Longtime Linden hangout closes after 51 years

Published 10:57 pm Friday, December 12, 2008

Every town has its hangouts. In Demopolis, there was Bob’s Place (15-cent Hamburgers), the bowling alley, the swimming pool at the Civic Center and roller skating at the old Coliseum. On “Happy Days,” the gang hung out at Arnold’s, “What’s Happening!” was happening at Rob’s Place, the “Friends” guys went to Central Perk, and the 90210 brood congregated at the Peach Pit.

Linden is no exception. Since 1957, the Dairy Queen on Coats Avenue was the place to be, especially on football game nights, but like those previously mentioned venues, the DQ — known as Granny’s since October — is closed.

John and Martha Lucas closed the doors for good on a Linden icon last week, a decision driven purely by economics.

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“Over time, prices have just gone up,” John Lucas said. “There were items that we should have gone up on that we didn’t go up on because I didn’t think the people would support it. You sure can price yourself out of business.

“In the time that we’ve been here, you work seven days a week, and it’s just not profitable any more for the time. You kind of lose the desire and the will.”

Lucas said he wanted to sell the business and was willing to hear offers.

The Lucases took over ownership five years ago after Martha Lucas’s mother, Josie “Granny” Duncan had run the place for years before.

“If (the teens) didn’t have money, she would still cook for them,” Martha Lucas said. “She would cook cornbread in the pizza oven and cook up some beans for them. She would give them an ice cream cone if they didn’t have the money.”

The hangout was very popular early on, for years after it opened up.

“Ice cream cones were 5 cents, 10, 15 and 20,” John Lucas said of the prices when it first opened. “A hamburger steak was 85 cents, and 21 shrimp were a dollar and a quarter. A barbecue plate was a dollar and a quarter. It was unreal!

“Back then, when ‘Granny’ had it, the Linden Red Devils were in their prime, and, of course, there wasn’t a lot to do in Linden. After every football game, everybody was here. When they went on away games, they would call and say ‘We’ll be there in roughly 45 minutes.’ They would stay here until 11:30, 12:30, 1:00 in the morning. The crowd that couldn’t go would stay here until the football team came back. A lot of people actually met their wife right out here.”

Despite being open for more than 50 years, you can count on one hand the number of owners the place has had since opening in 1957.

“John and ‘Granny’ ran it until they retired,” John Lucas said. “Johnny Stone ran it for roughly 30 years, then Mark Collier ran it for about three years after that, then we’ve been here for about five-and-a-half years.”

John Lucas lived in Linden for the last 35 years, working at Linden Lumber. He agreed to help “Granny” Duncan a little more than five years ago, working at both places, and a couple of years after that, was victim of cutbacks at Linden Lumber.

“I was fortunate that I still had this,” he said. “Some of the others didn’t have anything. Before that, I was going to work at 6:00 and leaving from here (the Dairy Queen) at 11:00. After I got axed, I was coming to work at 8, so I accumulated two hours!”

Now, the Lucases plan on spending more time with “Granny” Duncan and enjoying semi-retirement.

“We’re going to enjoy resting and loafing on the side,” John Lucas said. “I’m going to enjoy hunting and fishing. When I wasn’t working down here, we caught our fair share of catfish right there in Demopolis. One year, we had five catfish on a trotline that averaged 50 pounds apiece.”

“I don’t have any spare time!” Martha Lucas said. “I like to quilt when I have time.”

It is sad that such a prominent business in Linden — a local landmark — is closing its doors, but it holds a special chapter all its own in the history of the city. Like the Arnold’s of TV fame, the Dairy Queen of Linden brought many happy days and fond memories to its customers over the last half-century.