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Happy birthday, Dexter Queen

Posted Friday, July 29, 2011, at 5:02 PM

Monday, August 1, 2011 is the birthday of one of Dexter's famous icons.

I remember the first time I was there. I was barely sixteen and one of my very good friend's parents owned it. That was back in the days when we cruised between the west end of town and "Studs" which was south of Dexter on Highway 25.

If my memory serves me right, which there is a good chance it won't, but Frankie and Linda Bowman opened their little drive in so we young people could dance. There was no dancing allowed in the city limits. Is that still true? I don't know. Anyway, thanks, Frankie and Linda for providing lots of fun for lots of young people.

My friend, Delores, took me to her parents' place of business one night, and ever since that night, I have been a "pig" for a "lotta pig basket. Extra hot please!"

So now you know of whom I am speaking. That's right. Leon's Dexter Queen. It wasn't always called by that name.

Leon and Gwen purchased a little cafe called "The Wagon Wheel" from Leon's uncle who was originally from Mississippi. Leon's uncle had purchased The Wagon Wheel from an American Indian, who is actually the originator of this most delicious sauce. The uncle gave Leon and Gwen the recipe and the rest is history.

Leon and Gwen changed the name to "Leon's Daisy Queen". They had to differentiate the name from Dairy Queen. By the way, does anyone remember the wagon Wheel? I bet Audry Fralick will. In later years, it became Leon's Dexter Queen.

Leon and Gwen worked in their business for 32 years before selling and retiring. I asked Gwen if Delores ever helped in the restaurant and Gwen, after a little laughter, said yes. I told her I didn't remember her working much because we were too busy cruising the strip.

Since Leon and Gwen retired, there have been other owners down through the years. Butch Beard was the first to own it after Leon and Gwen. Then my high school friend, Jim Bland, and the present owner, Lori Fortner Hawkins.

Each owner has put their special touches to the restaurant , but the sauce still tastes the same to me as it did that night in 1962.

The latest addition is the mural that Lori recently had painted in honor of Leon and Gwen. All I have to do is look from the street, and it takes me back to those years when I was young.

The painter, Bobby Whitehead, captured the likeness of Leon so that it is uncanny.

I recently had a serious case of nostalgia and pulled on the parking lot and just sat looking at it and reminiscing. There is just something to be said about "the old days when I was young".

I want to commend Lori for bestowing such an honor on Leon and Gwen. We just don't do enough of that sort of thing.

In a time when businesses come and go, I am so thankful that we still have this business located in the same location for all these years - 62 in fact. Lori, I hope when I am old and feeble, which when you think about it, isn't that far off, I can still come to Leon's and say, "lotta pig basket, extra hot please." And, if my memory is slow, I will just automatically know how to get there for I have been going there for so many years.

You, of course, know by now that my hero and heroine for this column are Leon and Gwen McGarrity.

Thanks for all the wonderful work and memories you have handed down to so many. I also want to include their daughter, Delores, my very good friend from fifth grade way into our adulthood, for introducing me to her wonderful parents and teaching me how to order, "extra hot please."

This great adventure began for Leon and Gwen August 1, 1949. Happy birthday to one of my favorite places. Leon's Daisy Queen.

Thanks to all my readers far and wide, all over the United States and now several other countries.

I am so thankful for you.

REMEMBER: To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

Showing comments in chronological order
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Great article, Kathleen!! My favorite memories was enjoying Pigs in a Basket with Daddy! I live in Idaho now and those are still fantastic and dear memories of Daddy asking me to meet him down there for lunch. I also had friends that worked there when we were in High School and it was always a hang out when Butch owned it!!! So glad the recipe is the same and to see Lori honoring Leon and Gwen. I hear from friends the place looks fantastic! I can still taste those fantastic BBQ sandwiches!

Heather Beam

-- Posted by beamgang on Sat, Jul 30, 2011, at 12:59 AM

I remember those "good ole days"--not where you were but at another little town in Texas--Big Springs. We also did that cruising bit. Flirting with all the girls..."Good ole days".


-- Posted by ron shortes on Wed, Aug 3, 2011, at 8:45 AM

I recall Dexter Drive-in from Gray Ridge High School days...best barbecue sandwich...recall circling and circling on and off Highway 60 West part of Dexter...looking at pretty girls...a hero was one of the Ridge farm boys, when unable to borrow his dad's truck, no problem...he came and met his gal at Dexter on the family's Super M Farmall, complete with four-row cultivator. They married shortly-thereafter.

-- Posted by Canalou on Sun, Aug 7, 2011, at 4:55 PM

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Kathleen's Korner
Kathleen Dover
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Kathleen is a resident of Dexter. She was born in Indiana, but her parents moved their family back to the Dexter area when she was three. Other than three years she and her husband, Collin, lived in St. Charles, Mo. and ten years in Birmingham, Alabama, she has spent her life in Dexter. As you can tell, Kathleen is a people person and believes in giving credit to whom credit is due. Thus, the reason for her hero/heroine column every other week in Kathleen's Korner. As you can tell, she also like to have fun, most of the time at her own expense. Kathleen (Grubbs) is a 1964 graduate of Dexter High School and invites her friends to her "Korner."
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