I began my job as a soda jerk my freshman year and continued to work until we moved my senior year. It was without a doubt the most enjoyable job I have ever had. You were always in the middle of everything. My only regret was that I could not be there all day.
In a town of only 350, the drug store was the place the town came to meet and gossip. Everyone came into the drug store sometime during the day for a cup of coffee or a coke.
I would go to work at 4:00 after school and work until 6:00 each night. I tried to get my Mother and her best friend who owned the drug store to stay open later, but they wouldn’t let the soda jerks work alone. One of them had to be with us each afternoon but they wanted to be home for supper, so they closed at 6:00. But every business in town closed at 6:00. The drug store was open on Saturday and every other Saturday I would work all day.
Every night when I worked after school, the first thing I would do when I arrived was mix two nickel cherry cokes and set them on the counter. At 4:20 every afternoon Mr. and Mrs.Coy would stop by and the next time I looked they would be there drinking their cokes.
Some of the fountain drinks were still made with the syrup and the carbonated water, but Coke was ahead of its time and we had a machine that dispensed the cokes ready to drink. I can still remember that big red machine that sat perched on the edge of the counter, and next to it the carbonated and plain water spouts with the large handle on the top.
Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and 7-up were made with the syrup and then the carbonation was added. The most popular drinks were chocolate Dr. Peppers, vanilla or lemon Pepsi, and the ever-popular cherry Coke. The suicide was made with every flavor we had added to coke. Not many could stomach the suicide or afford it, because it was 5 cents a flavor. When small cokes were a nickel and a large coke was a dime, 50 cents for a small drink was pretty pricey for most kids.
Ice cream sodas were probably my least favorite to make, or eat. They could be so messy to deal with. First the flavor went into the bottom of the tall glass, then the two scoops of ice cream, and then more flavor on top. Once all the ice cream and flavoring was in the glass, the carbonation was added. The carbonation was added from the spout that stood on the edge of the counter.
There was only one advantage to the soda; it was your chance to get revenge on anyone you didn’t like or who was standing at the counter bothering you. You could back them up or shut them up real fast if you moved the glass over just a little to allow the carbonated water to hit the ice cream. It would shoot out and usually hit them right in the face. It was just like a pool shot, if you got the water to hit the right spot on the scoop of ice cream it would shoot out and soak the one you were aiming at.
Milk shakes were made with two scoops of ice cream, then the flavor, and then filled to the top with milk. We used the tall metal containers to make the shakes in and then poured them into a glass or a cup to go. The old milk shake machines were the best but could be a nightmare if you were not careful.
I was making a chocolate shake one night after school, and the counter was full of kids wanting something all at the same time. I put all the ingredients into the container, then turned around and stuck it on the machine. I was in a hurry and not too careful so the minute it started to run I turned away. I did not get the container set on the platform tight, so before I could get turned all the way around I heard the machine stop running.
When I turned back to see what had happened I could see the container starting to fall toward floor. There was no way to catch it, or to stop the disaster unfolding before me. All I could do was stand and watch as the metal container hurtled toward the floor. The container hit the floor still upright with a loud bang and the whole milkshake flew out in one large wave and headed toward the 12 foot ceiling.
I was amazed that almost all the milkshake made it to the old tin ceiling, then started to fall like chocolate rain, dripping all over the ice cream freezers to my left, the counter that was to my right along the wall where the milkshake machine was sitting, and last but not least, all over me. A small amount had managed to splash me on the way up, so the front of my outfit and now my hair, shoulders, shoes and of course it was running in my face and eyes.
When I had it wiped out of my face, the first thing I saw was Ruth standing in front of me with a bucket and a mop. She had this twinkle in her eye and a half smile on her face as she handed me the mop and placed the bucket at my feet. She never said a word, just turned and walked away, trying very hard not to laugh.
I worked the rest of the shift to get it all cleaned up. After that adventure I was very careful to hear the click when it fastened on the lip of the cup and on the platform for the bottom so it would stay there.
A lot of romances began and ended in that old drugstore, and the soda jerks were witness to everything. We knew all the latest gossip before any one else in town, and were in the thick of it when all the kids were there.
It should have been illegal to get paid for having so much fun on a job. I was only paid 75 cents an hour for this job but I would have worked for nothing. Being a soda jerk was the most fun I have ever had on a job. To contact Sandy: [email protected]