Saturday, February 05, 2005

Lefty Frizzell/Dairy Queen

As I was scrolling through the photo images on Tom Sutpen's blog, I was struck by the one of Lefty Frizzell under the heading "Great Philosophers of the 20th Century #5." Why? Because Lefty was born in Corsicana, Texas, a town with which I have a number of personal connections. For one thing, I taught high school there in 1963-1965, the first teaching job of my long career. I had a number of students there who lived in what was then called an "orphans' home." Probably in these PC times that's not the right name. Anyway, one student whom I remember very well was named Beatrice Vasquez. ("It's pronounced Vas-KWEZ," she said when I used the pronunciation I'd learned in Spanish class.) Miss Vasquez told me proudly that Lefty Frizzell had at one time lived in the home. I can't find any verification of that on any of the websites that have biographies of Frizzell posted on them. They all just say that he was born in Corsicana and that the family soon moved to El Dorado (pronounced, as you Arkansawyers know, "El Do-RAY-do"), Arkansas. Be that as it may, there's a statue of Frizzell in Corsicana now. I've never seen it, but one day maybe I will. (There's a photo of it on David Frizzell's webpage.)

Whenever I think of Corsicana, I think of the Dairy Queen. Sometime in the early 1950s, Corsicana got a Dairy Queen. My family lived thirty miles away, in Mexia, but somehow my father heard about the Corsicana Dairy Queen and got very interested in it. I've always thought that he hoped to be able to get together enough money to buy a DQ franchise for Mexia, but if that was so, the dream never materialized. That franchise went to someone else, and by all accounts he cleaned up with it. At any rate, my father was fascinated by the concept of soft ice cream. On more than one summer evening, we'd all pile in the family car (a 1950 navy-blue Ford, no radio, no heater, and certainly no air-conditioning) and drive to Corsicana for a DQ sundae (my father and I always got hot fudge). Believe me, in those days, a thirty-mile drive wasn't something our family undertook lightly. I can't remember ever having gone to Corsicana for any other reason, and a trip to Waco, about thirty-five miles away, was a major undertaking that called for days of planning. Dallas, ninety miles, required months of preparation. But I digress. To make the trip to the DQ even better than a mere sundae could do, we'd sometimes stop on the outskirts of Corsicana at a filling station whose owner had a monkey that was allowed to roam around at the end of a long chain. A monkey and a DQ sundae, not to mention an hour's round trip in the car. Wow. Great days.

Original image here
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  1. "A Monkey and a DQ Sundae" -- that's a title if I've ever heard one.

  2. Might make a good Lefty Frizzell song. Too bad Lefty's not around to write it. And sing it.

  3. I hadn't thought about Lefty Frizell for years until a couple of weeks ago. I spent my junior high and high school days in The Pas, a small Manitoba community of about 3,500. The Pas is north of the 53rd parallel and a long way from Lefty's hometown in Texas. My first expsoure to Lefty came when a classmate used to play his 78s along with Hank Snow, Wilf Carter and Kitty Wells on the juke box in the local pool hall. That's where I always said that I was "supplementing my income" playing pea pool and blue ball while in high school. My other income came from taking tickets at the theatre called the Lido. Not quite The Last Picture Show as we didn't have any TV at the time.

    I haven't seen my friend since high school and was very surprised when a couple of weeks ago another friend who still lives in The Pas told me that my classmate had been asking about me and mentioned my pool playing. Of course, that was what got me thinking about Lefty, etc. On Friday I was scrolling through Tom's blog for the first time and there was the photo of Lefty and later one of Kitty. After reading your comments today, Bill, I must go down in my basement and plug in my Rockola jukebox. It's off in a corner and I haven't played it for a couple of years. I can't wait to hear Lefty sing Mom and Dad's Waltz.

    Have you read the book, Juke Box America? Pulitzer Prize winner William Bunch supposedly travelled "down back streets and blue highways in search of the country's greatest jukebox." I won't tell you where he finally believed that he found it. However, he should have travelled outside the USA because I believe the greatest is in my basement. Any juke box that has Lefty, Kitty, The Crows, The Orioles, Elvis, Willie and Waylon, Hank and Hank Jr., Otis Redding, Jimmy Buffett, Frank, Jan and Dean, etc., etc. deserves consideration. But I think what puts it in first place are the three songs that I used to play when it was time for my hockey-playing, beer-slogging buddies to go home about 3 a.m. so we could go to work the next day. They started putting on their winter jackets and boots when The Whiffenpoof Song by Robert Merrell started playing, followed by Goodnight Sweetheart, Good Night by The Spaniels. They were usually going out the door as Gracie Fields was singing the final note of Now Is The Hour. All that was left for me to do was pick up the empties.

  4. "I'd walk a mile, cry or smile, for my mommy and daddy . . . ." I'd love to hear that jukebox, Kent, and I envy your having it. And by the way, I wasn't kidding about PLANET OF THE DREAMERS. Let me know if you want that spare copy.

  5. Beautiful stuff, Bill. Thanks.

  6. What a grat Blog - hadn't come across it before...

  7. Ron Odom12:39 PM

    Say Bill, you remember the town well. The old Dairy Queen has since been torn down. As to Lefty, he was actually born in Tuckertown, an oilfield community near present day Mildred, Texas. And there is a statue in the Jester City Park. There old Lefty stands, playing right hand guitar.