Tulare Historical Museum
Johnny and Marguerite Fry brought the first Fosters Freeze franchise to Tulare in 1955. The Fry’s owned it about 6 months, when they sold it to Lee & Maxine White.
The White’s owned the building and equipment on the corner of Laspina Street and Tulare Avenue and rented the land from the Laspina family. The building was constructed in 1947.
The ice cream, milk shakes, banana splits and other ice cream products were sold at one window. Hamburgers, corn dogs, fries and other food were sold at another to keep revenues separate because ice cream products where taxed while other food items were not.
When the White’s first acquired Fosters Freeze, the business had three trucks. The trucks, which played music as they traveled, delivered ice cream to Delano and surrounding labor camps, as well as to Exeter, Lindsay and other parts of Tulare. People would line up for ice cream cones and bars, and pile money on the table.
My husband can recall purchasing an ice cream cone for 5 cents when the musical trucks came through his neighborhood.
Lee White created their butterscotch sundae, as well as many other ice cream toppings. A strawberry topping was made from frozen strawberries, strawberry syrup and strawberry pulp. Other available toppings were chocolate, marshmallow, caramel and butterscotch.
Kary Mancebo-Ingram, curator at the Tulare Historical Museum, told me of a ‘flying saucer’ ice cream, dipped in chocolate that was ‘to die for’. She and her mom would go and buy a half-dozen or more at a time.
Other items on the menu included corn dogs that had a batter made from a special powder that came in big barrels from Ohio. The chicken and shrimp baskets were dipped in the same batter before deep-frying. Some of the other early menu items were steak sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, and tuna sandwiches, tacos and the famous hamburgers. The sauce was made from mayonnaise, mustard, catsup and pickle relish and mixed together into a thousand island sauce and then spread on the bun.
Terry Brazil, the museum’s executive director, recalled the many times her husband Lionel’s Aunt Josephine Edwards went to Fosters Freeze. Aunt Josephine lived in San Francisco and had access to all the most cutting-edge restaurants and eateries, but when she arrived in Tulare for a visit, the first place she would go to eat was Fosters Freeze. She had to have one of its delicious hamburgers, with the wonderful, tasty sauce.
Clyde and Barbara Blackburn purchased Fosters Freeze from the White’s in September 1972, when the hamburgers sold for 25 cents and the business remained on the Laspina and Tulare corner location until just before Christmas 1996, when it moved to its current site at 1330 E. Tulare Ave.
The Blackburn’s were very happy and surprised with the results. They were flooded with nearly more business than they could handle, and they had to close on January 1, 1997, just to restock their merchandise.
The restaurant has served some famous people in its time. Clyde Blackburn reported Flip Wilson came to the drive-in in the mid 1970’s. Steve Perry from the band “Journey” also ate there.
On another occasion in the 70’s, a man in a station wagon pulled up and drove around to the back where he cleaned out his car and threw out the trash.
When he came around the front to place his order, the girls working asked if he were the actor Robert Conrad, to which he replied, “yes.” The girls-one of whom was Chris Linhares-were soon swooning over and trading his trash.
Fosters Freeze held cruise nights that were well-organized by Jim Jordan and Rosalee Maness until 2006. They did a wonderful job. Everyone had lots of fun and there was much community support.
Some of the items on today’s Fosters Freeze menu are: Hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, and soft serve ice cream. Some of their newer items are: Double-decker burgers, sandwiches with a twist, California grilled chicken sandwiches, fish filet sandwiches, garden burgers, twisters, parfaits, smoothies and ice cream with cherries.
Today, Maxine White is a volunteer at the Tulare Historical Museum. She has been volunteering at the museum, usually two mornings a week for many years, and is a real asset. She is 89 years old, and we appreciate her very much. Her husband, Lee, died in 1994. Maxine was eager to share stories about the years she and Lee owned Fosters Freeze.
For years Clyde Blackburn worked closely with Lee White and they were wonderful friends. Clyde said the thing that makes it all worthwhile is the people. He appreciates them very much-their business, and the life-long relationships they have built over the years.