The Suitcase Lady


August 23, 2016, 9:00 pm

When I was a child, I lived within easy walking distance of two drug stores. Both had soda fountains with swivel stools, malted milk mixers, phosphate dispensers and pyramids of sundae glasses.

Getting  to sit down at the fountain for a malt or sundae was a huge event. I grew up in an age when treats did not happen every day. My parents could not have imagined an age when many children get daily doses of candy, cones or sodas.

As a teenager, I had some spending money, and my friends and I would frequently stop at the drug store on our walk home from high school. My order never varied: a Green River and a small bag of chips.

I am a staunch advocate of historic preservation, so it was a true delight to encounter three historic drugstores with soda fountains that have survived into this century. The first, Little Drug Company, 1922, is in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We serendipitously discovered it when I missed a turn onto Highway One. Instead I was on a road to the historic downtown. It was lunchtime, so we decided to park and find a restaurant. The Little Drug Company came through with grilled cheese, malts and a ton of nostalgia.

A month later, again at lunchtime, we spotted a sign on a Tennessee interstate noting a local attraction, “Historic 1928 Drugstore and Soda Fountain, 5 miles”. We exited, drove to Cross Plains  and repeated the classic lunch at Thomas Drugs.  I, however, substituted unsweetened iced tea for a malt, thus marking myself as a Yankee for eschewing the sweet tea.

Our favorite old fashioned drug store is in Albuquerque, and we visit it every time we are in town. Model Pharmacy dates to 1947. It is housed in a tiny building but is filled with treasures. In addition to the pharmacy, lunch counter and several tables, Model specializes in European perfumes, soaps and hair accessories, unique greeting cards and boxed notecards. And I know of no other source of a Lime Rickey.

All three of these establishments are working pharmacies serving local clientele as well as history buffs. How delightful that they still sell spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down.

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