Johnny and Marguerite Fry brought the first Fosters Freeze franchise to Tulare in 1955. The Fry’s owned it for about six months when they sold it to Lee & Maxine White.
The White’s owned the building, constructed in 1947, and equipment on Laspina Street and Tulare Avenue's corner and rented the land from the Laspina family.
They sold the ice cream, milkshakes, banana splits, and other ice cream products at one window. In contrast, they sold Hamburgers, corn dogs, fries, and other food at a different window to keep revenues separate because of the tax on ice cream products 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 and Exeter, Lindsay, and other Tulare parts. 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 and many other ice cream toppings such as a strawberry topping made from frozen strawberries, strawberry syrup, and strawberry pulp. Other available toppings were chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and butterscotch.
Kary Mancebo-Ingram, a former 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 with a batter made from a special powder in big barrels from Ohio. They would dip the chicken and shrimp baskets in the same batter before deep-frying. Some of the other early menu items were steak sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, tacos, and the famous hamburgers. They made the sauce from mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and pickle relish mixed into a thousand island sauce and then spread on the bun.
Terry Brazil, the museum’s former 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 beautiful, tasty sauce.
Clyde and Barbara Blackburn purchased Fosters Freeze from the White’s in September 1972, when the hamburgers sold for 25 cents. 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 pleased and surprised with the results, flooded with nearly more business than they could handle, and they had to close on January 1, 1997, 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-1970s. Steve Perry from the band “Journey” also ate there.
On another occasion in the ’70s, 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 an excellent 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 things 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.
For years Clyde Blackburn worked closely with Lee White, and they were excellent 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.