This time of year, as the snow starts to fly, the snow shovels are at the ready, and the skis take a turn on the tuning bench, what comes to my mind is…ice cream sundaes. Specifically those from Lyon’s Corner Drug & Soda Fountain. When my daughter could still show her age with a hand-and-a-half’s worth of fingers, we’d sometimes head to Lyon’s for a treat after skiing.
I grew up with Thrifty Drug ice cream cones - 25¢ per scoop. The scooper pushed out a tube of ice cream that was flat on both ends so that a triple was a smooth multi-colored cylinder that fit precisely into its cake cone. The cone that collapsed into a soggy mess if you didn’t get down to business in a hurry. That ice cream was actually pretty good - but a soda fountain Thrifty Drug was not. The true soda fountain experience is a generous slice of the past with present-day deliciousness on your tongue.
When you walk into Lyon’s, you see the large checkered squares of black and white linoleum floors. Framing the galley-style kitchen is a long L-shaped counter with shiny chrome and vinyl 1950’s-style bolt-down bar stools. The soda jerk (person working the fountain) is in constant motion prepping hot and cold sandwiches, fountain drinks, soups, and of course, sundaes. The jerk serves with one hand and wipes the counter with the other, in a flowing dance of making food and washing up that is both art and function.
One afternoon my daughter and I got the end stools, the ones on the short part of the L - prime seating as that area has a bit more space. We shrugged out of our ski jackets and bellied up to the counter. After careful consideration, Charlotte placed her order for a Turtle Sundae. She would carefully oversee each stage of this all-important production, and Jamie, the gifted soda jerk working the kitchen in those years, was more than up to the task.
First the layer of hot fudge poured from a mini ladle in a thick ribbon, pooling in the bottom of the fancy glass dish. Then two scoops of cookies and cream, drizzled with caramel. Charlotte’s eyes were very large, her laser focus unwavering. A sprinkle of nuts, an extra-large portion of whipped cream. I thought Charlotte was going to fall off her seat. I heard a couple of soft chuckles and looked up to see the folks sitting on the long side of the L watching Charlotte as she witnessed her sundae come into being.
The entire sundae got a pump of chocolate syrup and a heap of rainbow jimmies. Jamie was out-doing herself. Conversations paused as anticipation built along the whole soda fountain, Charlotte white-knuckling the countertop in awed silence.
When at last the cherry was plunked on top, it sunk, half-covered, into the cloud of rich whipped cream. As Jamie set the masterpiece in front of Charlotte, Charlotte’s eyes were popping out of her head and she had a megawatt grin that lit up her entire face. The soda fountain customers applauded and even cheered, I think as much for Jamie’s artistry as for remembering a time when their faces looked like Charlotte’s.
I think about that day because it was precious to experience Charlotte’s unadulterated delight. Because of the warmth and fun we shared with fellow soda-fountain enthusiasts. Because of the pleasure Jamie took in her craft - not just beautifully preparing food, but also bringing huge smiles to the faces of her customers. I think of that day because of the simple sweetness that brought us all such pleasure.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT