YHS alumni will honor Abplanalps

Jack and Florence Abplanalp must have milk running in their veins.

They are best known and loved for Abplanalp’s Dairy Bar in Youngsville that served ice cream, milkshakes and fine food to regulars and visitors alike for decades.

The two were married in 1951, and Jack’s involvement in the dairy business began long before they opened the restaurant.

While he was still in school he worked for his father and mother. “We were in the dairy business. We milked the cows, produced milk, processed it and delivered it.” he said. “Our place was in Irvine, up on the hill. When my father died young, we got rid of the cattle and started buying milk, (then) processed and delivered it.”

“My dad loved the animals, the horses and cattle, but I didn’t have the patience. My brother Bill and I decided we would like to move the dairy down here (in Youngsville). We bought the lot to put a milk plant in here, and along with the plant we would put in a dairy store, which is where the Dairy Bar comes from,” he continued.

Abplanalp said that after the building plans were completed, they went to Youngsville Borough for a permit, “and the borough said, “no can do. We don’t have the sewage facilities. Within a few years, our plant would have been obsolete,” because the milk industry went from ten-gallon cans to bulk pickup by trucks and from glass bottles to paper cartons.

He spoke of paper carton manufacturing machines costing $10,000, far too expensive for small operators to purchase, but the retailers didn’t like the bottles because of the need to return them, and breakage.

Instead, they bought a fountain and a bar from Jones Pharmacy and leased the property to Helen and Earl Arnold, who ran Helen’s Drive Inn for two years.

He said the drive-in turned out to be too expensive for the couple, so he and his brother designed a new building for the Dairy Bar, utilizing the windows from the drive-in. The windows are there to this day.

“We opened on the Fourth of July in 1957. We had ice cream here, we had two machines and… had window service… and carhops. That was quite an experience. We didn’t really know what we were going to do, so in the winter we finished off the dining room. We never did the car hops again,” he added.

Abplanalp continued, “We started out with hamburgers and hot dogs, milkshakes. We had milk and bread, ice cream and cookies. Florence added, “We had the best hotdogs in Warren County.”

Jack said “We opened in the afternoon and evenings. There were no iPads, we had a juke box and a pinball machine.” He said their ice cream flavors included orange pineapple, maple nut, butter pecan, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and chocolate chip.

Florence said, “That’s when the kids started coming. We hired two girls to begin with.” She added that in all the years they were in business, they never hired boys.

“When Bill and Marion (Bill’s wife) were here, they didn’t cater to the young kids like Jack and I did. I don’t think it was much of a hang out when they were involved. We alternated every other night. She and her husband would be here, then Jack and I the next day, until we bought them out,” on January 1, 1965.

Around 1966 or 1967, the Abplanalps hired Jack sister, Marjorie Hendrickson to cook. “That was a mistake,” he laughed. “The first thing you know, we had to have a full menu. We started out with hot sandwiches, and well, you’ve got to have potatoes and gravy. You’ve got to have chili, and you’ve got to have soup. We made her meatloaf, we roasted her beef. That was her thing.”

Florence added, “She hated Saturday afternoons when we had ball games in town and all those kids would come in here.” Jack explained, “There was no Dairy Queen in town. We were it. That’s the reason we got a new soft-serve machine. That made a world of difference, you could serve it so much faster.”

She reminisced, “I’ll always remember Dick Solomon. He came in that day when the kids were here for the alumni (reunion). We opened up special for the kids that day, because we weren’t usually open on Saturday. He sits down and his wife was standing behind him, and he says to the girl, ‘I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries and strawberry milkshake’. His wife said, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘that’s what I always ordered in high school’.”

He said, “In 1969, a couple high pressure salesmen from Erie decided I needed a car wash. So we ended up buying an automatic brush-type car wash. It was supposed to be coin operated, but I dare anybody to try to operate it with coins. I always had an attendant. That automatic would take 50 gallons a car. That’s a lot of water.”

At first the water went into the sanitary sewer system, but the borough decided it was to much. The diverted it to the storm drain, which flowed into the Brokenstraw. “Back then, dilution was the solution to pollution,” he explained.

He described the end of the restaurant, saying, “We closed down in ’05. I had a stupid heart attack.”

Florence said, “I wish I had a list of all the kids that worked here. They were a good bunch of kids. One girl worked here all through high school, her junior and senior years, then when she went to college she worked here in the summers. After college she couldn’t find anything to do so she came back here and worked until she got married, then worked after she got married and started a family.”

“Our daughter wanted to work here so bad. Every day she would come in and look at the schedule in the kitchen on the side of the refrigerator, and say, ‘Dad didn’t put me on the schedule’.”

Florence told some stories about the regulars at the restaurant. Speaking of one in particular, she said, “When he was little, he used to come in every morning with his mother. She came in for coffee every morning. I would be making pies in the kitchen and he would come in and turn a milk crate upside down so he could stand on it an watch. When I was all done, whatever crust I had left I would roll out. He’d take a glass and make little circles. I’d sprinkle some sugar on them and tell him to take them out and tell his mother to take them home and bake ’em.”

“One little girl used to come in every morning for breakfast,” she continued. “One Saturday when we were closing, they went to Perkins and the little girl said she wanted fried egg and toast. The waitress said, ‘How would you like your egg?’ and she said, ‘like Jack makes ’em’.”

“That same little girl came in one morning and she had a little yellow raincoat because it was pouring outside. Jack was sitting back there and she comes in and gets up in his lap. Her mother screamed ‘get off his lap, you’re soaking wet,’ and she said, ‘you don’t care, do you Jack’?”

“We have a lot of fond memories of the kids that came in here,” she said. “One day a boy came in around Halloween time and he said, ‘You’ve never had your windows soaped, have you?’ and I said, ‘Nope.’ He said, ‘I’m going to soap ’em’ and I said that’s all right they probably need washed anyway. So he went out and… put a little ‘x’ down in the corner.”

“We never had any problems.” She said her one rule was keeping the chairs up to the tables, not blocking the aisles. “we had that one boy who was leaning back in his chair, and the girl came back and said, ‘He won’t sit down in that chair. I’ve told him twice’.”

” I told her to go back and snap him in the back of the ear, that will wake him up. She went out and did that and man, he jumped up and went out that front door so fast, he was so mad! about two days later he came in and came out to the kitchen and asked, ‘Can I come back?’ I said,’sure you can come back. There is no problem. So that was that.”