Remembering the Old Fashioned Soda Fountain

I have heard so many stories from my Mom about all the times she spent saving her dimes and nickles from her lunch money so she could buy a chocolate coke. I’ve read that the surge in soda fountains in drug stores began in the early 1920s after prohibition started. When people could no longer socialize in bars, they began socializing at the soda fountains. I can only imagine what a real treat it was to go to a drugstore soda fountain after school and enjoy a cold drink with my friends. Of course, this was not my reality because they were long gone when I was growing up. So, being of a generation that has never gotten to enjoy an afternoon at a drug store soda fountain, it was a real treat to visit Railroad Drugs in Midway, KY, and have a seat at theirs. Zach greeted us with a smile, and we had the best milkshakes while we chatted. This little spot takes you right back in time to what I can only imagine it was like years ago. I promise you won’t feel like checking your email or your phone while you are there. All I wanted to do was enjoy my milkshake and watch the occasional train make its way down the tracks in this sleepy little town. It really was something special. 

“As a teenager, the teens had a favorite gathering place. While the place was very tiny inside, the teens would order from their vehicles. My favorite was Coca-Cola with a little cherry and vanilla flavoring topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream”-

Linda Long

Now, my milkshake cost more than 5 cents, and there wasn’t any special lingo used when I ordered it, but the hospitality was the same. I’ve read that soda jerks had their own lingo, calling a chocolate soda with some milk an “egg cream” and a milkshake that was super think was called “concrete.”  But I did feel like I was taken back in time. Even though it was a time I never got to experience, it still felt that way. 

I asked some of our readers about their experiences with soda fountains, and it’s clear that many spent a lot of time in them. It seems that most loved to order root beer floats or chocolate cokes. Here are some of our readers’ favorite memories about their time spent at an old-time soda fountain.

“When I was a child, many years ago, we would go to a small town called Ivanhoe, VA, for vacation. They had one store and in it was a soda/burger counter. I would love to sit there and if I had been very good, I could get a treat. Mine alternated between a banana split and a root beer float. It usually followed by a cream soda for the road!!” -Harriet Flowers

“I used to order a coke and vanilla ice cream. It was so good. Brings me back in time!! Walking in the drugstore. Jumping up on the bright red bar stools and how they would twirl and make you dizzy!!! Until your mama would give you those eyes that meant “you better stop or wait until you get home” look!!!!! Oh, those were the days!!!!-Cheryl Fowler

“My personal favorite was a 39 cent Banana Split at the counter of the Woolworth Five and Dime Store. Remember those? Our five and ten cent store was located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, in the good ole days!”   

Catherine antonakos

If you ever get a chance to visit an old-fashioned soda fountain, by all means, do it! We all need a chocolate milkshake and a chance to slow down every now and again!

*This article was first featured in our 2019 Spring Magazine.

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  1. I remember the soda fountain but, I am from the north and, we had, cherry coke and, vanilla. How do you make a chocolate coke looks yummy. I visited Texas a several years back and, they had a drug in Jefferson with a soda fountain. Seeing made me feel good.

  2. Pour chocolate syrup in to coke. Same with any flavored simple syrup. I loved running the soda fountain at my grandmother’s snack bar in a bowling alley in Indiana when I was a teenager.

  3. I would love to know how to make a ‘Cream Soda’ like we had at the soda fountain back in the olden days.

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