Did you know that before soda was a national bad habit, it was meant to be a health drink? The soda fountain was invented in an attempt to recreate mineral waters that bubbled up from the Earth. Many European and Asian civilizations believed that these waters contained curative properties, so in an attempt to capitalize on the supposed medicinal effects of fizzy water, eighteenth-century scientists invented a machine to inject carbon dioxide into still water, causing it to fizz like the bubbling natural mineral baths patients flocked to for their health.
By the late 1800s, most people no longer believed that the key to health was bubbly water, but the soda fountain and the sugary mixtures soda jerks were serving up throughout America had already taken hold.
For a time, no town was without a soda fountain complete with egg creams (milk and soda water with flavoring), phosphates (soda water with fruit flavoring), and banana splits. Soda fountains were often found in drug stores, perhaps harkening back to their past as medicinal beverages.
In the early twentieth century American landscape, soda fountains served as more than snack shops. They were oftentimes the heart of the town, where people came together to date, gossip, and act as a community. They will forever be remembered be as the friendly, striped-awning symbols of a more innocent America.
So what happened to those soda fountains of old? The places where, for nearly 100 years, Americans slurped soda, scooped ice cream, fell in love, and swapped gossip?
Unfortunately, self-service pharmacies brought about the end of the American soda fountain as most people knew it. However, some of these important pieces of Americana still exist if you know where to look.
Aldrich Apothecary, Council Grove, Kan.
This building has been in use as a pharmacy since 1892, and the soda fountain has been a town fixture since the 1920s. Take a seat on one of the six swivel stools and order up an old timey favorite pulled from a working chrome spigot.
Johnny B’s Old Fashioned Soda Fountain, Marathon, TX
It’s a West Texas throwback from a simpler time. The simple menu consisting of burgers, phosphates, Lime Rickeys, and other throwback fare has earned raves from locals and travelers alike.