Fast Times

This Is the Oldest Dairy Queen in Texas. Yes, Really

Yep, that's the one. If you were driving past it on Highway 259 in Henderson (if, by chance, you found yourself in deep East Texas), you would never know from the road. There are no fancy signs outside proclaiming it to be the oldest Dairy Queen in Texas. It's just a bit of local trivia, and one that's not particularly interesting to the local residents -- even the ones who work there.

"Is this really the oldest Dairy Queen in Texas?" I asked the gray-haired woman behind the counter after I placed my order for a Peanut Buster Parfait. Her nametag read "Norma," and she sighed a little as she answered and corrected me.

"Yep. The oldest continually operating Dairy Queen in Texas," said Norma.

"Wow," I replied, trying to engage her in conversation. "How long has it been open?"

"Since 1950," she whipped back, this time with a smile.

"How many years is that?" I wondered aloud, rhetorically. Norma stopped fidgeting with the cash register and paused in thought.

"Well, it's been a while since I done the math," she laughed. "I guess that's 61 years."

"The place has been remodeled a bit since then, huh?"

"Yes," she laughed back. "It sure has."

I grew up spending summers on my grandfather's cattle ranch just down the street from this Dairy Queen in Henderson, although I'd never known it was the oldest anything anywhere. We didn't eat at Dairy Queen; we were a Catfish King family. And I certainly never would have guessed at the DQ's history from the road.

Inside, however, it's one of the nicest Dairy Queens I've ever seen that isn't one of those fancy DQ Grill & Chills with table service. There is a sit-down dining area with a flat-screen TV and free wi-fi in one area, and a more casual area up front with a sort of history museum devoted dually to Henderson and Dairy Queen itself.

Dairy Queen, of course, was not born in Texas, despite the old adage that its bright red logo is a "Texas stop sign." DQ was actually founded in Joliet, Illinois in 1940, and its offices today are located in Minnesota.

This hasn't stopped Texas from embracing DQ as its own, however: Texas is now the state that's home to the most Dairy Queen franchises by far. Including here in Henderson, where Texans have been enjoying dipped cones and burgers since 1950.

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Katharine Shilcutt