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Dairy Queen

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Back in 1934, C. R. Medd of Moline was the proud operator of Mildred's Four-Star Dairy, named for C. R.'s wife and four sons. But if the milk came from contented cows, C. R. and his boys were not. Fortunately for taste buds around the world, the Medd family could never stop tinkering.

By 1934, the Medd dairy had already become the first in the United States to offer milk in half-gallon and then gallon containers. A year later, C. R. branched out into ice cream with Mildred's Ice Cream Store. He noticed that employees loved the eat the soft ice cream just out of the machine before it was frozen. Would customers like it, he asked. C. R. ran a newspaper ad offering all the soft ice cream you could eat for ten cents. He served 880 people in two hours.

C. R. Medd knew he was on to something. He teamed up with two McCullough brothers from Green Rock, Illinois, and Harold Holtz from Indiana to sell soft ice cream. The McCulloughs came up with the name Dairy Queen, Holtz invented a machine to produce the ice cream, and C. R. came up with the slogan "the cone with the curl on top." One of C. R.'s friends, Henry Duke of East Moline, who ran a commercial laundry equipment repair shop, devised a freezer just for soft serve ice cream.

In 1939, C. R. Medd opened the first walk-in Dairy Queen on Moline's 4th Avenue, and two years later, the first drive-in, soft ice cream stand.

World War II intervened just then, but in 1948, C. R. Medd opened a Dairy Queen store in Davenport. By 1950, franchised Dairy Queens were dotting the whole United States—eventually some 6,000 of them.

But the Medds weren't through tinkering. Dairy Queen's Dilly Bar on a stick angered doctors and dentists who suddenly found tongue depressors in short supply. In its second season, 187 carloads of lumber were needed to make Dilly Bar sticks.

And then followed the Blizzard, and all the other candy-ice cream mixes. Dairy Queen is today the largest purchaser of candy in the world.

What's next for the Medd brothers who are still busy tinkering? Why not something truly radical, like door-to-door delivery of dairy products?

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.