When I was a little girl and was occasionally out of school sick, I got to go stay with Grandma. She spoiled me rotten, fixing me pimiento cheese sandwiches sprinkled with sugar, and making popcorn on top of the stove, using bacon grease instead of Crisco oil. It was a wonder that I wasn’t sick more often. Who wants to go to school when Grandma’s treats await?
We also watched television. She was dedicated to her “stories,” as she called the soap operas of the day, and she needed to stay caught up on what the characters were doing that day. Aside: I have since figured out that NOTHING happens in any one day on a soap opera. In fact, I believe that only a couple of things happen in soap operas in an entire week. But back to 1962 or so.
Another television treat was something that I remember clearly, even though I can’t remember the last time I saw it. The show began when the Emcee, Jack Bailey, shouted, “Would YOU Like to be Queen for a Day?” And then Mr. Bailey presented three or four women, each of whom told a story of some tragedy that had befallen her. Then at the end of the show, the audience would applaud for each woman. At the bottom of the screen, an “applause-o-meter” would record the volume and intensity of the applause for each, and the woman with the applause that moved the arrow farthest to the right would be crowned Queen for a Day. Mr. Bailey, or maybe a pretty model, would bring out a robe, a crown, and some roses, would adorn the winner with those accoutrements of royalty, and would assist the woman to a red velvet throne where she sat as she heard what she had won.
Most days, a kitchen appliance was one of the prizes. Some women won home furnishings; some won medical treatment for a child. The prizes were, of course, tied to the particular woman’s life. Each of the women had truly heart-wrenching stories to tell – illness of a child, loss of a job, or a destructive fire – and I remember feeling bad for the women who did not win. I couldn’t tell that any of the stories was worse than the others; those women’s lives were hard, and they were doing the best they could to get by. And for a day, at least, one of those lives was going to be a little better.
I was thinking about “Queen for a Day” yesterday, when I read in the “Sedalia Democrat” that Julie Binning had moved the “applause-o-meter” all the way to the right and had earned not a robe and crown, but instead a Toyota Corolla, for being a loyal 30-year-employee at Dairy Queen. I have been a loyal DQ customer for the 30 years that Julie has worked there, but I never knew her or knew of her work. All I know is that when someone works in one location for 30 years, and is described by her boss as being dependable, loyal, and trustworthy, among other superlatives, a car is a really good prize for being “Dairy Queen” for a Day.
Not only do I applaud Julie for the traits that earned her such an honor, I applaud her current boss, who saw fit to reward those traits with such a generous gift – a gift of something she needed badly. According to him, her previous car, the one replaced, was “on its last legs.” She was saving money to get a new car but had been paying off her husband’s hospital bills, which had been digging a hole into Julie’s car savings plan.
Jorge Guevara has not been Julie’s boss for the 30 years she’s been working at DQ – I’m not sure Jorge is 30! – but he saw great value in inheriting such an employee when he began running that business. Not only did he surprise Julie with the car, he had also paid the taxes and insurance for a year. What a wonderful Christmas story!
Julie said that one of the reasons she has worked at Dairy Queen for so long is that she aspires to making the perfect banana split. I plan to go meet Julie and congratulate her on her inspiring accomplishment. And then I will ask her to try once again to make that perfect banana split. I’ll let her know if she gets it right. Something tells me that she will.
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.