Goin’ to Get Ice Cream: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

Today we turn the page to fall. Even though the official first day of fall is still a few weeks away, Labor Day is often seen as the end of summer and the beginning of football season. Today teachers and students take a breath and get ready for the long haul to Thanksgiving. Today the white capris and flip flops get stored away until next spring.

Today might also be an occasion to make one final freezer of homemade ice cream before fall sets in. It is much easier today with electric freezers and ready-made bagged ice. Just a few years ago, making homemade ice cream involved freezing water in milk cartons and then breaking the ice up with an ice pick. Ice cream freezers had to be cranked by hand and several people might take a turn before it was done.

But if that was just too much work, there were plenty of places in Conway in the 1960s to get soft-serve ice cream cones. Before the interstate came in, Highway 64, a main thoroughfare for travelers, was lined with drive-in eateries that served a good vanilla, chocolate or swirl cone.

There were at least three drive-ins along the north side of Hwy 64 (Old Morrilton Highway). The Mug was located about where the Ridge Plaza parking lot is. It served root beer in frosty glass mugs so you could get a root beer float as well as a cone.

Further down the highway, you could pull in to Stormy’s Dairy Queen. It was owned by Stormy Smith and was located about where Discount Auto Glass is (across from Lowe’s). It was famous for its chocolate dipped cones and burgers.

Finally, you could also get a great ice cream cone by pulling up to the Dandy Dog, located where Popeye’s is today. It was known for its corn dogs and hot dogs as well. All of these restaurants required you to get out of your car and step up to the window to place your order. Then you would go back and wait in your car until your order number was called.

Famous Frank Brannan’s Drive-In, where New China is today, was also a great place to drive through for ice cream, lemonades, and foot-long chili dogs. It was different because it had a drive- through window which allowed you to stay in your car while your order was being filled.

And that brings me to Shorty’s. In the 1960s, there was a little drive-in on Harkrider called Shorty’s Little Pig No 3. It was located just north of Walgreen’s. It also required someone from the car to get out, step up to the window and place the order. That is where I usually got my chocolate and vanilla swirl cone. Later it was combined with another well-known drive-in, Dog-N-Suds, that was located on the southwest corner of Oak and Harkrider.

Dog-N-Suds was known for selling gallons of root-beer as well as serving hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream. Diners drove up to order stations much like Sonic today. In the 1980s, Doug James, the owner, sold the property at Oak and Harkrider and established Shorty’s in its present location.

There are still a variety of frozen treats available in Conway but today I’m missing my chocolate and vanilla swirl cone from Shorty’s Little Pig No. 3.

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