Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sippin' an chattin' at the drugstore lunch counter

In my small town we have three pharmacies.

There's the modern drive-thru express pharmacy in the new part of town and across the way is a mega-WalMart drug dispensing machine with acres and acres of free parking.

Then there's the old-fashioned drug store in the historic downtown district, complete with lunch counter, soda fountain, cosmetics in glass cases and two aisles of greeting cards dating back to the 70's.

8 chrome barstools with sparkly red vinyl covering and a formica countertop with original chrome border await hungry patrons looking for a quick, inexpensive snack and a smile from one of the lovely counter ladies.

Sitting next to the old time drink mixers (no blenders here), stainless steel drop-in containers pump out TWO kinds of syrup (chocolate and butterscotch), and dispense fruit toppings, jimmies, or any variety of nuts.

There are black press on plastic letters on the menu board overhead, tempting you with gastronomical delights such as pimento cheese sandwiches, turkey wraps, frito chili pies, hand-dipped ice cream sundaes, and drinks of all flavors and tastes.

The George Foreman grill and microwave oven stand ready to serve consumables of any kind, hot and delicious. They seem to appear apologetic for bringing their moderness into the old skool atmosphere of the lunch counter, but as long as they do their job without complaint, I think their presence is tolerated.

The elderly patrons prefer to populate one of the two melamine covered booths from the 70's, or either of the several square tables and chairs that look like surplus from a shuttered H. Salt Fish and Chips restaurant. They're the perfect "sittin' for a spell" furniture for the Red Hat ladies who come in every Thursday for nickel coffee, delicious cake and conversation.

The place is cool because it isn't trying to be cool. It knows it's place in the confines of the Drug Store, and accepts it's role as a historical nod to the way things used to be.

The other day, while sippin' an orangeade (yep, you heard me...an orangeade -- THE most delicious beverage I've ever tasted and more addictive than an Ice Blended Mocha at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf) at the lunch counter with my daughters, I was involved in a lively conversation (well, lively for this crowd) about high school reunions and the sizes of our respective graduating classes.

My graduating class had something like 900+ kids in it. At the last reunion I attended, they had to rent a ballroom at the Hilton in Downtown LA.

My wife grabbed her diploma with a little over 120 seniors. Her last reunion was in the local community center gymnasium.

The lunch counter girl partied with 43 other kids at her grad night. Her upcoming reunion is going to be at the local Lions Club facililty.

Then Charley the pharmacist walked up to and behind the counter, filled his mug from the tin pot full of freshly brewed joe and casually said,

"At my last high school reunion we just had to pick which booth to sit in at the mexican restaurant downtown."

I added, "So, not many people showed up?"

To which he replied, "No everyone was there."

[Me laughing]

"Two guys even brought their wives."

[More of me laughing]

" We took the big booth."

I barely finished my orangeade.


Scott Bryner said...

Dude, I can TOTALLY see you in this scene. LOVE the ending!

Was just talking with Stu who turned me onto your blog. Glad to hear you're having fun, my friend.

Emily said...

You, my friend, are a cruel, cruel tease. I realize the Department of Homeland Security strictly forbids you to disclose your whereabouts, but it's just *evil* to describe a drugstore soda fountain in such minute detail and then leave me hanging as to its location.

If you're willing to give directions that do not include the phrase "go to 1958 and hang a left," please e-mail me at sundayjohn66 at mac dot com. Otherwise I'll be forced to spend my weekends wandering from town to town in search of cool drugstores with lunch counters ... and I just don't have enough free time to wander through every small town in Oklahoma until I find something.

BTW, you would probably dig the little place we found in Hominy. As I recall, the drugstore part is gone, but the soda fountain remains. There used to be one like that in Webb City, MO, too, but I don't remember whether it's still there.

OKDad said...

Mr. B., my favorite Movie Producer, ex-boss, Bob's burger eating, ex-Mouse working buddy o' mine.

Nice to have you along for the ride.

Stu hasn't contacted me since making the move to the land of longhorns and Austin City Limits. How's he doing?