Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

September 27, 2010

Never Really a Jerk!

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

I can honestly say I was never really a jerk —  soda jerk that is!  We won’t discuss the other possibility. 

Yes, I was never employed as a soda jerk, but yet I did have some experience.  Part of the building that housed our family business was occupied by Dr. Flowers.  It was the drugstore in town.  He was the sole employee.  He was the pharmacist, but he also handled the soda counter.  He was never really busy in our small town, so he could easily handle all the duties.

However, as I would go in for a moment or be standing outside on the sidewalk, he would ask me on occasions if I would look after the store for him.  He would never go far from the store, and so I was never “in charge” very long.  Besides, I was supposed to be working at the family store! 

The times I most “covered” for him were some Sunday afternoons.  Several of us usually gathered and “hung around” outside his drugstore.  It was just a way to pass the afternoon — this was before any of us had “wheels” of course.  Because of family and business relationships, Dr. Flowers trusted me, and knew I had experience for handling customers.  Caring for the store had nothing to do with the pharmacy, of course.  It had to do with the few people who might need to make purchases, but it was primarily to tend to the soda fountain.

There were several small round tables with chairs for customers to sit.  There were also about six, swiveling stools at the soda counter!  The counter was polished marble.  On it were containers with candy, peanuts, and crackers.  Naturally, these were to tempt a person when they ordered something to drink.

It was on these occasions I could be called a soda jerk.  The name is for the person in a drugstore that operated the soda fountain.  There were two fountains that stood about a foot above the counter.  One contained water and the other carbonated water.  If a person ordered a Coke, syrup was placed in the glass and then the carbonated water was added.  To mix the syrup and water properly, it was necessary to use a jerking pull on the handle of the fountain in such a way that a fine mist would be seen and the force of the “start and stop” of the jerk aided in mixing the Coke.  It is the jerking motion from which the name soda jerk was derived.  There is a real art and it takes practice.

I was never sure whether I was putting too much or too little syrup in Cokes.  What challenged me most was ice cream sodas.  Again, you would use a flavored syrup.  Place it in a tall glass, add carbonated water, and two or three scoops of ice cream.  I probably put three scoops in for the price of two for certain young ladies!  You served it with a long-handled spoon and a straw. (Two straws sometimes so a couple could get “their heads together.”)

I do know that I felt pressure.  Not only the pressure of the right mixtures (especially when some wanted a coke with cherry, or lemon, or some other concoction, but from friends expecting some extra . . . or free since Dr. Flowers was not there.  By not cooperating . . . I probably was called a “jerk.”

Soda fountains at a drugstore began to vanish with the arrival of fast food places and ice cream speciality shops.  But many will recall them with fondness.  Drug stores were usually the coolest places in town with the large ceiling fans . . . and a gathering place for the young.  I am glad I had the brief experiences, but the art of soda jerking was never accomplished by me.



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