairy Queen came on TV. They’re celebrating their 80th Birthday!

Why is this so exciting to me? It’s not because I’m particularly interested in an 80 cent Blizzard. It’s more because Dairy Queen is one of the staple companies in America which has survived as a true icon throughout the years. I partly associate Dairy Queen with the 1950’s because that’s the era in which burger and ice cream joints began taking America by storm… Another reason that the 50’s was truly the Best Era Ever.

Dairy Queen circa 1950’s. Source: Pinterest


I remember my cousins and I would go to Dairy Queen in a suburb of Boston, as kids in the 1990s. I would get the half and half cone because that’s what my cousins got, even though I really wanted the hard shell chocolate-covered curly top. I also remember trying a Blizzard, thinking it was new, although the Blizzard was actually introduced back in the 1980s! I got chopped M&Ms in mine. I think anything chocolate would work well in a Blizzard, but by golly, I sure wouldn’t want peanut butter.

So… as I was thinking about DQ hitting its 80th milestone, I thought of some of the Dairy Queen ads I’d seen from the Nifty Fifties, such as this one below:

Ad for Dairy Queen’s 15th Birthday Celebration in 1955.

Imagine that! In 1955, Dairy Queen was just fifteen, and offering their Strawberry Sundae for only 15 cents to celebrate… and now, 65 years later, you can turn on your smartphone and see an ad for their 80TH Birthday, offering 80 cent Blizzards. It’s like we’re still somehow connected to the ideals of the past, even in a world that runs on frequent change and frantic acceleration.

Dairy Queen would celebrate its Birthday annually, and there was always a Price Special. For their Sweet Sixteen in 1956, sundaes were 16 cents on June 16th… and in 1957, they also offered a free coin bank which I’m sure is a collector’s item by now! It’s cool how the Birthday year correlates with the price… each year they get older, and each year prices increase.

Ad for Dairy Queen’s 16th Birthday Sale in 1956.


Dairy Queen coin bank ad, 1957.


The traditional red and white Dairy Queen logo was introduced in 1958. Although today’s logo reads only “DQ” and differs in both color and style, we can be assured that it’s the same company that began 80 years ago in Joliet, IL. on June 22, 1940.

To me, companies like Dairy Queen are what America is all about- the familiar, classic brands that are enjoyed generation after generation… It’s something that seems to be less and less common these days, as we see certain brands disappear and go the way of the dinosaur.

The majority of Dairy Queen stores are in the state of Texas. Growing up, I used to think that Dairy Queen was East Coast only, because I only ever saw one when I’d visit my cousins. But when I moved up to the North Bay, I started seeing them here in California. Dairy Queen is now an international brand and stores are continuing to show up all over the world.

Amid today’s chaos, you might not have a quiet, romantic evening under the stars eating ice cream with your sweetie like back in the 1950’s, but you can still rely on Dairy Queen for a good ole American Treat.

I’m not sure why they’re celebrating their Birthday in March this year, but I’m sure there’s a reason.

So here’s to another 80 years, DQ!


Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island, by clicking the 88.1 FM link on or via the TuneIn app.  or the 88.1 FM button on the WCWP app for Android or iPhones.  You can also follow us on Twitter.

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