When our parents would take my sister and me from Ashdown, Arkansas to Texarkana, often they'd succumb to our begging and stop for ice cream.
The only destination considered was Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors.
Sure, there were other options, including Dairy Queen, Tastee-Freez, and A&W Drive In, but with Baskin-Robbins sitting right on the Texas side of Stateline Avenue between Interstate 30 and downtown, there was never any question where we'd go.
Also, my mother liked pralines and cream, which was only available from Baskin-Robbins.
It was a great time to be a kid in America. Most restaurants were locally owned, or at least the franchise was. This meant that attention to detail was always there.
So, if you went to A&W Drive In and ordered a cheeseburger and tall, frosty mug of A&W Root Beer, it would be just as good every time you went there.
Same in Ashdown, where we had Herb's Creamland, which was started by my cousin in 1954. Herb also had great ice cream. It was the old soft-serv type.
But if we were going to Texarkana, Baskin-Robbins it was going to be.
The ice cream was often preceded by lunch at Charcoal Broiler, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Harold's Pizza.
None of it was healthy, but fortunately I grew up before people worried much about healthy. They worried about good.
Charcoal Broiler was also located on the Texas side, but just barely. Also the case for KFC and Harold's Pizza.
Most smart restaurant owners located on Stateline Avenue. It was the main drag for adults and kids.
Charcoal Broiler offered amazing chicken fried steaks. Kentucky Fried Chicken was relatively new at the time and its chicken was impossible for even grandma to beat. Harold's Pizza has been mentioned before in this column. Best pizza ever.
But what the three didn't have, at least not in a significant appreciable manner, was desserts. Specifically, ice cream.
Enter Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors.
As a kid, I had women in my family who could bake pies that would win blue ribbons at county fairs. But ice cream was something relegated to the Fourth of July at the lake.
Homemade ice cream required a box of rock salt, a lot of ice, heavy cream, vanilla extract, eggs, and a couple of kids to sit on the ice cream maker while adults took turns cranking it and complaining that they couldn't feel their arms.
Don't get me wrong. That homemade ice cream was excellent, but we only had it once or twice a year. But it was Baskin-Robbins that secured my love of ice cream.
I never understood why they only had 31 flavors. The Tastee-Freez had 100 flavors of milkshake (#100 was coconut, which I always ordered), so why couldn't Baskin-Robbins expand?
Marketing is the likely answer. They were an early adopter of bringing in flavors, "For a limited time." For example, pumpkin ice cream was usually only available for a few weeks in the fall.
McDonald's adopted this type of marketing much later with the McRib, as does Taco Bell with Mexican Pizza.
To avoid disappointment, my family usually got the same ice cream each visit. This helped avoid disappointment from being told they didn't have a certain flavor.
My dad always got Rocky Road, my sister and I chose chocolate, and as mentioned, mom preferred pralines and cream.
But things come and things go. Sadly, go has been the case with Baskin-Robbins, Tastee-Freez, A&W Drive In, Charcoal Broiler, and Harold's Pizza.
At least in the neck of the woods where I grew up.
A search of the web shows there are still some Tastee-Freez, A&W Drive Ins, and Baskin-Robbins still around. Just not around here.
Thankfully, I live near some locations of Braum's, an Oklahoma-based restaurant and creamery. Their ice cream variety is larger than 31 flavors, and is absolutely excellent.
Of course, there's Blue Bell, which is one of the best creations to come out of the State of Texas.
Braum's and Blue Bell are perfectly fine options. But I'd sure love to be able to see my family just one more time and share two scoops with them on State Line Avenue.
John's latest book, "Puns for Groan People," and volumes 1 and 2 of his series "Write of Passage: A Southerner's View of Then and Now" are available on his website, TheCountryWriter.com.
©2022 John Moore