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Sweet summer Dairy Queen memories

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fred Moseley, who built the Monett, Aurora and Cassville Dairy Queen stores, is pictured above, in 1984, wearing a paper hat used by employees when working in the stores and serving customers. Moseley built the Monett Dairy Queen in 1950 and operated it for 16 years. [Photo courtesy of Moseley family]
Many area residents may have a few nostalgic memories of summertime in Monett, including Fred Moseley, Jr. whose favorite recollections center around the family-owned Dairy Queen, a Monett fixture since 1950.

"My father, Fred E. Moseley, and the family visited in Monett with Curg and Bryana Lines, his aunt and uncle, in 1949," said Moseley. "Curg had been a linotype operator for The Monett Times for many years. During that visit, Curg told my dad that Monett had everything it needed, except a Dairy Queen.

"My dad was a machinist, but interested in getting into his own business, so he pursued the idea," Moseley said. "He was able to obtain the Dairy Queen franchise rights for an area that included Barry and half of Lawrence counties."

The Moseley siblings and friends are pictured above on the Dairy Queen float in a 1954 community parade. On the float were Kay, Harold and Dan Moseley, Carol Lackey, Maxine Long, Martha Jane Bradley, Janice Hall and two other friends. [Photo courtesy of Moseley family]
Fred and his wife, Oma, bought a house at 1000 Central, and in the summer of 1950, built the Dairy Queen on the property's side lot. Fred moved the family to Monett in late summer of that year and opened for business.

"The Dairy Queen was the local hang out for high school kids," Moseley said. "Almost as soon as it opened, it became one of the meeting places for teens, especially those with wheels.

"On warm summer nights, the parking lot was full to overflowing," Moseley continued. "In the early years, there was no indoor seating, so most people ate in their cars. Lines of waiting customers at the two front windows could get quite long."

Teens would often park in the lot for the evening, making the business an early social connection for youth.

"We loved having friends hang out there," Moseley said, "but in those first couple of years, Daddy would find the lot quite congested and snarled with traffic. After a couple of years, he had the old two-story house partially dismantled and moved the first floor to a nearby lot on Scott Street where it was rebuilt and expanded to accommodate the family. The old house site was then incorporated into additional parking.

Moseley said he and his four siblings worked summers and after school at the business.

"It was truly a family affair," Moseley said. "We provided much of the work to supplement that of my parents. My sister, Kay, remembers our standard pay was 25-cents per hour. In addition to de-littering the lot, the boys were taught to disassemble, clean and re-assemble the machines. All of us kids worked the front windows, waiting on customers, making change, replenishing supplies and opening and closing for the day."

While that early employment experience was helpful to the five brothers and sisters, Kay, Marsha, Fred, Dan and Harold, none went on to match their father's entrepreneurial nature.

"None of us have started a business that would compete with Dad's record," Moseley said. "All of us have tended to lean toward academic, religious and social service occupations. Within those fields, some have been published or launched educational enterprises."

Comparing today's prices of those sweet, melty treats can provide "sticker shock" for those who remember the days when an ice cream cone was a nickel and a small sundae cost a whopping 15 cents.

"A malt cost 25 cents and a banana split was 35 cents," Moseley said. "That first year was a shoestring affair. We stayed open all winter and I can remember days when the total receipts were $10. For days like that, my dad rigged up a buzzer system. Customers would ring the buzzer and we would run from the house to the back door of the DQ to the front window to take their order and fill it. Summer Sundays tended to be our busiest days."

Moseley doesn't recollect his father ever declaring an event to be the "highlight of his life," but feels that his family, children and grandchildren would fall into that category.

"I believe his family would be his proudest achievement," Moseley said. "I also believe his other highlights would include marrying the girl he seemed to love at first sight, establishing his business, learning to fly, and becoming the first member of his family to attend college.

"Dad was always frugal and efficient, working hard to support his family, including helping all of his kids through college," Moseley said.

Moseley's sister, Marsha, has her own memories of growing up in Monett.

"As the local hangout, I felt the DQ gave me a chance to know my classmates and get acquainted with other people in Monett and the area," she said. "My friends, and teens in general, kept the road hot on the circuit down Broadway, up Ninth past the high school and along Cleveland to the DQ."

His brother, Dan's memories, were a bit different.

"I guess my best memories were working side-by-side with Mother and Daddy," he said. "I enjoyed being with my friends, talking at the serving window when business was slow, but preferred working when it was busy.

"I also remember the time Fred and I were cleaning equipment in the building using a flammable solvent," he continued. "The tap on Dan's shoe apparently sparked a fire, and while we both escaped without injury, the store's interior had to be refinished."

Fred Moseley also built and operated Dairy Queens in Aurora and Cassville. He was a member of the Monett First Christian Church and served as an elder for several years. He was a member of the Monett Kiwanis Club, became a pilot and owned a small plane he kept hangared at the Monett airport. All of the Moseley children graduated from Monett High School.

Fred Moseley sold his business in 1966 and, with Oma, moved to Kansas City to be closer to their children.

"With his entrepreneurial spirit, it wasn't long before he was in business again," Moseley said. "He opened a small machine shop and retired in the mid 1980s. He and my mom lived out their lives in the Kansas City suburb of Raymore."

Fred Moseley passed away in 1998, and Oma followed in 2007.

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