Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Baskin-Robbins’ Elsie and Mary: Sweeter than a sugar cone

Mary Minakata, left and Elsie Nakamura, the original owners of the Baskin-Robbins on North Texas Street. Click to view gallery.

Mary Minakata, left and Elsie Nakamura, the original owners of the Baskin-Robbins on North Texas Street. Click to view gallery.

By
From page A2 | February 01, 2013 | 1 Comment

I found out recently that the Baskin-Robbins on North Texas Street closed. Seeing the interior gutted and the “for lease” sign on the building deeply saddened me as in the 1980s I had worked there for the original owners, sisters/partners Elsie Nakamura and Mary Minakata, who ran it from 1969-90.

Elsie and Mary were two of six children born to Toshiyuki and Fusae Minakata, who were first-generation Japanese immigrants, or Issei. Elsie and Mary were born in Suisun Valley, in 1919 and 1921 respectively, and were part of the Nisei, or second generation.

Shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the shameful internment of Americans of Japanese descent began. Elsie was sent to the Gila River War Relocation Center near Phoenix. She married Tadashi Nakamura in 1946.

During the war, Mary had been attending school in Japan and she was forced to vote in an election there to get rations. As a consequence, the U.S. government revoked her U.S. citizenship. It took 10 years to get it back. When she finally did, she came to San Francisco and worked in a garment factory until she and Elsie decided to open a 31 Flavors ice cream shop in Fairfield on Oct. 4, 1969.

Elsie took care of the books and Mary made custom ice cream cakes and pies fresh to order.

The word that comes up time and again when people look back on Elsie and Mary is “nice.” In reference to them, that word should always be in capital letters, bold, underlined and with an exclamation point at the end.

Mary and Elsie allowed employees to eat whatever we wanted for free while we were at work. My favorite was two scoops of Pralines ‘N Cream with strawberry topping, whipped cream and nuts. I blew up like a balloon while working there.

If you worked the lunch shift, they would bring you lunch from awesome local restaurants like Pelayo’s, Eastern Cafe, Dan and Ruth’s and Omodaka.

An elderly man named Owen would come each morning to buy a hand-packed pint of Jamoca Almond Fudge. They charged him $1, even though it was at least twice that much back then.

Every couple of months we would clean the freezers. It was a big job that took hours. Mary would go to Shakey’s and buy us pizza, chicken and those wondrous mojo potatoes for fuel.

A friend from church, Albert Warren, got me the job and I worked with John and Jerry Bassler, Paul Brodeur, Darin Kermoade, Kelly Farney, Thomas Basham, Roger Martinez and Elsie’s daughter Jayne, among others.

One drawback from scooping ice cream was that unless you were ambidextrous, you got one arm that looked like Popeye and one that looked like Olive Oyl.

Other locals shared remembrances:

Ray Anne Fune Sullivan: “I remember the day Baskin-Robbins opened. I took the day off from work, just so I could be one of the first customers.”

Clarissa Correa: “I used to go there all the time as a kid. Those ladies were so sweet. I always loved the ceramic cats they had on the shelf behind their counter. They used to tell me they were for good luck. Anytime I see one of those cats, it brings back found memories of that place!”

Mike O’Connor: “I remember them as an incredibly nice family. Jayne Nakamura worked there and I played with her brother Jimmy in the band Matrix. They donated products to raffle so we could earn money to buy band equipment. Lots of nice memories stopping by to sample the many flavors.”

Bill Fischer: “Back in the early and mid ’70s, this is where our family would collect prizes from family games and bets from football games. Dad was so cool because everyone was a winner so we’d all get double scoops.”

Elsie is now 93 and in poor health, but Mary at 91 still has the twinkle in her eye and the same wonderful smile and laugh I remember.

Now, there is another Baskin-Robbins in Fairfield near Raley’s on Travis Boulevard where I can get my Pralines’ N Cream fix, but they can’t give me a double scoop of delicious memories of working for two wonderful human beings.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at getthelowdown@sbcglobal.net.

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Marisa Sandoval Del RealFebruary 01, 2013 - 7:45 am

    I grew up on the Nakamura ranch and loved Elsie and Tad. They were great neighbors and I have many fond memories of all them all. My brother also worked at Baskin Robbins for Elsie and Mary his teenage years and I loved being able to go and get free ice cream all the time. They were and still are great and loving people.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 4 Comments

.

Opinion

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9