A Month of Sundaes

I seem to have an affection for the hyphen. The humble horizontal line appears regularly in my posts. The “dash” is more formal than the “dot-dot-dot” yet more relaxed than the semi-colon – perfect for blog pauses, don’t you agree? My hyphen habit may be the result of formative moments in my life, like Hanna-Barbera cartoons (hello, Yogi Bear) and Hewlett-Packard, where I worked most of my professional career. But if I had to pick just one – or should I say, thirty-one, I’d go with my favorite hyphen of them all.  Baskin-Robbins.

The next time I write a post, remind me to have something to eat before I sit down to the keyboard.  My last four entries cover graham crackers, doughnuts, waffles, and now ice cream.  Might be my anticipation of Easter Sunday (when my Lenten sweets sacrifice comes to an end).  Bring on the jellybeans, Peter Rabbit!  But today is about ice cream – and not just any.  It’s about the one you grew up with; the one you still identify with.  For me, it’ll always be Baskin-Robbins.

“B-R”, as they’re now called, has a quaint beginning worth a few sentences here.  Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins got into the ice cream business independent of each other.  Then Burt married Irv’s sister.  The now brothers-in-law decided to combine “Burton’s Ice Cream Shop” (10 flavors) with Irv’s “Snowbird Ice Cream” (21 flavors), and there you have it – the birth of “31 Flavors”.  B-R was a single shop back in 1948; today, how about 8,000 parlors in 50 countries?  Their new slogan – Seize the yay – has more to do with “celebrating small, joyous moments” than ice cream.  Even the rebranded logo removes the nostalgia of the B-R I grew up with (though the embedded “31” is clever).  But I get it – B-R needs to appeal to younger generations as well.

Dad’s favorite

Baskin-Robbins is inextricably tied to my childhood memories.  Our local B-R was one door over from my mother’s hair salon.  It was also right down the street from our church.  So ice cream for me was often the reward of patience with Mom or simply going to church with Dad, who often couldn’t resist a stop at B-R on the way home.  You could always find a container of B-R Rocky Road in Dad’s freezer, all the way up to the last day of his life.  He was fond of saying while he enjoyed a bowlful, “Nothing beats Baskin-Robbins’ Rocky Road.” (I beg to differ with B-R’s Peanut Butter ‘n’ Chocolate, but hey, we all have our favorites).

A lot of my posts mention ice cream yet I’ve only mentioned Baskin-Robbins once in all my blogging (in The Sweets Life three years ago).  Kind of a crime there because B-R deserves a post of its own, as does your favorite ice cream parlor.  Wikipedia has an article called List of Ice Cream Parlor Chains (of course they do).  Your favorite is on that list.  I may be partial to B-R but I’m familiar with several others, including Braum’s in Oklahoma and Texas, Carvel to the Northeast, Farrell’s to the West, and Lappert’s in Hawaii.

Of course, with Baskin-Robbins I’m talking “ice-cream-parlor ice cream”.  Back at home, you won’t find any B-R in our freezer because Häagen-Dazs (ice cream) and Talenti (gelato) earn the shelf space instead.  H-D goes a whole lot higher on the butterfat scale so naturally it tastes better.  H-D even has a hyphen!  And Talenti, well, it’s gelato.  Need I say more?

If you live in a bigger city than me, you have better ice cream options than Baskin-Robbins.  Big cities have wonderful local places (follow Lyssy in the City for some of the best in New York).  But do they have hyphens?  Mine does (as does this post – 48 if I counted correctly).  Yes, B-R may be updating its brand, but I’ll always insert the rainbow-sprinkle “dash” between the initials, returning me to those ice-cream parlor memories of old.

Some content sourced from the CNN Business article, “This 77-year-old ice cream chain is getting a makeover”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.


Lego Grand Piano – Update #13

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We passed the ten-hour mark with the build today, which amounts to a very long piano concerto. (Good thing you’re not being asked to sit and watch, eh?) Bag #13 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another five keys to the board for a total of fifteen.  Eight more next week will complete the entire set.  Maybe we’ll be installing them into the piano as well!

Here’s a stop-sign warning if you take on a project like this.  Pieces can easily be installed backwards.  For all my “practice” building keys these past few weeks, I got a few tiny pieces reversed today and had to disassemble to make things right.  Mr. Instruction Manual includes warning-like diagrams to make sure you don’t do this. In other words, the piano student must pay attention at all times!

Running Build Time: 10.2 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Strauss’s The Blue Danube waltz. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: The Blue Danube is familiar from the very first bars (especially if you saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and remember the scene with the rotating space station).  Strauss was fond of waltzes and this one is his most famous.  With its repeating theme, I thought The Blue Danube would be appropriate this time around since I’ve been building key after key after key.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

18 thoughts on “A Month of Sundaes”

    1. We also had a Swensen’s where I grew up, and I had a good friend who worked there for several summers. As I recall, they had a full food menu and some really elaborate ice cream sundae choices. Seemed like a step up from Baskin-Robbins at the time.


  1. I remember Farrell’s. It was in the nearest big city to my small town. Baskin- Robbins showed up in our town after I was out of high school and by then I was off to college. We did have a Friendly’s which I rather liked. Who could turn down a Fribble shake?

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    1. Farrell’s was a favorite birthday party spot where I grew up because the waitstaff dressed up and made a big deal over birthday kids. Farrell’s was much more of a special occasion parlor than Baskin-Robbins. We used to have a Friendly’s here in Colorado Springs (it closed) but I never tried it because my heart was already given to Baskin-Robbins. Sounds like I missed a good shake there, Ally.

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  2. BR was the ice-cream place to go in my childhood hometown. There was a Thrifty’s Drug store that sold cones cheaper, but didn’t taste as good so we always rode our bikes to the “31 flavors” as we called it. Sadly, I can’t eat ice-cream anymore, sigh, but I did love chocolate mint back then.

    Great progress on the piano, looks like you’re getting close to having it done.

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    1. Now there’s a throwback, Andrew. Those Thrifty cones were small but at least pocket change could afford one. Never had a reason to go to Thrifty as a kid so I probably only had their ice cream a time or two. Thinking about it, why DID we go to Thrifty? Strikes me like a Walgreens or Rite-Aid – a little of everything for cheap.

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    1. Yes to the sweet tooth, Neil (hence the Lenten sacrifice – gotta be sure I can always give it up). It was worse as a kid but abruptly halted when a single visit to the dentist yielded a half-dozen cavities. My brushing/flossing is a whole lot better these days, my sugar intake a whole lot less.

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  3. I always liked Baskin-Robbins but we only had one store and it merged with Dunkin’ Donuts into one store with both brands, then shut down after that. Here in my town, we have Calder’s Dairy where they make their own ice cream in the back with the daily milk deliveries from their farm that is about 20 miles away. People line up around the block for Calder’s ice cream and most people opt to have their ice cream scoop(s) “wearing” the sugar cone and in a dish to avoid plops. Their chocolate and strawberry milk is as thick as a milkshake. And a couple of miles away we have Bob Jo’s (no hyphen, but probably could use one) which specializes in frozen custard so creamy and smooth that people also line up (often in their cars) to get into this tiny ice cream place with a very small parking lot. Bob Jo’s is just a little shack really but beginning their 75th year in biz. After high school, I had a friend working a Summer job at each of these places – good thing I didn’t go every day as they were doling out extra-large scoops. Tomorrow you will eat chocolate again Dave … hope it will be worth the wait!

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  4. We have a place in Denver which reminds me of your Calder’s and Bob Jo’s. It’s a small walk-up called Little Man. The lines are impressive but the product is worth the wait. I prefer my ice cream in a dish as well; maybe it’s more about avoiding the mess than anything else. As for chocolate on Easter, a little indulgence but I intend to continue my good habits. “Everything in moderation” is sage advice!


  5. Interesting post — I DID NOT KNOW Baskin Robbins was rebranding itself! Well, Weight Watchers did the same, now they are WW. Good for them. Change can be good, we THINK they are a new company, right. Piano is looking FANTASTIC! Love your explanations!!

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  6. “BR” doesn’t work for me, just like I wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you said “WW”. I think it’ll be “Baskin-Robbins” (or some people just go with “Baskins”) for a long time before people start identifying with just the initials.


  7. I was in high school the first time I was in a Baskin-Robbins. There had been a local place my family favored and it was all about sundaes, sodas and other concoctions while B-R stood on just the ice cream. There is one a mile or so from the house where we occasionally took the kids, but I have not been in awhile. An independent place has opened that is closer and completely local. Maybe a comparison test is in order.

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    1. The local places tend to be better, IMHO. B-R is more about childhood memories for me, which earns them a visit every now and then. Like you, B-R was all about thirty-one flavors instead of concoctions fancier than scoops on a cone. Inevitably, times have changed, the competition has ramped up, and B-R has been forced into trendier options. Still, it’s nice to see them surviving and doing better than ever.

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