Wednesday, July 30, 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 |

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

Solano County Fair set to open Wednesday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Marketing study looks at Berryessa resorts

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

 
Library teens plan summer reading party

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

Fairfield tries to end Cordelia Road detour

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 15 Comments | Gallery

 
Caltrans makes I-80 lane change

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

 
Police arrest suspected intruder

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

Activity is Medicine program coming to Suisun senior center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Big-rig crash shuts down freeway onramp

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Big-rig driver strikes telephone lines in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A6, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Icon sends first A5 into the skies on maiden flight

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B7

 
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ primed for big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Fairfield police log: July 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: June 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: July 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: July 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Weather for Wedneday, July 30, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B14

 
.

US / World

Hamas demands for cease-fire and Israel’s concerns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Fist bumps less germy than handshakes, study says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
New California fines for wasting water take effect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California lifeguard injured by lightning improves

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
PG&E charged with obstruction over San Bruno blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Chevron California refinery overhaul up for vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Tuberculosis patient who refused care is arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8 | Gallery

4 charged with murder in death of USC student

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Crews make gains on 2 California wildfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Last crew member of Enola Gay dies in Georgia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Poll: Immigration concerns rise with tide of kids

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Shelling adds to mounting civilian toll in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
US, Europe impose tough new sanctions on Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Generation of tanners see spike in deadly melanoma

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Senate confirms McDonald as VA secretary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

Body of young stowaway found in US cargo plane

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Report: Health premiums rose significantly in 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Highway, bridge money at risk: Senate to vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Senate bill would end NSA phone records collection

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Liberians in US worry about Ebola outbreak

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Top doctor dies from Ebola after treating dozens

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

Red light camera fate now uncertain in state

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A11

 
Obscure state agency creates big money problems

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

Some people have missed the drought memo

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

 
What kids don’t know would shock you

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 17 Comments

 
Cemetery support committee thanks sponsors

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

.

Living

Community Calendar: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
What to do when ‘it’ hits the fan

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

Today in History for July 30, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
I like Liam, but I think he’s interested in another girl

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

Horoscopes for July 30, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
A do-ahead dinner to make back-to-school smoother

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

You too can bake artisanal quality bread at home

By Elizabeth Karmel | From Page: B6

 
A healthy afterschool snack that eats like a treat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Music aside, Queen of Soul is pumped for fair food

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Sarah Palin launches online subscription channel

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
‘Sharknado’ sequel has bite and lots of laughs

By Frazier Moore | From Page: A7 | Gallery

.

Sports

49ers WR Brandon Lloyd enjoying return to NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Schaub settles in as Raiders starting QB

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Fairfield Indians blank Next Level Athletic to win SRL tournament title

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

NCAA settles head-injury suit, will change rules

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Mudcats tie Vacaville Admirals

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

No joke: Kings’ Cousins hopes for Team USA shot

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Liriano fans 11 in Pirates’ 3-1 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Athletics rally for 6 runs in 9th, beat Astros 7-4

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Husband arrested in death of NBA player’s aunt

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Triple-A brawl results in 11 suspensions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Broken water main floods UCLA; 5 people rescued

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

49ers sign former Cardinals RB Alfonso Smith

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vin Scully to return for 66th season in LA in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
McDonald’s could be liable for labor practices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Food writers subpoenaed in ‘pink slime’ lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Stocks end lower ahead of economic data

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Twitter 2Q results soar, stock flies high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Obituaries

Robert Dale Myers Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Jeanetta M. Hale

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Patricia Jo McDonald

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Jack L Hudack

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5