It's been nearly a week, and a bunch of us are still absorbing the shock of losing an old friend. Until the story appeared in last Friday's Maui News, we didn't know that Treats & Sweets would close the barn doors for good that day. Our fault, I guess. Had we been better friends, and gone to visit more often, we would have seen the signs posted at the windows.
"We" are the folks who never got used to calling it Treats & Sweets; to us, the big white barn with the red roof would always be Kahului Dairy Queen. We never got used to calling Dilly Bars "chocolate sticks" either.
I remember when the Kahului and Wailuku Dairy Queens became Treats & Sweets. The word through the coconut wireless was that the DQ chain insisted that all franchisees adhere to a standard menu, and the Ting family did not want to stop serving local-style grinds, so the relationship was terminated. We were grateful that the Tings stood their ground for hamburger steak and teri beef plate lunches, and happy that everything else, right down to the curl on the soft-serve ice cream (actually ice milk), stayed the same; only the names had been changed.
The Maui Dairy Queens had always been unique, anyway. When I moved to Oahu after high school and ordered french fries with mustard at a Dairy Queen in Honolulu, the girl at the window said, "You must be from Maui. We don't have the kind of mustard you want." Apparently, the creamy mustard-mayo mix that we still call "Dairy Queen mustard" was unique to our island. Another thing that makes Maui no ka oi.
My Dairy Queen memories go back to early childhood, hanabata days, when my aunt kept a bag of Dilly Bars and DQ sandwiches in her freezer. I preferred the sandwiches, but usually asked for a Dilly Bar, hoping for the bonus. Supposedly, if the DQ logo was imprinted on the stick underneath the ice cream, you could turn in the stick for a free Dilly Bar. I think it might have been a myth, because I never knew of anyone actually finding one. I certainly ate enough of them to beat the odds myself.
Of course, nothing could beat the simple pleasure of biting off the curlicue tip of a chocolate-dipped cone and sucking out a little ice cream through the hole. Then came the tricky part: eating the rest of the cone without a piece of the chocolate shell sliding off the rapidly melting ice cream. One of my friends solved the problem by eating the entire shell first, leaving a plain vanilla cone to be leisurely licked. I could never do that; it would be like eating all the chili in your Hobo Lunch before starting on the rice.
Sometimes, after an afternoon of swimming in the pool at Kepaniwai, we'd stop at Wailuku Dairy Queen for a full meal: My favorite was a hamburger with the works (mustard, ketchup, relish, shredded lettuce), french fries, and a grape slush. For dessert, if I wasn't too full, my parents would let me have a sundae, or we'd share a banana split. I'd eat more than my share of the chocolate syrup, leaving the strawberry and pineapple for the grownups.
By the time I reached high school, Kahului Dairy Queen had become one of the main attractions on the teenage circuit. Actually, the tradition probably dates back to the store's 1954 opening. Cool guys in hot cars, with their girlfriends snuggled up to their side (we called it "cut seat"), would rumble through the parking lot or gather under the mango trees on Friday and Saturday nights.
That was when most cars had front seats that went all the way across like a couch. Six or seven of us girls could ride comfortably, with three in the front. We'd egg on the driver to "go cruise Dairy Queen" and then, just as the car pulled into the lot, the girl on the front passenger side and everyone in the back would duck down below the windows, so it looked like the two girls in front were riding cut seat. We thought that was hilarious.
Last Friday, standing in the long line at Treats & Sweets, old-timers talked about what they would miss the most. For me, it's my favorite salty/sweet combo: french fries with mustard only, eaten simultaneously with a hot fudge sundae. I actually went twice on Friday, at lunchtime and after work. I ended up spending more than $40, but it was worth it. As I write these words, I'm munching on a Dilly Bar from the bag in my freezer. Oops, I mean a chocolate stick. Sorry, DQ. And hey, thanks for the memories. And the mustard.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.