Monday, February 2, 2009

Foster's Freeze

The Daily Breeze ran a story about the Foster's Freeze in old Torrance--the Baldwin family that bought the place in the mid 70s is retiring. Where does that leave South Bay residents who crave an occasional orange freeze? Well, the new proprietor says nothing will change, and that's good. Especially since, as the Breeze revealed, a demolition permit was issued only a month ago at the property owners' request, but was quickly rescinded.


The place actually opened in 1947, as store #23 of the Foster's Freeze chain. According to the company website, George Foster opened the first Foster's Freeze opened in 1946, on La Brea Ave. in Inglewood, introducing the world to soft-serve cones. If store #23 opened only a year later, either soft-serve cones were addictive or business start-ups cost a lot less in those days. Or maybe the numbering was skewed.

The Save Historic Old Torrance Association (from whom I borrowed the top picture) claims that this Fosters is the 3rd oldest in Los Angeles County, behind nearby Hawthorne's and Glendale's. This picture (undated, by Jim Melashem, in the Los Angeles Public Library collection) shows the Glendale store, across the street from the Mobil station. Looks like the 50s.

Wasn't the Torrance Fosters Freeze used in the second Charlie's Angels movie?

11 comments:

flying-blind said...

Foster might have introduced soft-serve ice cream to Los Angeles, but the first soft-serve machine was developed in 1938 by J.F. McCullough of Moline, Illinois. He called it the Dairy Queen. The first store of that name opened in 1940.

I remember frequently going to a Foster's Freeze on San Gabriel Boulevard in San Gabriel, when I was no more than four or five years old. That would have been about 1949 or 1950. My parents liked getting ice cream there because you could have it served in a cup, instead of a cone which I was more apt to spill and which would get drippy and messy if I didn't eat the ice cream fast enough.

You'd eat the ice cream from the cup with a small wooden spoon- more like a little flat paddle, really- because plastic spoons,if they existed yet, were probably too expensive.

I think the small cups of ice cream were only a nickle, and for another five cents they'd pour some chocolate syrup over it and call it a sundae. I still remember how good that last bit of chocolate pooled at the bottom of the cup tasted. Totally worth the extra nickle (especially since I wasn't the one paying for it.)

Vix said...

That is great information--thanks! I remember the wooden spoons, but what I really remember is the orange freezes--a little piece of heaven in a cup. We still get them every once in a while.

Deanna B said...

That Glendale Fosters Freeze (at Glendale and Colorado) has been gone for nearly 20 years, replaced by an El Pollo Loco (owned by the same company, so they still also serve FF soft serve cones). There may or may not be part of an original wall left, which would make it technically a remodel instead of a new building, but for all preservation purposes, that old Fosters Freeze is completely gone.

There's a Fosters Freeze in Burbank that looks mid-50s vintage, and another Glendale location that looks to date from the late 60s/early 70s, but the Torrance and Hawthorne are the oldest surviving ones that I know of. I hope there's something that can be done to save the Torrance one.

Majestis said...

Yes, there's less then half a minute of the Torrance (Cravens Ave.) Fosters in the first Barrymore/Diaz/Liu "CHARLIE'S ANGELS" flick. They spent the entire day of 1-15-2000 filming there. I worked at that Fosters from '97 to 2000 and got a second paycheck from Colubia Pictures for being there that day. The cast and crew where wonderful to our locals.
The surrounding buildings and our building where painted in brighter colors for the shoot. Additionally, a faux drive-thru was created a couple of days beforehand. I had the distinct pleasure of watching my boss squirm when they set a pyrotechnic device ablaze in the store to create the image of a grease fire. Oddly, that diden't make it into the final cut of the flick.

Anonymous said...

According to my father, Myron Poe, who along with his brother, Bob Poe, and father, John Poe owned Compton Dairy Products that made all of the "soft serve" mix for all of the stores from their inception through the '50s, George Foster got a west coast franchise from Dairy Queen with the right to call these stores whatever he wanted thus "Foster's Old Fashioned Freeze". As part of the settlement when Compton Dairy Products was sold to investors in 1951, my grandfather and father were given stores in Arcadia, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. Eventually during that decade, they sold all of the stores except the Redondo Beach store which my grandfather, John Poe, continued to run until his death in August 1962. The store was eventually purchased and run by my grandfather's sister and her husband, Laz and Marie Paul for many more years. I still have one of the original milk shake machines and two tin milk shake cups that they used to mix up the shakes.

Tom Poe

Vix said...

Thank you for the comments! The wonderful thing about the internet is that this information never gets truly old. Four years later, people can still come across a post and add to the information there.
I love the info about the locations, Charlie's Angel trivia, and Tom Poe's stories--makes me wonder if there is an soft-serve museum somewhere!

Jerry Khachoyan said...

Not sure if this is 100% true, but I was told (by an employee that has worked there for awhile) that the current Glendale location (on Glenoaks Blvd) has been there since the 50s and used to be a "hang out spot" back in the day.

It does have that feel/style to it though.

Richard Pryor said...

It's fun to see these comments spanning several years. I just dug a box of original Foster's Freeze enamel advertising plaques from a box in storage and looked up FF on the internet. My parents purchased four franchises in 1949 and in 1950 opened the stores in Watsonville, Salinas (main street) and two in Monterey (Fremont Street and Lighthouse Ave). I have some great photos of the stores through the years beginning with ground breaking in 1949 through closing in 1974. If anyone would like some scans just email me at nostalgiabooks at hotmail Great memories of the dipped cones, shakes and freezes. I still carry some pounds put on during the '50's! Richard Pryor

Vickey Kall said...

Excellent, RIchard! Do you still live up north in that area? My guess is that any local historical societies would love scans of those photos. Also, there are so many Facebook pages for people raised in certain neighborhoods, like "You know you're from Torrance if . . . " (my hometown). They would be appreciative of seeing those scans as well!

Maggie said...

Nice to read so many comments about Foster's Old Fashioned Freeze. My parents owned the one in Arcadia. Buying into the franchise in 1962. It had 2 buildings, one for "ICE MILK" products and the other for hamburgers etc... with a patio in between
What a great way to be brought into the working world ~ greeting people and mixing a combination of flavors to suit them.
There's nothing like the FRESH FRUIT in a shake ~ even if it does clog the straw!!

Vickey Kall said...

Love fresh fruit too! But nothing ever beat the taste of an orange freeze after church on Sunday!