Ah, The Memories

Childhood memories are never far away. A New York Times article triggered (caused me to remember) one of mine recently. The article – about Ava Drug in Ava, Missouri – brought back memories of the corner drug store and, especially, its soda fountain.

Years ago, before stores become more specialized, the corner drug store (many were on a corner near the center of town) was a fixture (something that’s always present) in most American towns. In many towns they were a popular gathering place (a place for people to get together), much like a British pub, or public house. People met at the corner drug store to get a sandwich, enjoy a milk shake or soda, pick up a prescription, and buy a magazine, some candy, a small gift, or greeting card to give someone on their birthday.

The heart (most important or central part) of the corner drug store was the soda fountain (a machine that serves bubbly drinks, or the restaurant area in a store with a soda fountain machine). Some were very simple; others were ornate (highly decorated), often with a large wall mirror framed (surrounded) by dark wood. All of them had a bar (counter, a long narrow area for serving food or drinks) – similar to the one in the photo above – with stools (a seat with no back or arm) for customers to sit on. Usually there were a few tables and chairs for small groups of customers.

My cousin and I often hung out (spent time together) at the corner drug store where he lived. We enjoyed sitting on the stools at the bar. Deciding what to eat or drink was always a challenge (difficult)! The soda fountain offered ice cream cones and sundaes (ice cream, in a cup, covered by a flavored syrup like chocolate), and shakes (milk, ice cream, and flavored syrup mixed together). The menu (list of available food) also included a variety of drinks – sodas, like Coke; flavored sodas, like cherry Coke; and phosphates, a mixture of carbonated (bubbly) water and flavored syrup. While we waited for the soda jerk (old word for a person who worked at the soda fountain) to prepare our food or drinks, we’d often spin (turn around and around rapidly) around on the stools.

The corner drug store isn’t exactly making a comeback (returning to popularity). But there are some, like Ava Drug and Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain in Pasadena, California, that are trying to keep the tradition alive. Fair Oaks opened as the South Pasadena Pharmacy in 1915; Ava Drug first opened in 1950. Both have been restored (returned) to their original decor (the way the inside of a building is decorated). At Ava Drug you can even get an ice cream cone for the original 1950 price – 5 cents! Take a minute to visit the Fair Oaks web site – it’s fun!

If you ever come to the U.S., see if you can find a corner drug store. And if you can, stop and check out (visit) the soda fountain. Get yourself a cherry Coke or chocolate milk shake or … okay, you decide.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by cobalt12 used under CC license.

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22 Responses to Ah, The Memories

  1. sara says:

    Thanks Dear Warren.In a way that you described it ,I really felt that I have been there too!me too have to confess that “childhood memories are never far away” and hope that only the good ones been triggered.

  2. John says:

    Wow, looking at this photograph, I would love to sit there and treat myself to some sundaes and sodas.
    Your article made me hungry/thirsty and I felt a pang of nostalgia.
    Warren, thank you for this beautiful article.

  3. Valerie says:

    As always, the interesting post, dear Warren. I enjoy your style of writing and your pick of topic every time when I read your articles. =)
    As for today’s topic, unfortunately we don’t have such multipurpose places where I live, in pharmacies we can only buy drugs, and we should go to the cafes or stores if we want to have a drink or buy something to read. But I think this is interesting idea, sort of club where people can hang out and spend their free time…

  4. Sanaz says:

    As a pharmacist, I love to work in one of the corner drug stores. But you know what would happen? Distracted by eating and drinking alot and misreading the prescriptions!!! Ha ha ha. Just kidding:)

    Thanks Warren, nice memory!

  5. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff,
    I really enjoyed the piece. I like the fact that Eslpod is familiarizing us with the culture that I m trying hard to be a part of.
    Thank you Jeff ,your pieces on North American Culture help me with the underway transition.
    It is a weird combination ,though.
    A drug store who serves Liquor as well.
    In one corner the store encourage health,and well being ,and in the other corner goes around to foster Alcohol bingeing. You know,all the fancy,gimmicky-looking bottles of alcohol ,sitting on the back counter, tempting everybody to have a couple of shot!:)
    Very strange set indeed!
    I like the article because it does have an aura of nostalgia to it.
    All the childhood memories that furrow your brain and lodge there for ever come to surface sometimes to bring about moments of joy ,sadness ,or indifference.
    It is amazing how tight is our connection with our childhood. As we get older the connection gets stronger and stronger.it seems like aging fortified the
    Bond inside our brains.
    I am all welled up Jeff
    Your story made me feel quite nostalgic.
    I m not homesick,though
    I have to say,I know just one home which is Canada, the place where shelter me in out of misery.A great country with stratified level of comunities living all together and in harmony.
    Dude ,
    You outdid yourself again.
    I got carried away!
    Your piece stirred some feeling deep inside me.

  6. Peter says:

    Wholy crap,
    I m terribly sorry Warren
    Jeff always come up with this kind of posts
    I feel awful!
    I trusted my judgment bro.
    You be the better man warren
    And accept my apology
    You know me
    I m this eccentric guy who makes this kind of honest mistakes
    Hope you are not ticked off!
    Peace out

  7. Betty says:

    Thank you very much, Warren, for this lovely article which gives us a starting point to retrieve some fond memories of our childhood.

    It is very true that “Childhood memories are never far away”. One of the special features of Human’s brain is: it remembers things that happened very long time ago as a person gets older. That’s why we can remember so much of our childhood.

    My father always tells me how clearly he remembers everything that happened when he was a young man. He said those things that happened 80 years ago was like yesterday to him. Unfortunately he did not have many sweet memories as a child because he experienced the Second World War and he had to look after himself like an orphan.

    I have known soda fountain (machines which give out soda/soft drink/frizzy drink, all the same thing with different names) for as long as I can remember, and I always adore them. It is not a very good idea to drink too much frizzy drinks as they attack our teeth. I know I should refrain from frizzy drinks for health reason but I sometimes indulge in having one after many days of hard work, for example.

    If I am fortunate enough to visit the Ava Drug one day, I will definitely get an ice cream cone for the original 1950 price of 5 cents. I will not be pinching myself asking myself whether I am dreaming because I have read it all in Warren’s article.

    Thank you again, Warren, I have some sweet childhood memories remembering the soda fountains as well.

  8. A word of explanation about what’s in the picture: on the lower level of the counter in front of the mirror, you see the metal mixing cups used for making milk shakes; above them, on the shelf, are the heavy glass cups used for serving the shakes; they didn’t use paper cups back then (at that time). As you can imagine, the soda jerk had a lot of dish-washing to do!

    There are no bottles of alcohol in the photo. In the U.S., a corner drug store would not be able to get a license to serve alcohol even if they wanted to.

    If any readers have a blender and want to have some fun, do a google search that includes “milk shake” and “recipe.” You can make one for yourself! Chocolate milk shakes have always been my favorite.


  9. Peter says:

    Warren ,
    Thank you for giving us the benefit of your time and expertise.
    I care for you unconventional posts.
    You have a good eye for finding unusual,yet interesting ideas

  10. emiliano says:

    Yes, it is nice to have the memories you mention above, but mine are absolutely different.

    Being a child or a young boy I was living in Spain.
    Spain has passed a civil war that was finished on the year 1939.
    Immediately the Big Second War started in Europe.
    Here there was nothing, everything was destroyed by the civil war.
    Hundred of thousand men and women were killed and the buildings
    or fabrics destroyed.
    When the Second War was finished Europe received “The George Marshall
    Recovery Plan for Europe” but not Spain.
    The dictator Franco and his dictator system had supported the
    loser, so Spain received NOTHING from the European Recovery Program.

    Hunger was bigger for the time I was a boy, Spain was isolate
    and spaniards suffered the attitude of the dictator about Germany and Italy on
    the Second War.
    Not any memories about nice things like soda fountains or similar
    boys of mine generation could have.
    We use to go to a cheap local cinema (majority of time to shelter from the cold
    of our own houses) to see an american movie. What I may remember is
    our eyes were full opened seeing so incredible nice things that only we could
    see in our dreams.
    To me the book “Angela´s Ashes” from Frank McCourt it is the most similar
    story of my own childhood.
    I love this book, it is just the book I would like to have written and I am very
    grateful to Mr. McCourt of writing it for me.
    The book is in Ireland, but the life he describes in the book is my own.

    Thank you Warren.

  11. Peter says:

    Hi Betty,
    Nice that you travelled to NYC
    I have been there several times . I don’t like the place that much!
    It is a mega-city, that is for sure
    But, I like Paris better.
    I have been in Paris too
    If I get a chance, I would travel back to Paris .
    New York is a nice place to visit,no question ask.
    But ,it didn’t get me as all excited as Paris did.

  12. emiliano says:

    Nice to remember that Spain has 50 provincial capitals and along my life I have been
    in all of them less only eight.
    All of them are really beautiful with its cathedral and old historical buildings.

    After that and knowing several capitals of Europe I always would like to know
    London and New York.
    I have been three time just at the border of knowing London but at the end
    something happened and it was not possible.
    Another matter is about New York, I have seen this city so many times at
    the movies that seems I have been in the city, along its streets and Central
    Park a lot of times.
    Even sometimes I have dreamed going up to the top of Empire State Building
    like KIng Kong.

    Yes, after Madrid I would like to live in New York, to me is like the capital of
    the World.
    It could be possible to visit the city or living a time in it?
    Well it is difficult but never in this world is absolutely impossible.

    So Betty, congratulations, you have visited and lived in two of the cities I always
    like to be and to know.
    In fact never I have visited a country where English was its language.
    It is like a paradox, but life is full of them.

  13. elcomandant says:

    Good for you Warren. It’s nice that things existed many years ago come back again. I like a lot this things. Maybe it could be because I’m a grown already, although I think I’m not too much old so that I like these kind of things. I’m going to put some examples that things I like.

    About the music I like Glenn Miller, Big Bands, all kind of Jazz, and many other music like that. I like too the swing and I enjoy very much with the Boogie Woogie music. I’m sorry not to be able to dance it, because I don’t know to dance something, but I would love to do it. Maybe some day… who knows.

    I like too the restaurants are decorated with old style and a little orchestra on the stage playing old music like Glenn Miller orchestra played. The worst thing is that I don’t know where I can find any place like this. Maybe I couldn’t pay many times for the dinner, but I’m sure I would go at least once with my wife.

    I like so much these kind of old-fashioned things that once, some years ago, my wife and I visited Miami and we stayed at an hotel in Miami beach just because it advertised as an art-decó hotel. Oncewe were there, well, this hotel It wasn’t exactly as we thought. Actually it hadn’t nothing to do with that.

    If I had to travel to U.S. again. I would visit Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain. You can be sure.


  14. Peter says:

    You know what Warren ,
    You always push the envelop
    I like it
    Totally meet the purpose

  15. Betty says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your message about Paris and New York City.

    You are absolutely right, New York City is a nice place to visit, but Paris has got more to offer culturally and spiritually.

    I had been to Paris four times. I chose to go there because it was right next to England and so it was the cheapest place for me to go abroad for holiday. If I can speak French I will definitely go to France more often. People said South France is very beautiful but I have never been.

    It was the first time that I visited New York last week. I had to help my brother with taking his son to New York, in return I got to go to this world famous place free. My nephew had never gone away for holiday like this before; his parents would not be able to afford it. Only God would have the power to make this little boy won the prize draw and sent him and his poor aunt to go to see this exciting place in this planet.

    Everyone said that New York was dangerous because U.S. people were allowed to own guns. I told my nephew that we were not going to go out at night because it would be too dangerous for us. But then we were too tired because of the jet lag and we woke up at midnight and thus we had to go out to find something to eat and to buy some souvenir.

    We knew that we must stay in main streets where the shops open 24 hours and not to use little alley ways. There was not much horrible scene when we ventured out. We saw some medical staff carried an unconscious woman – presumed drunk – in a wheelchair with a sick bag in front of her. That’s all.

    I think I mentioned here before I grew up in a very rough part of Hong Kong when I was little, so I was not very scare of the New York street. My little nephew must be a bit scared though, poor soul!

    We basically had only 2 days to do our sightseeing. It is a shame I did not get a chance to visit the High Line Park which Lucy introduced to us on Thursday, June 30th, 2011.

    We did not even get a chance to try the famous Shake Shack burgers because the queue was too long that we had to change plan and bought some Mcdonald Burgers to eat instead.

    On our way to the airport, I was chatting with our driver telling him how much I admired the New York City. He was a very nice young man and he told me frankly that New York was a lovely place, but they the New Yorkers constantly have worries of terrorist attack at the back of their mind. I do hope that the whole world can live in peace together.

    All the best to you.


    Hi Emiliano,

    I love reading your message describing all the famous places in the New York City. Did you really dreamed of going up to the top of Empire State Building like King Kong? Amazing!

    Me and my nephew did not get a chance to go up to the top of Empire State Building. We were at the bottom of it and just looked up to the top of the building instead of look down from the top.

    People have to go to an English speaking country in order to pick up the English language quickly. You had never been to England or U.S.A. and yet you are very good in English, you are a gifted English learner.

    In fact I would have found it very difficult to learn English had I stayed in Hong Kong all my life. There is hardly anyone to speak English to, I only talked to myself in English all the time.

    I hope you will get a chance to go to New York as well, you never know, miracle is never far away.

    All the best to you.

  16. Peter says:

    Hi Betty ,
    Paris is beautiful ,very romantic place
    You can feel that love is in the air.
    Unlike you ,I know some stock phrases in French that came handy while in there. But,my pronunciation was so off that no body could underhand a word of what I said
    I traveled to Madrid back in 2004 ,I remembered getting a book full of Spanish survival phrases.
    I picked up the pocket-sized phrase book in the last minute. The funny thing is,when I opened the book to use it in Mardid ,I realized I can’t read the survival phrases. Well,I didn’t think it through.
    Good thing is ,whenever you go ,you can get by more and less by English.
    It is not like my English skills are any better than my French or Spanish abilities,but when I m abroad ,I cobble( thank Lucy ) English with body language together to get my point across:)
    I m telling you,The best international language is body language:)
    The thing is my English stunk back then. I spoke haltingly (thank Lucy) ,since Jeff hadn’t commenced our Eslpod yet!
    Back then ,I didn’t have the luxury of having Jeff and Lucy in my pocket :)))) funny as hell!
    I meant , i have them in my IPone and iPod 🙂
    With them in my pocket,the hell with both survival phrases,and stock phrases:))who needs them.
    You are Quite a jet-setter Betty:)
    By now

  17. Ziba says:


    Thank you Warren, for reminding us about our childhood memories. Some childhood memories teach us how to build up our lives. Some of them are bitter and some are sweet.

    Sometimes I try to remember them when I’m tired of this world, and they make me calm and relax.

    I agree with you, Warren, that some old objects remind us old memories . Here some restaurants are decorated like old restaurants in the past and some people espcially old coupls prefer to go there to refresh their old memories.

    good new words,
    Thank you again,


  18. haerter says:

    Thank you for advice. We will travel to New York in three weeks. Our first time. And of course we will try to find a corner drug store. Perhaps do you have a tip for a drug store in Manhattan? And thank you for the excellent assistance with your web site. All the best to you.

  19. Peter says:

    I just got a chance to skim your horror story 🙂 about Newyork city:)
    You have quiet a story there.
    Your trip has been short ,but eventfull.
    It is a shame that you didn’t try the hamburgers there
    I mean delectable(Thank Lucy)
    It depeonds what part of the city you are in.
    Some places in NYC Is creepy and unsafe at night!
    Chances are ,you get waylaid or accosted (thank Lucy) by some bumers
    But ,it is not like every part of the city is not safe.
    It is just a limited numbers of neighborhoods.
    As a matter of fact,Americans are friendly and sociable.
    They tend to get engaged in a conversation with you especially in elevators:)
    In my book,They are nice people.
    There is one place , I can’t remember the name ,famous for its pizzas
    Scrummy ,to a falut.:)
    But,subway facilities and platforms in NYC is totally creepy. The subway is litterered and dirty ,with graffities all over.
    However,all in all,I had a fun time there.
    People are snobby a bit in Newyork city.
    I mean,They are friendly talking to you,but you can feel a sense of patronizing in their voices.it is like they are insuniating:” We are the greatest people in the greatest city in the world.”
    God,girls are stuck-up down there.No quarion about it.

    Cheers !

  20. Betty says:

    Hi Haerter

    I am very pleased to learn that you are travelling to New York in three weeks’ time and that you will try to find a corner drug store in Manhattan.

    I was in the New York City last week and so I have fresh memory of seeing some corner drug stores in the city.

    There are a lot of drug stores there. A search on google with “New York Manhattan, drug stores” will return with many results.

    I noticed that DUANEreade has a pharmacy in their shops. I think the shops open 24 hours but only some branches keep the pharmacy section open 24 hours.

    Again, a search on google with “DUANE reade” will bring you to their website which will give you all the information you need.

    I found the websites “hopstop.com” and “ask.com” very useful in helping me planned my journey and activities while I was there? Have you used them as well?

    Have a nice time.


  21. haerter says:

    Hi Betty, Hi Peter

    Thank you for the beneficial information about New York. I hope we, my wife and me, will have there a pretty time. It is our first journey to USA and we don´t speak a fluently English. But we are happy and of course very nervous.

    All the best to you

  22. Betty says:

    Hi haerter,

    You are very welcome. I am very happy to be able to share my experience of New York City (NYC) with you and your wife. Peter stayed in New York for a much longer time than I had, and so his description about the NYC should be more informative.

    We only used the sightseeing bus plus walking while we were in NYC. We were going to buy some subway tickets but were not sure which station etc and finally gave up. I heard people said not to sit so close to the subway doors to prevent hand bags being snatched though. (Please excuse me if this information has unfairly depicted the current situation of NYC subway, I am only trying to convey my friend’s old advice).

    If you love lobster, have a look at the “Luke’s Lobster” website to see if you are able to taste it in the NYC. We were prepared to stand in the long queue and spend some money on treating ourselves some tasty lobster roll, but we failed to achieve that due to time constraint.

    I hope we were able to stay there for a longer time but the hotels in New York were very expensive and so we decided to simply squeeze in as much activities as possible into the short stay. My nephew longed for an authentic American Beef Steak but I did not even bother because of the price.

    My nephew hardly spoke any English when he started out from the Hong Kong Airport. By the time he had his meal on the inbound plane, I heard him answered the air hostess saying “apple juice please” in proper English already. So quick!

    I am sure you and your wife will love the NYC, it is a very lovely place.

    Best Regards

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