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The Soda Jerk wasn't a Jerk!

Updated on June 30, 2013

Make an Ice Cream Soda in Honor of the Soda Jerk on National Ice Cream Soda Day on June 30

June 30 is National Ice Cream Soda Day so what better way to celebrate than to honor the Soda Jerk!

The Soda Jerk was a national fixture for almost 40 years in the United States and other countries. They were in every drugstore and in many department stores and some diners.

Some had a whole career as a soda jerk but most relinquished their title to young upwardly mobile teens (YUMTS?) who sometimes heavily competed for the position.

Their motivation was being the star of the show, the center of attention for many pretty girls and all the ice cream you could eat.

I have included many photos of original soda jerks and also a recipe for a basic ice cream soda or float.

Hopefully, this information will keep you cool for the Summer ahead!

Wikimedia Commons

The Soda Jerk
The Soda Jerk
Soda Jerk Caricature
Soda Jerk Caricature

Does a Soda Jerk eat Jerky?

The Soda Jerk is not a jerk, nor does he eat Jerky; at least not at the soda fountain.

A Soda Jerk was named by what he did, not who he was. This term was given to the employees, usually male teenagers, that worked behind the soda fountains from the 1910's to around the early 1950's.

Being a Soda Jerk was not something derogatory, by any means. It was one of the most coveted jobs in that era. Most store workers started as "sweepers" or "stockers" or "even "cashiers." By being a good employee, they could eventually become the drugstore Soda Jerk.

The Soda Jerk was not only a great job, they were very talented. They could amuse customers by tossing scoops of ice cream in various ways and they also had access to the pretty female patrons. Much like a bartender today, you could talk to the Soda Jerk and tell them your troubles. However, the conversation was much lighter because the Soda Jerk was younger in age.

How did they get their name? The soda fountain had a big lever that they had to pull to put soda into the glass, usually followed by syrup, the ice cream and any toppings. The handle of the fountain was very secure and tight, requiring the Soda Jerk to pull sharply or "jerk" the handle. Putting it back in its original position also required some force. Thus, the Soda Jerk was born.

So, the next time someone calls you a "jerk," just remember, all jerks in history were not bad and everything will probably work out for you!

Flickr Commons

Soda Jerk Flipping Ice Cream
Soda Jerk Flipping Ice Cream

What you will need to be a Soda Jerk, or to just Create your own Ice Cream Soda - Sorry, I can't ship the ice cream or whipped cream and you can use any soda th

Anchor Hocking Beer Wagon Mug, Set of 6
Anchor Hocking Beer Wagon Mug, Set of 6

If you make ice cream sodas or floats, you need to have a mug to put them in.

Nothing beats glass and the old beer wagon style mugs are the best. Everything just seems to taste better in these mugs, don't you think?

 
WMF Manaos / Bistro Ice Cream Spoon, Set of 4
WMF Manaos / Bistro Ice Cream Spoon, Set of 4

I love these spoons.

They are not only good for ice cream floats, but also iced tea and other "tall" drinks.

 
Maraschino Cherries with Stems, 74 Ounce Jar
Maraschino Cherries with Stems, 74 Ounce Jar

This is a topping that you can't live without when creating great sodas, floats and shakes.

i always eat my cherry before anything else. What do you do?

 
Hershy's Chocolate Syrup, 2 / 48 oz. bottles
Hershy's Chocolate Syrup, 2 / 48 oz. bottles

There are other syrups but noting is quite like the original from Hershey, Pennsylvania.

I always wanted to visit there but never have. I wonder if they allow sampling. If so, I would bring my own spoon.

 
Kikkerland Biodegradable Paper Straws, Red and White Striped, Box of 144
Kikkerland Biodegradable Paper Straws, Red and White Striped, Box of 144

Paper straws are a must if you are going to create an authentic "vintage" ice cream float.

We used these when I was young; they don't have the unhealthy plastic residue in them.

 
Ice Cream Soda
Ice Cream Soda
  • Prep time: 2 min
  • Cook time: 3 min
  • Ready in: 5 min
  • Yields: 1

Ingredients

  • Ice Cream
  • Soda water or cabonated Soft Drinks
  • Whipped Cream (If desired)
  • Maraschino Cherries (if desired)

Instructions

  1. Get out your mug spoon and straw.
  2. I always fill up my mug 1/2 way with soda water or soft drink first. If you put in the ice cream first, it will overflow.
  3. Put in a scoop or 2 of ice cream
  4. Cover with whipped cream and add a cherry, as desired.
Cast your vote for Simple Recipe for an Ice Cream Soda or Float

Don't forget the Soda Jerk Hat

Soda Jerk Hats   (4/Pkg)
Soda Jerk Hats (4/Pkg)

How in the world can you be a Soda Jerk and not wear the little hat.

Fun for costume parties or just to wear around the house. If you wear this outside you will definitely impress your neighbors.

You can wear your own white shirt and black bow tie. I know everyone has those handy.

 

Soda Jerks were no longer popular after the early 1950's. Fast food walk-up restaurants and drive-in eateries became the "in" thing.

The Drugstore - Home of the Ice Cream Soda for many Years

The Drugstore
The Drugstore
Row of Stools at the Drugstore
Row of Stools at the Drugstore

In the soda fountain era, booth seating also rose in popularity as an alternative to stools.

Soda Mixer
Soda Mixer

It was during the soda fountain era that the jukebox also rose in popularity. There were free standing machines that were eventually replaced with booth jukeboxes.

Soda Fountain
Soda Fountain

The Soda Jerk was usually very skilled in their actions and would always perform for their patrons by mixing and tossing ice cream. They were smooth-talkers and girls would swoon over them.

Norman Rockwell - The Soda Fountain - This picture tells the story of the Soda Jerk

1979 Norman Rockwell 'Soda Fountain' Americana Vintage Print Wall Art
1979 Norman Rockwell 'Soda Fountain' Americana Vintage Print Wall Art

Norman Rockwell said it best in this work entitled "Soda Fountain."

The young girls in this depiction are entranced by the Soda Jerk. Do you think his pointy nose has anything to do with it?

 

Seats near the actual soda fountain were the most popular seating location. This was the center of activity and these seats were almost always occupied.

Soda Jerks
Soda Jerks

Do you make Ice Cream Sodas or Floats during the Summer?

Ice cream on shoe
Ice cream on shoe

When do you make Ice Cream Sodas or Floats?

See results
Smiling Soda Jerk
Smiling Soda Jerk

Please leave some Comments before your Ice Cream melts in the Sun!

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    • profile image

      Gabriel 2 years ago

      Lisa - Hello Kim,As one of Lee & Phil's Scotland based friends who, uaenrtunotfly, was unable to be America-side for the nuptials I just wanted to thank you for posting a few previews to tide us over!Also, as one photographer to another, these are simply amazing. Your eye for the revelatory/candid moment is phenomenal, truly. As well, the images in which your subjects were completely *aware* of the camera are leaps and bounds beyond the bulk of wedding photos I've seen over the years (including my own, I humbly admit). They too maintain that feel of candidness, i.e. subjects caught seemingly unawares. My kudos to you! Needless to say, I too am greatly looking forwardt to viewing the rest of images!Thanks again!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Shades-of-truth: Thank you! In my opinion, there are a lot of simple things that need to come back. Life is too complicated today! I miss those times and remember them well also. Thanks for visiting and for the compliments!

    • Shades-of-truth profile image

      Emily Tack 4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on the LotD! I used to love them, back in the days when I still ate things like that. Love the photos, and of course, the animated melting ice cream! Great idea! I really miss the old drugstore counters, where one could eat while shopping. The soda jerks need to come back!

    • joseph-sottile-16 profile image

      joseph-sottile-16 4 years ago

      You have great photos. I like what you said above, and the ice cream is actually melting! Nice!

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 4 years ago from Johanesburg

      Nice yummy lens , i wish i was a teenager so that i can be a soda jerk even for just a day

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 4 years ago

      Was able to get in on the soda fountain era in the 50s......so this is a nostalgic page for me and others I'm sure. Congrats on having a winning page.

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      DebMartin 4 years ago

      The Boston Cooler is my favorite but I have not had one in years. I guess it's time to change that!

    • Raymond Eagar profile image

      Raymond Eagar 4 years ago

      Thanks for the info , very discriptive I think as a youngster we called a coke float a brown cow.

    • CaztyBon profile image

      CaztyBon 4 years ago

      Gongrats on LOTD! Love the photo above

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 4 years ago

      When I was little, there was one drugstore that my mom would take me to for malts. I always thought that was so much fun.

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Elyn MacInnis: If you can remember it, it wasn't long ago. Thank you for visiting!

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      Fabulous! I absolutely love this lens! Also... I love the animated photo just above! How on earth did you do that?? Congratulations on this LoTD. Great photos and explanation!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Seems so long ago. I used to love going to the drugstore ang getting a root beer float.

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @writerkath: Thanks Kathy. If you want to know about the image, email me through the contact button.

    • tammywilliams09 profile image

      tammywilliams09 4 years ago

      Great lens. Cool pictures. The recipe is so simple so I can make my own now :)

    • Legenden profile image

      Legenden 4 years ago

      Cool lens :)

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Mary Stephenson: The paper straws were classic but the float couldn't be too thick or you would need more than one!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @getmoreinfo: I like grape, but root beer is my second favorite...or cream soda with ice cream is good...heading to the freezer now...

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @trying2Bhealthy: Yes, those are great also! Anything with ice cream gets my vote!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @NoYouAreNot: Grease is the word, I heard!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @anonymous: That is a compliment, for sure! Thank you.

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Redneck Lady Luck: Bad Grandma! Bad addiction! hahaha...thank you for visiting.

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      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I'd never heard of a soda jerk before - what a treat to learn about such an interesting time in history. The pictures are especially charming. I've had many 'spiders' growing up in Australia - the best is raspberry soda with vanilla ice-cream.

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      suzaiinwatson 4 years ago

      @WhiteIsland: Love to read this kind of information you did a great work keep it up dear :)

    • stick-man lm profile image

      stick-man lm 4 years ago

      Awesome lens on a cool, quirky topic. Thanks for the info!

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      arsib65 4 years ago

      Very nice lens and great photos... I enjoyed visiting. *S* Congrats to you for receiving Lens of the day... well deserved.

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      Bercton1 4 years ago

      Very interesting and well crafted lens. I love the effects of the last photo!!

    • MaiAki profile image

      MaiAki 4 years ago

      UM PICK ABOVE....YUMMY! Not too many "soda jerks" nowadays though...we call them "bartenders" for the ones that are left..lol

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      Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Congrats on LOTD. I must admit, I was intrigued by the title not knowing what it was going to be about! As a child I used to put ice cream into lemonade to make a spider. Loved it! But as a health nut these days would not even think of doing that ever again.

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      GrammieOlivia 4 years ago

      Great Job and great lens. I really enjoyed this one too! Missed it when it came to the voting,,,,,,hummm how did that happen!

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      LorLinda 4 years ago from Denver Colorado

      ha ha this lens is cool you did a great job!

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      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      There was a store called Newberry's near where I worked as a young girl that had all these things. It was like stepping back in time. I loved going there. Now we know the story behind the "jerk" maybe people won't think it's such a bad thing. Congratulations on winning the food quest and LotD. What a fun article. Once more you have great graphics. (Hope you are ok.)

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      angelatvs 4 years ago

      My dad had a part time job at the drugstore soda fountain growing up. Thanks for the great information in this wonderful lens.

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      Annamadagan 4 years ago

      What great pictures! I enjoyed this lens, good job.

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      soaringsis 4 years ago

      Oh! This brings back memories when I would eat my float at the drugstore counter. Great lens. Congratulations on your LoTD.

    • James M Becher profile image

      James M Becher 4 years ago from South Florida

      Floats are great! Really cool lens!

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 4 years ago

      Fun lens. Congrats on LOTD. My kids like ice cream sodas, but I can't stand them!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I wish soda jerks still existed. Perhaps they do in specialty shops at tourist locations. I came along just a little too late to enjoy this era, but would have loved it. Congrats on LotD!

    • fotolady49 lm profile image

      fotolady49 lm 4 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! Great nostalgic lens. Brings back happy memories of going to the soda fountain and the local 5 and dime and looking for cute boys...LOL!

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      A big congratulations on your feature. This is absolutely fabulous. Sodas, milkshakes, and ice cream floats really did taste like heaven when I was a teen. I have gotten my grandchildren addicted to root beer floats. (Had to carry on the tradition.)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      One of the groovier lenses in Squidoo history. Congratulations on getting the Purple Star and LotD!

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      ChristyZ 4 years ago

      Very cool article! Congratulations on lens of the day:)

    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 4 years ago

      Ah, this reminds me of movies treating the '50s and the '60s -- 'Grease' and the like, you know...

    • mcsburlea profile image

      mcsburlea 4 years ago

      very cool lens :)

    • trying2Bhealthy profile image

      trying2Bhealthy 4 years ago

      what a fun lens! I also like "freezes". They are like a milkshake but made with ice cream and Coke or Root Beer.

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      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      This is really cool, my favorite is the root beer float.

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 4 years ago from California

      Congratulations on LOTD. Those were the good old days. I remember the counters and those ice cream shakes. The one improvement is the plastic straws. Those paper ones were a problem at times. Great lens and so much fun.

    • adragast24 profile image

      adragast24 4 years ago

      Lovely! Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing this info about soda jerks and congrats on the purple star and lotd!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @anonymous: That's funny. Does he wear a hat? I know that some places had these, I always wondered where....and a pharmacist who scoops ice cream? That is a rarity!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @WhiteIsland: I always felt that I was meant to be raised in an earlier time. I do remember them, but they were on their way out when I was little.

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @RazzbarryBreeze: I remember a penny going a looooong way back then! Thanks for the compliment and visit!

    • WhiteIsland profile image

      WhiteIsland 4 years ago

      This looks like so much fun. I wish I had experienced it firsthand. I love the list of the different names for ice cream soda. In our house, we just called them root beer float, coke float, sprite float, etc. I have never tried a Boston cooler, but I did know the name for that one, and I would like to.

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you Susan. I remember those bottles also. Each one had a different city on the bottom and it was fun to see where they were originally from. That bottle was so small but seemed to last forever, despite the size!

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @SavioC: That is funny. Yes, I remember them in the Archies also. My first Archie comic was when I was in the hospital getting my tonsils out. I believe I had ice cream afterwards!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I don't remember the soda jerks particularly, but I remember going to the soda fountain with my grandfather and being treated to an ice-cold Coca Cola in a little glass bottle. I love the romantic 50's-era picture that pops into my mind of the girls competing for the attention of the soda jerk. That probably comes from the Norman Rockwell painting. Congratulations on the lens honors today for your made-me-smile Lens of the Day!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Dressage Husband: I had no idea that Britain had them too. That is very interesting. An ice cream soda with a crumpet? Thanks for the visit!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Swisstoons: I remember those old read leather chairs also! Wow, thanks for bringing back that colorful memory!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @linfcor: A very pretty smile, at that!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @SteveKaye: Thank you for always visiting!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @DebW07: Thank you!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Virginia Allain: That's exactly what I did, several times, when creating this. ha!

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      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      What fun. You just inspired hundreds of people to get up from their computers to see if they had any ice cream in the freezer.

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      DebW07 4 years ago

      Fun lens, congrats on LotD!

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      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Congratulations in receiving the LOTD for this wonderful lens. Great job.

    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 4 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      What a fun lens ! Thanks for making me smile !

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      tahirmahmood 4 years ago

      Thank you

    • Charlie43 LM profile image

      Charlie43 LM 4 years ago

      I'm old enough to remember the soda jerk and the great job they did serving up floats and shakes for customers. Have many good memories of visiting soda fountains. Congrats on LOTD. Thanks for sharing!

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      Hey tvyps; Congratulations on your LotD honors. This lens is very deserving of the honors because it helped bring back so many nostalgic and fun memories visiting the soda fountain. Sure miss them. Have a Great Day tvyps and enjoy all of the spoils.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 4 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for this trip back in time! I am old enough to remember sitting on red leather-upholstered swivel chairs at long drugstore counters watching as soda jerks (and jerkettes) created each soda, float or malt, personally, just for me. A soda or a malt still tastes pretty good...but pulling it out of a bag delivered through a driveup window just isn't as enjoyable as watching and listening to one being made the oldfashioned way. Congratulations on your LotD for this very enjoyable lens!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 4 years ago from Concord VA

      I love an ice cream soda! Cool lens! Congratulations on LotD!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I always wondered what happened to these places, they were even popular in Britain for a while, but all disappeared during my youth. What a great idea for Lotd!

    • SavioC profile image

      SavioC 4 years ago

      The only place I saw Ice Cream Sodas was in Archie comics. Always wanted to have one but here in India its was never there ! :( . But my wife after seeing this lens said she would make one ......so Thank You I will get one soon . Nice Lens.

    • RazzbarryBreeze profile image

      RazzbarryBreeze 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD.. I am brought back to a time in my childhood when my Grandfather would walk us to the penny candy store and treat us to a bag of candy and ice cream sodas. What a great memory !

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      There is a drug store in a small town near where I live that still has an old fashioned working soda fountain. No soda jerk though. Actually the pharmacist comes out and scoops your ice cream.

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      marktplaatsshop 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LotD, great lens thanks for sharing

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      never knew there was such a job

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Rhonda Lytle: Wow, I didn't even know until you told me. Thank you!

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      Rhonda Lytle 4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      Thank you for a glimpse of days gone by when life seemed sweeter. Congrats on LOTD!

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      @tvyps: P.S. Oversight...Congratulations for receiving the Purple Star as this lens is well deserving of it. I also had considered writing a lens on this subject. However, I am happy to see you decided to write this lens because; I really did enjoy reading and visiting your nostalgic Ice Cream Soda lens. Had to come back for a second visit tvyps. Thank You!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @crystalwriter: Thank you for the vote and the visit. I really appreciate it. I loved your nostalgic comments!

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      Crystal A Murray 4 years ago from Corydon, Indiana, USA

      Thanks for fun memories. I guess it's time to make them for some of my grand-nieces. I added the "chocolate cow" above, and remembering the above float even reminded me of the colorful tall Tupperware cups we used to make them in and the long spoons we would eat some of the ice cream with. I'm going to vote for this lens for my favorite food choice.

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      TommysPal 4 years ago

      Really great lens. I remember going to A&W once a month as a kid to get root beer floats.

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      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      this is very nostalgic. Thanks for the trip back.

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Gypzeerose: That was very nice of you. Thank you for visiting, as always!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Dusty2 LM: That is funny! I remember the stools also, I loved those things. I don't think many use them anymore, especially the spinning ones. Thank you for visiting and your glimpse!

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      Your lens sure brought back some nostalgic memories sitting at the counter spinning on the stool and everytime I went around 360 degrees on the stool and stopped facing my soda I would take a sip on the straw and go for another 360 degree spin until I had finished my ice cream soda. Appreciate you writing and sharing this lens. Thank You! Have a Great Day!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Really nice lens - my vote for the best of the food challenge. Brings back lots of great memories.

    • tvyps profile image
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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Margaret Schindel: I hadn't even heard of those until I did a little research but they sound very delicious. Thank you for the compliments & the visit!

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @MariaMontgomery: Sure you didn't meet him there? ha! Thanks for the visit.

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      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @OhMe: That is fun that you have a personal connection to this topic. I love this old nostalgia stuff, especially personal stories. Thanks for visiting.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      My dad was a Soda Jerk at the company drug store in a small mill town during the late 20's. It was back with textile basketball was a big deal and the company wanted my dad to play for them so gave him the job as Soda Jerk. He said his motto was "If I got to be a soda jerk, I will be the best soda jerk around".

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      A Boston Cooler is my ice cream float of choice. Love this fun, informative, and wonderfully illustrated lens!

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 4 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      My husband was a soda jerk in the 50s. He remembers the job fondly. Now I know why. Grin.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I love a good root beer float. Well done!