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"Isn't that a dilly?": Moorhead man who helped invent Dilly Bar has died

by Mike McFeely

The man who helped give us the Dilly Bar has died.

I saw this Facebook post from friend (and new Moorhead mayor) Del Rae Williams this morning:

The flags in my neighborhood are flying half-mast in memory of Bob Litherland, our neighbor and longtime owner of the downtown Moorhead Dairy Queen. Bob was particularly proud of having invented the Dilly Bar. "That's a dilly of a bar". RIP, Mr. Litherland.

RIP, Bob Litherland indeed. And thank you.

Litherland, who lived in south Moorhead, owned the Dairy Queen at the intersection of Main Ave. and Eighth Street with his wife Phyllis for 46 years, from 1949-1995.

 Bob Litherland working at the Moorhead DQ years ago.

That, in itself, is reason to celebrate Mr. Litherland's contributions to mankind. 

The downtown Moorhead Dairy Queen is a landmark and a wonderful treat, one of the oldest original DQs in existence and one of the few traditional seasonal walk-up stores remaining.

But Litherland was particularly proud of his role in inventing the Dilly Bar, one of the most recognizable and delicious ice-cream treats around.

As the story goes, two young brothers from Stillwater, Minn., traveled to Moorhead in 1955 with an idea for a new treat.

An article in The Forum in 1999 explains:

Sons of a Minneapolis ice cream distributor, they'd been toying with a product they wanted to demonstrate.

Robert Litherland, co-owner of the Moorhead Dairy Queen at the time, called up all the area Dairy Queens - Island Park, Casselton and West Fargo - to watch the show.
Litherland said he stared as the brothers blobbed DQ soft serve on paper and stuck medical tongue depressors in them. After coating them in chocolate, one brother held the creation up and said, "Now, isn't that a dilly."

Immediately, Fargo-Moorhead stores began selling the coated, round ice cream-on-a-stick product, aptly named the Dilly Bar, for a dime. "We didn't have any trouble selling them at all - they just took off," Litherland said.

For the next six months medical suppliers were amazed at the rate tongue depressors were disappearing. Litherland said, "The only mistake we all made is that we weren't smart enough to copyright that name. Oh, well. We had fun with it anyway."

More than 50 years later, think of the millions of Dilly Bars that have been sold around the world. The Moorhead DQ alone sells more than 50,000 a season (which lasts about eight months).

The original Dilly Bar was made only with a chocolate coating, but have since been made with cherry and butterscotch coatings, too. I don't know if Mr. Litherland had a hand in expanding the flavors of the Dilly Bar, but if he did ... again, thank you.

Here is a link to the entire Forum story from 1999: Royal Treats.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)