Bob recalls days as teen-age soda jerk By Bob Karolevitz In my youthful days I was a teenage soda jerk.
For 15-cents-an-hour I served up five-cent lemon cokes, cherry phosphates and 10-cent frozen malts at two local drug stores (both of them now gone).
I don't recall if I wore an apron or other suitable apparel but I had to look neat and tidy behind the fountain, a fixture in most pharmacies of the era.
There were no plastic cups then. Cokes were served in the traditional Coca Cola glasses. The sundaes we dished up were works of art with a cherry on top. Once in a while somebody ordered a banana split which required special treatment, with three flavors of ice cream carefully arranged in the glass boat, each covered with marshmallow, chocolate and strawberry or pineapple syrups.
The down side came when everything had to be washed and dried after the customers left. It was interesting work, though, and we got to drink or eat our mistakes.
The nostalgic reminiscences came about because somewhere I read an item in The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages. It was dated 1906 (obviously before my time) and featured how a soda jerk should look and act. I thought it would spur a few memories for those of you who bellied up to a soda fountain in those "good old days."
The attendant of the soda fountain should preferably be one comparatively young in years and proposing in person. He should be perfectly clean in his person and his habits; his collar, shirt and coat should be white and spotless, and his hair should always be neatly combed. He should never perform any portion of his toilet, such as combing his hair, in front of the apparatus.
He should be equally pleasant to the child, the old man or woman and the finely dressed young lady. He should not feel slighted at the "uppishness" of the would-be society young man or the peevishness of the crank. He should never attempt familiarities with his patrons but should always be friendly.
In serving drinks, he should not allow his fingers to come near the rim of the glass. He should never fill glasses so full that patrons will spill the drink when picking up their glass.
He should keep the counter perfectly clean, wiping it off as soon as it is wet and never allow it to become sticky; nothing is more disgusting to a refined patron than to touch a soiled and sticky counter. The attendant should be equally scrupulous about keeping every other portion of the apparatus perfectly clean and bright. He should never display soiled towels or dirty sponges before customers.
The attendant should never stand watching the patrons drinking. If he has nothing of importance to do, he should busy himself with some trivial matter until the customer starts to go away.
The attendant should study each customer's desire and endeavor to remember the particular way each likes his drinks mixed and served. From the fact that a capable attendant soon learns his patrons peculiarities … it is not advisable for the proprietor to change his attendant except for ample cause.
Those instructions may have been written in 1906, but they still make sense 93 years later � although there aren't many soda jerks any more. You don't need an attendant if you get your drink in a can from a machine.
Actually, we pretty much followed those same rules in the Dirty Thirties. After all, we didn't want to jeopardize our 15-cents-an-hour job.