Soda Fountain of Youth

Week 27: #52 Ancestors – Free

By Eilene Lyon

It’s been a while since we heard from my Grandpa Smitty. The childhood treats he recalls weren’t exactly “free,” but they brought to mind some of his carefree younger days when the taste of a soda pop took you to another realm.

Excerpt from “The Changing Times”

by Laurence M. Smith

I tell you now about some things we had when I was growing up that you could not buy now for any price. We had “Strawberry Soda Pop.”

When you took the cap off a bottle of strawberry pop it fizzed like a crackling fire. You take a swig of this “pop” and you knew you had just reached paradise. Part of the carbonation would back-fire and tickle your nose.

My life ambition was to make enough money so that I could have strawberry pop anytime I wanted it. The trouble with that idea was that when I could afford it, somebody discovered that the way they made strawberry pop was not healthy and they quit making it that way.

Another thing we had was a strawberry ice cream soda. Behind the counter of the ice cream parlor was two spigots with a six-inch wooden handle sticking up. One spigot ran out ice water and the other spigot squirted out carbonation.

To make a heavenly ice cream soda you first put in a scoop of rich creamy ice cream. Now a squirt or two of strawberry syrup. Now, from one spigot run ice water, and from the other, the high pressure carbonation mixes the syrup and the ice cream into a frothy fluid mixture that is delicious beyond description. The present day kids have never tasted anything like it.

We also had such delectably sinful drinks as “Green River” and “Cherry Coke.” When you drank these your stomach said Oh, Wow! The cokes were 5¢ the ice cream sodas were 10¢.

Birthday party in Moscow, Idaho, about 1914. Laurence at right, wearing hat.

Feature image: Soda jerk with ice cream soda (Wikimedia Commons)

56 thoughts on “Soda Fountain of Youth

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      1. I was recently reading how even plain carbonated water softens your tooth enamel, so you shouldn’t brush your teeth for at least an hour after drinking any carbonated beverage.

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  1. I can just imagine Grandpa Smitty sharing this story with his grandkids sitting at his feet! Made me think of root beer floats. Larry would always order them at A&W. Do you have A&W in the States?

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    1. You don’t have a sweet tooth? I don’t drink sodas and haven’t really since I was a kid. I sometimes add seltzer to a bit of fruit juice, but that’s it. Ice cream, though, is still a weakness!

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  2. My mom taught me how to make ice cream soda with a scoop of any ice cream then filling the glass with CocaCola; she said it was the way GIs had them in Occupied Japan in the late 1940s.

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  3. For us kids growing up in NY, it was egg creams. There was a soda shop in Yonkers when I was knee high to a grasshopper and they made heaven in a glass. Carbonated walk, chocolate syrup and milk . . . yum.

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  4. I remember drinking “red pop” when I was a kid – but don’t think it was strawberry specifically? Was it labelled a “cream soda’? There was a commercial advertising it on tv too, where the clerk recites a whole bunch of flavors and the kid always chooses red pop. You could add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and make it a float. I believe it was taken off the market due to the red dye, and for awhile they made a colorless version with the same taste.

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    1. Maybe the dye was the unhealthy issue Smitty refers to. I remember some food dyes being discontinued when I was much younger – maybe in the 70s. I remember orange and grape Fanta or Nehi sodas, but don’t recall strawberry. I vaguely recall some red pop, but that’s about it.

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  5. This was a fun story Eilene. Here in the Detroit area, we are famous for inventing the Boston Cooler (by Fred Sanders of Sanders candy fame) … it is made with a very fizzy pop called “Vernors” and you plop a scoop of vanilla ice cream into it. Vernors had a huge factory around the corner where I finished up my last two years of school. People who move from Michigan often order it online as they miss that fizzy, gingery taste. I worked in a diner during my college years and sometimes our regular customers would come in and ask to buy or just ask for a few inches of coke syrup. Pure coke syrup is good for settling the stomach and something young kids could tolerate, unlike harsh medicine with possible side effects. To accommodate them, we’d unhook the carbonation line and extract some coke syrup, then put the line back again to serve Coke. I remember Cherry Coke that we made with a spoonful of cherry syrup in the glass and then just pushed the Coke spigot. We made Cherry Sprites too. I’d never had those drinks before working there. My parents didn’t allow me to drink pop to keep me from getting cavities. It worked as I never have been a pop/soda drinker.

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    1. I remember Vernor’s from my time in Ohio. An ex introduced me to it. I always did like ginger ale. I recall from my bartending days that we would add grenadine syrup (whatever that is) to Coke or Sprite to make a Roy Rogers or Shirley Temple drink for kids. With a maraschino cherry on top, of course.

      You’re fortunate of you managed to avoid cavities. I have always had lots of them and now a mouth full of crowns. Still get them, thanks to my sweet tooth.

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      1. Vernor’s is an acquired taste – some people may not like that strong and fizzy taste. When I lived in Canada it was Bitter Lemon that people drank or Canada Dry. I did get a few cavities despite pop and candy being off limits. Not sure how, though my grandmother would sneak hard candy to me when we visited.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Grandpa should have gone into advertising! I enjoyed root beer floats, too. But I’m more likely to go for a Colorado Bulldog, which is a White Russian with Coke added. (Though I prefer a White or Black Russian – soda really isn’t my thing.)

      Liked by 1 person

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