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"COOL OFF AT LANE'S" proclaims the sign at a soda fountain in one of the Lane Drug Stores in Jacksonville. This photo comes from 1935. An ice cream soda could be enjoyed for 10 cents and a giant sundae for 15 cents. This translates into about $1.27 and $1.91 today. With unemployment reaching 19% during the Great Depression, however, many Americans would've had to think twice about even these prices. According to one Andrew Jackson High School graduate of 1936, her Springfield family seldom visited soda fountains as it struggled to make ends meet. "More Than a Soda Shop," claimed the advertisement below. It ballyhooed a food venture that stood in the vicinity of today's Blue Cross & Blue Shield building, in the old Brooklyn neighborhood. The ad comes from the the newspaper, Jacksonville American, of February 6, 1932.
Here are some pretty, wood-paneled booths at a Lane Drug Store soda fountain in Jacksonville. The Lane stores were sprinkled throughout the River City at one time. In many soda fountains, the booths tended to be reserved for couples, while other customers elbowed for the swivel stools along the marble counter. Dating from 1935, the picture reveals the following prices: a giant hand-dipped ice cream soda cost 10 cents; a banana split, 15 cents; a malted milk shake, 15 cents; and a lime cooler, 10 cents.
The old warning “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” may not have applied at the soda fountain in this Jacksonville store. A sign on the back wall reads, “DO YOUR SHOES NEED REPAIR? WE FIX ‘EM WHILE YOU WAIT.” The photo dates from 1947.
In 1947, the shiny soda fountain at the S. H. Kress Company sported something of an art moderne look. As far back as 1840, a "soda water fountain" had sweetened the lives of Jacksonville residents. The earliest establishment offered a variety of flavorful syrups for its cool concoctions. It operated in a drug store owned by Moses S. Hyams, a Jewish physician from South Carolina. In 1850, residents also frequented an "ice cream arbor." The downtown business was probably situated in back of a dwelling next to a hotel at Adams & Newnan streets. Today, the site is occupied by a building that contains the Florida Ballet Company, located in front of the Florida Theater. Ice cream has been sold in the United States at least as early as the 1770s. It was hand-made in a large bowl until a New Jersey woman, Nancy Johnson, invented the hand-cranked freezer in 1846. Commercial production in North America was begun in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1851, by Jacob Fussell, the father of the American ice cream industry.
This cute young lady stood ready in 1949 to ring up sales. She staffed a cash register in a Jacksonville soda fountain. Notice the chewing gum display, as well as the other "impulse items" on the counter.
The Two Spot was once a hotspot, but it did offer a cool soda fountain in 1947. Well-known locally, the Two Spot was an African American dance & entertainment establishment on the Northside. When America entered World War II in 1941, the old-fashioned soda fountains began their demise. Soda jerks were drafted, sugar was rationed, and fountain equipment wasn't manufactured. After the conflict, fountains also faced competition from fast foot joints, chain restaurants, packaged snacks, and bottled soft drinks. Today, the food courts at malls tend to serve as our soda fountains. Young people go there to see & be seen.
"More Than a Soda Shop," claimed this advertisement. It ballyhooed a food venture that stood in the vicinity of today's Blue Cross & Blue Shield building, in the old Brooklyn neighborhood. The ad comes from the the newspaper, Jacksonville American, of February 6, 1932.

Soda Fountains

REALLY COOL PLACES — Soda fountains bring back warm memories of good times & frosty concoctions. Fountains had their heyday from about the 1920s until the 1950s.

Soda jerks clerked at these hotspots. They earned their name from jerking fountain handles forward to draw soda water into a mug. Shining with marble, metal, & glass, the numerous spigots & taps spewed forth carbonated water, ice cream, and syrup. Soda jerks mixed such frothy brews as strawberry floats, cherry Cokes, banana splits, double chocolate malts, and black-and-white sodas.

During the Twenties, refrigeration allowed operators to serve entire meals, not just ice cream & other snacks. Therefore, fountains popped up in many department stores, five-&-dimes, luncheonettes, and groceries. They seemed to be all over the River City, according to Jax resident Jack Fry, who moved to the city as a toddler in 1925. Riverside soda fountains could be frequented in stores in Five Points and in the pharmacy at Park & King streets. They also operated in Murray Hill in an Edgewood Avenue drugstore and in the downtown area in the department stores near Hemming Park.

One fountain drew customers in an Avondale pharmacy on St. Johns Avenue, that is, in the business district occupied by trendy shops & antique stores. During the Thirties, it served what it called a “light lunch,” a paper cup of vanilla ice cream & chocolate syrup. Another well-known treat could be bought at Berrier’s, which operated a soda fountain on Main Street and another on West 8th. It mixed Spinning Wheels — mammoth, multi-flavored shakes that your date expected to share with you.

A Northside soda venture is fondly recalled by a local lady who was an Andrew Jackson grad in 1936. A Quencho beverage shop provided curbside service at 22nd & Pearl. Although her family struggled financially during the Depression, it occasionally visited Quencho’s during the late Thirties. They enjoyed large, frosty mugs of root beer & ice cream for five cents apiece. The establishment provided mini-root beers for the wee ones in the car, and it later added ham sandwiches to its menu. As the lady remembers, male carhops — never females — served the food & drink during this time.

When she was in high school, the lady & her girlfriends sometimes saved their lunch money for after school excursions. Basically, they rode around downtown in whatever car they could wrangle space in. The young women visited with other teens who were doing the same thing. The young people wanted to see and be seen, and the downtown soda fountains sometimes provided another venue for this.

A BAY STREET FOUNTAIN — More memories of soda fountains have come from First Coast native Jack McGiffin. (He was in his eighties during the 1980s, according the book It Ain’t Like It Was in the Good Old Days… No, and It Never Was.) As Mr. McGiffin recollected, one of the most popular soda fountains was in Jones Drug Store at the corner of Bay & Main. During the early 1900s, Mr. McGiffin was sure that its soda fountain earned as much money as the rest of the business. Jones Drug Store eventually relocated to Laura Street and became even more popular with the addition of lunches.

Mr. McGiffin’s earliest recollection of a drug store was when his father took him into the Bay Street location for the Jones establishment. His pop bought him a fifteen cent soda, quite a big deal to the tot. But then, disaster struck! Standing too short, young Jack couldn’t see a gap between the marble bar top and the counter behind it. When he grabbed the drink, it tipped down into the space between and spilled all over the disappointed child.

According to Mr. McGiffin, nevertheless, soda fountains were indeed cool places. Drug stores always seemed cool inside, even prior to air conditioning. Large fans, with blades 48 to 52 inches wide and fire or six inches wide, slowly turned below the ceilings, circulating a lot of air without creating a draft. Not surprising, these became known as “drug store fans.”

~written by Glenn Emery

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