Friday, January 16, 2009

The Tastee Freeze

We've had some really incredible sunsets lately. The skies absolutely glow with color. I took this in the front yard looking towards my parents' walnut trees. Speaking of glowing bright red, that reminds me of the hot dogs we used to get from the Tastee Freeze.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a fast food restaurant in either Mathews or Gloucester, and the closest McDonald's was in Newport News, an hour away. (Children! It's OK. Calm down. Things turn out just fine in this story.)

Surprisingly, the world continued to spin on its axis, life was sustainable, and nobody perished from Big Mac Attacks or a dearth of saturated fats or mealy, frozen potatoes deep-fried in Lord Knows What.

We didn’t have special names for our burgers—like the Whopper, or the Big-n-Tasty (the Big-n-Nasty as Chesapeake Bay Daughter calls it)-- and "supersizing" was something addressed by Jack LaLanne or Richard Simmons. Or, in some instances a girdle.

Kids did not suffer mental anguish from the lack of Happy Meal toys, and parents were oblivious to the hazards of the drive-through window, which include high-blood pressure; missing teeth due to gnashing, and lively exchanges with human beings who have the IQ of a small kitchen appliance. For instance.

No, everybody made out just fine around these parts, but every now and then we did crave a pizza burger or a root beer or a delectable bright red, artificially-colored hot dog served on a steamed pillow of bun.

In such times as these, we went to a prehistoric place known as the Tastee Freeze.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of two Tastee Freezes in Mathews County, although there were others. Payne’s Frosty Freeze and Emory’s served the county’s “fast” food needs admirably for many years. They were both located at Ward’s Corner but coexisted peacefully because they were distinct enough in their offerings, ambiance (if you want to call it that) and service to avoid heavy competition with each other.

The Chesapeake Bay Family preferred Payne’s Frosty Freeze for a couple of reasons. First, we went to school and were friends with the Payne children. Second, after a long day of being left stranded at the Islander swimming pool with no adult supervision, no money, and no food, there was nothing quite so heavenly as a Payne’s cheeseburger or hot dog on perfectly steamed buns. We ate like savages thanks to being left with no money or food all day long in the hot, sweltering, humid days of summer, but we’re not talking about child abandonment. Not this time, anyway.

Back to the Tastee Freeze story.

While not “fast,” Payne’s was fast enough. You had just enough time to play a game of pinball, or put a quarter in the jukebox, or sit and stare at the other people waiting inside.

Over at Emory’s, which was more of a drive-in, you sat and watched the owner and his wife slowly, methodically, slowly and—last but not least—slowly write down the orders and assemble each one. Slowly. Moving in super slow-motion. The Chesapeake Bay Children were not patient enough to wait over at Emory’s, they needed food quickly because they were left with no food and no money all day at the Islander. (Have I mentioned that yet?)

Alas, Emory’s has been torn down, and Payne’s is now a sit-down, family style restaurant. But the memory of those pizza burgers, those delectable cheeseburgers and those Red Dye #2 Cancer-Enhancing Hot Dogs lives on.

McDonald's and Hardees can’t hold a candle. Or a chocolate, soft-serve ice cream cone.


Unknown said...

Oh boy, is my mouth watering! I haven't been to a Tastee Freeze ever, even though there are some in CA. My first real paying job was at a Foster's Freeze, which is basically the same thing. I still love soft serve ice cream. As for hot dogs, I wish we had some place to get a good one here.

I can remember many a times as a kid being stranded all day with no money, hungry as a horse!

Bayman said...

Mrs. Payne's was sacred ground to starving teenagers for years. Oh, to have a pizza burger again, or my favorite, the sub burger. It was a huge oval shaped burger, served on a large perfectly steamed bun. No high school ball game was complete with out a visit there.

Ann Marie said...

Oh.. Payne's. I worked there for years. Loved that woman her big heart and her not so heart healthy food.

Emory made my mother mad back in the day and we weren't allowed over there. I will explain later.

Anonymous said...


What a hoot! I remember laying a good cussing on Emory for those slowwwwwwwwwww cheeseburgers. Those burgers were really something!I actually threw one at the counter window from my car and it like stuck for 5 minutes. The Hilda deluxe burger was my favorite!


Anonymous said...

Despite the negative comments, I long for one of those flat, ironed, cheeseburgers from Emory's .. You never see anything like them anymore. What I remember is the doling out of ketchup ..i.e. you had to ASK for ketchup and napkins. Miss Hilda was VERY frugal. And if you weren't really careful, she could clip your fingers when she slammed that little door shut.
When I was a teenager a perfect Friday night would include riding around ... and around ... and around the Dairy Freez. First one, then the other. All on about a dollar's worth of gas.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

GJ - My mouth is watering too, has been ever since yesterday when I wrote this. Glad to know I wasn't the only one left stranded and starved to death. I can remember being so hungry one time when I got home from school that I was in tears and tore open an entire bag of oranges and ate the whole thing. The entire bag.

Bayman - I agree about Mrs. Payne's. I thought Emory's pizza burger was good, too.

Ann Marie - Yes, a wonderful lady. Can't wait to hear the Emory's story.

B - I'd pay good money to have seen that exchange. Miss Hilda was somethin' else.

JLC - That is exactly what I recall about Emory's, having to ask for the ketchup and feeling like you were taking candy from a kid when you took it. I also remember that sliding window. The one part of Emory's I was never privvy to was that back portion that at one point I believe was a pool hall? Maybe someone with a functioning memory cell can fill me in on that one.

Going "up the road" on a Friday or Saturday night would not have been complete without the swing through Payne's or Emory's. Those were the days.

Anonymous said...

CBW, you hit the nail on the head. Anyone of our "vintage" who grew up on Mathews has enjoyed similar experiences.


Anonymous said...

Those of us who live on the island didn't say we're "going up the road." We said we were "riding off."

Mental P Mama said...

Great. Now I'm starving.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

MMM - Thanks and stay tuned because I'm putting your Daddy Jim story up on Monday, assuming I can still get on the computer then.

JLC - I learn something new every day. I've never heard that expression before, even though I dated a Gwynn's Islander for more than 2 years. I wonder how that one got started.

MPM - Toss the diet to the wind today, it's Friday after all.

Meg McCormick said...

OMG, I am laughing out loud in Montgomery County!! I grew up 45 minutes from the nearest McDonalds, and I turned out OK. My dad used to truck grain from our farm to the mill in Harrisburg, almost an hour away - it was a big treat when we could ride shotgun in the 10-wheeler, dump the grain, then we would go to Wendy's (back when it was new) for singles & fries.

Can I be a little bit "off color" in CBW's comments? There was a restaurant similar to what you describe that my husband and his brother remember going to as kids in Williamsport PA. It was called the Humdinger. Of course, boys being boys, eventually their thoughts digress to a certain thing... so you can just imagine these two teens roaring with laughter when they said, in reference to a girl who worked there - "She can HUM my DINGER anytime!!"

Happy Friday - this post is priceless. I'm convinced there's a book deal in your future.

Cool Breeze said...

We had a Dairy Treat in old W.P.
They had the best BBQ going, and of course, a chocolate nut sundae ... still my favorite.

Anonymous said...


It was a fact there was a pool table in the back. I know this because we stole all the pool balls one night and used them to throw at signs and other stationary objects (I really am sorry for that I was so bad).


Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Meg, that's one Hum Dinger of a story! Your town sounds very similar to Mathews. Very.

CB - I believe you on that BBQ. Another place in West Point I used to frequent was the Golden Skillet, on the main drag as you're coming through.

B - Shame on you. But I have many similar stories myself and think back in horror at some of them. Can't tell you how many "pepsi" bottles were thrown at stop signs. Then there was the time we broke into the Intermediate School....or not depending on who is reading this. No, upon further reflection that was somebody else who broke into the school just like it was somebody else who pulled corn stalks out of a field and hung them out the VW bug going up and down the road honking the horn like idiots. B, you weren't any worse than most people back then. That's what happens when you have to create your own diversions in a small town.

I miss those days. (Have I said that already?)I suppose I just miss the freedom and irresponsibility more than anything. I am not sure I'd want to go back to being a teenager, but I'd just want a bit of time with no responsibilities and lots of joie de vivre, with not a care in the world other than what I was going to be tossing at stationary objects.

foolery said...

We had Gardner's Frosty, located between a tiny grocery store (which was called Pat's Grocery Corral when I was in high school) and an empty store front. The market is now Moe's Market and the empty store front is now NO MOE THAN A DOLLAR. You knew I'd work that in, didn't you?

Gardner's was torn down last year. We rarely ate there -- something slightly creepy that I can't put my finger on -- but we always stopped there for Lemon Ices when we rode our bikes the five miles to town. A large Gardner's Lemon Ice lasted the whole ride home. They patented their secret process, I believe, and I think you can get them at fairs.

Pretty sure you need to write a book; Meg's right.

Big Hair Envy said...

We had "Jim's Snack Bar" in KQ (Shacklefords) & "WP Dairy Treat" in, obviously, WP!!! I mostly went to Jim's, because it was closer to home & one of my friends was related to the owner:) I would sever a limb for a pizza burger right now....

Anonymous said...

OMG! This is a bit freaky. I just went to Payne's for breakfast this morning.
My first job was there. It was a blast. Loved Mrs. Payne. Emory and Hilda were sooooo slow but I adored their banana shakes. And the Islander. It's a wonder we survived.

I was over on the island this morning. GREAT ice on the shore. I took a couple of pictures but I'm not that good.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

We mostly frequented Emory's (I know not why) and I loved those flat burgers!

My mom said that when she was expecting me, every time she'd drive by Emory's she'd crave a flat cheeseburger and a fudge nut sundae, but the doctor lectured her about her weight, so she didn't stop. I think I still carry those unrequited pregnancy cravings somewhere in my DNA. They used the walnuts in syrup..YUM!

My husband's grand-dad took him and his brother for an ice-cream (I don't know if it was Payne's or Emory's) when he was about four years old. They ate them standing up on the front seat of the station wagon, and rode all the way home with the windows down and the wind blowing! no car-seats, no seat belts, no A/C! Ice cream was everywhere! His grandmother says it dripped down into their socks -- they even had it behind their ears!

Good times!


msseabreeze said...

Now now CBW, I KNOW it was someone else who swam in the Islander pool after hours clad in um...very little. And I KNOW it was someone else who toilet Papered Coach's house. After all, you were a good girl!!! Ah, the memories.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Foolery - Have you showed me the picture of One Moe than a Dollar yet? I would be more than happy to give you a tour of our local eateries if you come to the Blog Fest....

BHE - I even went to that one in Shackelfords! (Assuming it's the one that was right on the corner of that intersection.) There were also several in Gloucester. LOVED them all.

Phyl - A little bird told me about the ice on gwynn's island, so I trotted over there today and got no pictures of ice but did have an encounter that is blog-worthy and will be told sometime next week. The things I get myself into are just unbelieveable to me....I"ll bet you have quite a few stories from working at Paynes.... Would love to hear about them...

AMN - I love the image you've conjured up. No indeed, no seat belts, car seats, helmets, knee pads-no nothing. A/C was a luxury even in houses then... which is why you had to race to eat the ice cream before it melted into a puddle. Write me another story! Would love to have one, any time.(Same goes for any other Mathews readers...)

MsSeabreeze - I can neither confirm nor deny any allegations of a swim at the Islander in a birthday suit. I will confess to the toilet papering, though, and I sort of feel bad about that one. There is NO WAY he could have gotten that toilet paper out until the next hurricane blew through. Good, good times! (I see the St. Bernard isnt' necessary to retrieve you??)

Have a great Friday night, everybody.

Anonymous said...

okay. good news is that you are obviously not in Saluda after the visit to the Island.

We need to have a gathering. I took my niece on a lap similar to those we did before breakfast this morning. Things have changed. Lee-Jackson is GONE! I guess those bricks that were falling in the 2nd grade kept falling.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Phyl - Although not in Saluda, I might have been had the scene today involved the law, which it might have...thankfully CBW's typical luck did not kick in and there was a happy ending.

I will say that trespassing was involved.

We should definitely have a gathering. Let's just make sure it's on property that we have permission to be on, or else I *will* be in Saluda.

Anonymous said...

Paynes had the best bbq and coleslaw ever known to man. I crave for them. Emory's had these things called hot smokies. They would make your eyes water, and make you break out in a sweat. Loved them. Haven't had anything like it since.
One time I recall a guy who has pased away now, went to emory's to get a flat cheeseburger. Emory dropped it on the floor and then he tried to serve this to this guy. Lo and behold the guy had seen what had happened. He picked up the CB and threw it back in Emory's face. It was quite comical.
I thought you would like this story,CBW.

Snippety Gibbet said...

I was wandering the internet with the search term "tastee" and landed here. I grew up in West Point and had a granma in Mathews. The county is mear and dear to my heart. I will be interested in seeing what you blog about here.