They can take our Fribbles, but never our memories

David Fong TDN Columnist

Nothing lasts forever — not even delicious Fribbles.

Try as we may to hold on to the things we hold dear, eventually even the things about which we are most passionate will eventually go away forever. Given enough time, mountains erode and are washed to the sea, the brightest stars in the heaven above go dark — and even the most flavorful milkshakes will melt away.

Earlier this weeks, the Friendly’s Ice Cream restaurant in Troy was demolished to make way for a Circle K gas station and convenience store. I understand enough about economics to know how and why this happened — Friendly’s wasn’t bringing in enough business, so it had to close. It’s pretty simply, really. Had it been raking in money hand over fist, we’d all be enjoying Jim Dandy sundaes for many years to come.

That being said, however, it was said to see so many memories turned into dust with a few swings from the heavy machinery.

For those of us who have lived in Troy for any length of time, Friendly’s was about much more than bricks and mortar. It also was about more than ice cream and sandwiches. It was about childhood memories.

It seems hard to imagine now — with the vast array of restaurants and shops and big box stores that reside there now — but up until about 25 years ago, there were only two things along State Route 41 west of Interstate 75 in Troy … Friendly’s Ice Cream and Covington.

With limited dining options in Troy, there was a time when getting dinner at Friendly’s meant a lengthy wait in the lobby — because everyone in town was there. Funny as it may sound, Friendly’s was the place to see people and to be seen in Troy. When you got the game-winning hit at your little league baseball game, made the principal’s list at school or nailed your piano recital, you knew a trip to Friendly’s for ice cream was in your future.

There was something magical about walking up to the carry-out window, looking at the menu and seeing dozens of flavors from which to choose. To a little kid, it was the most important decision you could make — and the possibilities seemed truly endless. It was as if you held the entire world right in the soon-t0-be ice cream-stained palm of your hand.

Once your order was placed, you could actually stand there and watch them make your frozen concoction behind the counter. It was like getting a glimpse into Santa Claus’ workshop and seeing the elves make your Christmas presents.

Friendly’s also left a lasting historical legacy in Troy. The company was one of the first major corporate sponsors of the now-iconic Troy Strawberry Festival. At the 1980 Strawberry Festival, Friendly’s distribution plant donated 10,780 pounds of ice cream, 180 pounds of toppings, 90 pounds of nuts and 16 gallons of whipped cream for the creation of a 15-foot high ice cream sundae, earning Troy a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

For myself and my family, Friendly’s Ice Cream holds and even deeper personal meaning — it’s the entire reason we call this fair city home.

In 1975, Friendly’s opened a food processing and distribution plant in Troy. My father — who spent almost his entire life in the corporate end of the restaurant world — was one of the first people hired in the office. We moved here from Cincinnati that year — and some of us have never left. He would routinely bring us home gallons of ice cream from the distribution plant.

I thought my dad had the coolest job in the world.

The distribution plant left Troy long ago. Last November, we lost my dad. And now, the last vestiges of the company that brought the Fong family to Troy is gone, forever wiped away. In a few years, many will have forgotten what once stood there — and many more will never know once was there to begin with.

But for some of us, the memories will remain forever fresh.

No amount of progress can take away our memories … even if it can take our Fribbles.

Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at [email protected]; folllow him on Twitter @thefong

David Fong TDN Columnist Fong TDN Columnist


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