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January 13, 2009 / Bo Mackison

I’ll Have a Cherry Coke, Make it a Double!

Lous Soda Fountain

Lou's Soda Fountain

Who out there in blogland remembers the soda fountain?

I do! I do!

The soda fountain was part of Americana from the turn of the 20th Century to the 1970s. In the early 1920s, nearly every respectable (and profit-seeking) pharmacist owned a combination drugstore/soda fountain. Prohibition, which became law in 1919, apparently was a huge catalyst in making the soda fountain popular. With the closing of all the bars, the soda fountain became the place to go for socializing.

After prohibition was repealed, the soda fountain still played a major role in society. It was the place for teenagers to see and be seen. I was on the tail end of the soda fountain phenomenon. By the time I had a spare dime and was old enough to be on my own in a fairly big town, the soda fountain was nearly extinct. It still was a meeting place for my junior high school friends and me to slurp fountain cherry or vanilla cokes and a few of the retired folk in the community still gathered for an early, early supper of grilled cheese or egg salad sandwiches, a slice or two of tomato, topped off with a strong cup of coffee and conversation.

Soda fountains were no match for the fast food joints that began to appear at every street corner nor for the vending machines that dropped a cold soda into your hands with no waiting or tipping necessary. I can’t think of a single soda fountain remaining in Madison, nor in my hometown in Illinois, for that matter.

Too bad. I loved sitting up at the counter, twirling back and forth on those metal seats, chatting (ahem . . flirting) with the soda jerk, or sitting at a back table with a few friends, going over the minutia of the day. And just imagine – there were no iPods, cell phones, or laptops in sight. Only people talking to each other, face to face.

15 Comments

  1. Joanna Young / Jan 13 2009 3:07 am

    Lovely bit of nostalgia – mine is from TV and movies of course.

  2. Marcie / Jan 13 2009 4:06 am

    Colors are fantastic!!! So many childhood memories. Love it!!!

  3. Gandalf / Jan 13 2009 7:08 am

    I’ll take an side order of fries with some Ketchup & a large Green River, please.

    Great colors & patterns.

  4. suehenryphotography / Jan 13 2009 7:30 am

    My dad often tells about hearing someone spin round and round on the counter stools, being very annoying. He called out “I told you to stop spinning around on that!” And, to his surprise it wasn’t ME he heard! How embarrassing.

    That was in Sherrick’s Drug Store, Bo. Did you ever go there for a “Green River?” 🙂

  5. nicole / Jan 13 2009 8:32 am

    Sounds like a good way to spend time. Sure better than sitting at McD …..
    Cool shot as well :)!

  6. Laurie / Jan 13 2009 8:44 am

    There are a few “retro” places like this around, including a chain called “Johnny Rockets”…they are not the same as an authentic mom and pop soda fountains from so many years ago but they do have that style.

    I love this shot!

  7. ceanothe / Jan 13 2009 9:20 am

    Un espace de brillance !

    A place to shine!

  8. Ron in L.A. / Jan 13 2009 10:17 am

    That’s great Bo, I’ll take an Egg Cream (vanilla) when you get around to it… 🙂

    R(etc… )

  9. Bo / Jan 13 2009 2:20 pm

    Ron, I’ve only had Egg Creams in Brooklyn – a fer spell from the Midwest. Sorrrry!

  10. Ron in L.A. / Jan 13 2009 3:44 pm

    They’re easy enough to make Bo but you must have the Coca-Cola shaped glasses to drink it from for it to be official… 😉

    R(etc… )

  11. jeju / Jan 13 2009 4:02 pm

    i like the colors

  12. colblue / Jan 13 2009 4:41 pm

    Very retro!! I think we should replace all fast food joints with these colourful icons. They had much more character!!

  13. montucky / Jan 13 2009 7:37 pm

    I sure do miss those places and those days!

  14. Preston Surface / Jan 15 2009 10:18 am

    There was a soda fountain in the store right beside the grade school I went to in Georgia. Your post really brought back the memories. But the best part was about the egg salad sandwich, topped with extra tomato and the cup of coffee. I would like to have that right now…

  15. amuirin / Jan 15 2009 11:29 am

    I love this post. You paint a vivid picture.

    I shouldn’t remember the soda fountain, but I do. Because in my little, back-water home-town, the only fast-food restaurant that existed until the nineties was Burgerville. That must have made room for the family owned pharmacy, Semlings to keep their soda fountain counter open longer than most places. They kept it open through the eighties, so I remember pie. That counter was a great place to get Mr Semling’s mother’s special of the day pie. They had ice-cream too, but so did Dairy Delish, and there were burgers which I can’t remember if they were good or not, but Semlings was the place to have a piece of pie while you waited for you prescription.

    Kinda wish I’d been old enough to talk (flirt) with a soda jerk, too. 🙂

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