Soda Fountain: 19th Century Courtships

Soda Fountain: 19th Century Courtships

COURTSHIP AT THE SODA FOUNTAIN

In towns both large and small, promenading couples stopped at the soda fountain to enjoy a treat and to chat, because it was one of the few places where a proper young lady could go alone with a beau, without risking gossip. A courting couple could share a table with friends or seek privacy at their own table in the back of the store. Lovebirds could order one soda with two straws and hold hands underneath the table. Fountain managers sometimes tried to assist Cupid by serving concoctions with romantic names, such as Lovers’ Delight, Heart-throb, Kiss Me, or Soul Mate.

Lovebirds could order one soda with two straws and hold hands underneath the table.

In industrial towns, soda fountains were a respectable gathering place for young men and women who had forsaken the farm to work in factories and offices. Since many of these youngsters were away from home for the first time and had no friends in town, they were attracted to the soda fountain as a safe place to meet people their own age. In the evenings, the factory girls dressed in their good clothes, strolled along Main Street, and stopped at the soda fountain, where a girl could safely flirt with a young man and perhaps find an escort for the next evening’s promenade.

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~ “Fountains in Small Communities,” SF, Apr. 1907; 25, as quoted in Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains, (emphasis added).

Courting couple sharing a single glass of soda, with two straws; an iconic American “dating” image. This particular image shows the trademarked Coca-Cola-shaped glass and styles of the 1940s to 1950s. Image: Pinterest.

ROMANCE AT THE FOUNTAIN

Soda Shops Which Feature “Soul Kisses” and Similar Fancy Drinks Are Becoming the Modern Trysting Places for Lovers — a Twentieth Century Courtship

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“When love is young all the world is gay, tra, le, la, le, la,” runs the old song. Surely no one is more aware of this truth than is the soda dispenser, to whom flock in this modern age, all the languishing lovers to indulge their appetites for sweets and to sit and stare steadfastly into the depths of each other’s eyes, the windows of their souls, from which are caught glimpses of a Utopian future where all is beauty, sunshine and happiness. Undoubtedly the old writers on ideal states received their inspiration while in love.

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The soda fountain often plays an important part in fanning the flame of love. Sipping a delicious soda or nibbling on a luscious sundae in a clean, bright and charming shop, with perhaps the strains of a popular love song floating upon the air–where could conditions conspire more favorably to evoke amorous emotions and make “John speak for himself?” Even dispensers themselves are not immune from this influence, who feel at times like Ulysses bound to the mast when passing the island where the sirens were singing their songs of enchantment.

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Most men badger themselves that they are masters of their emotions and that they are not intoxicated–or even hypnotized–when they propose. But in reality, the opposite is the truth. The stronger sex is the pursued and the weaker sex, the pursuer. Man is but a puppet and when some woman gets a good hold upon the strings he dances at the woman’s wish, all the time thinking that he jigs on his own volition. All that is necessary for this act is the proper setting of the stage.

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The soda fountain furnishes perhaps the most modern scene to enact the old, old drama of love. Woman, being a creature ever alert to seize upon her opportunities of achieving her mission in life, the captivating of a man, is now using the soda fountain with success in her conquests. True, a great number of dispensers are conspiring with her by giving sodas and sundaes names which enable the heroine of the drama to lead up to the climax easily and gracefully. Many fountain operators are finding there is a great demand for drinks with names like, “Kiss Me Again”, “Some Day”, “Soul Kiss”, “Lovers‘ Delight”. What better could quicken a bashful lover than to have his coy companion say, “I would like a ‘Soul Kiss’, wouldn’t you, John?”

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Much has been written upon the value of understanding human instincts and the shaping of merchandising plans to cooperate with these instincts. What more potent instinct is there than that which urges woman to acquire a husband, or on the other hand, the eagerness of man to be acquired? Thirst and hunger are much less intense than is the sex instinct. This is the reason why many fountain operators are making leaders of concoctions bearing suggestive names written in love language.

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“There is a crack in everything God created,” said Emerson. Likewise there is a flaw in this plan of featuring heart-throb drinks. Girls coming into the shop alone and having only the dispenser to ask for a “soul Kiss,” may try to inveigle him into their snares. But if due caution is used this should not prove a serious objection. Very likely a marriage serum would render immune the average dispenser. Then again, there are those hungering souls, the maiden ladies, who come in and ask for “Lovers’ Delight.” Yet there is no danger here, for they will pay a good price for the drink and depart satisfied, letting their fancy lead them to think that perchance some “Prince Charming” has kissed them. Just notice how tenderly one will press her handkerchief to her lips to take away the moisture left by a “Kiss Me Again”.

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An interesting fountain romance is told by a soda store proprietor of New York, who features drinks appealing to lovers. The story is something like this:

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Florine Baker was a stenographer who worked in one of the big office buildings in the metropolis. She lived in the Bronx and traveled back and forth to her work in the subways. One day, as the train stopped at one of the stations to let on a bunch of straphangers, a fine handsome fellow came into the car and stood right beside her. Being a coy maiden, as stenographers are wont to be, she did not glance at him after the first look. But how handsome he was and the thought flitted across her mind how nice it would be to have a friend like him. Yet she could not glance at him. That would be improper.

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But woman is ever resourceful and Florine soon found she could watch the handsome fellow by looking into the glass in the door of the car. In the New York subway cars the glass, as perhaps you know, has a thick layer of gray dust on the outside, which transforms the glass into a mirror. And Jack Hermitage, for that was the handsome fellow’s name, also glanced into the glass and beheld the girl. Their eyes met and dropped, for they were decorous individuals.

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By some strange working of fate they were both seized with thirst after leaving the train. Florine entered a soda store just in front of Jack, hesitated, looked at the specials posted on the back-bar mirror and flashing her eyes for an instant in Jack’s direction via the mirror, ordered an “I Like You.” Hermitage apparently knew what he wanted for he said in a sonorous tone, “I would like an “I Like You” too.” From this the ice was broken and the two gradually drifted into conversation.

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Every day after this, the soda dispenser relates, the couple used to come into the store. In time Florine ordered a “Kiss Me Again”, and later a “Soul Kiss”. Then one day several months later the pair came in and Florine, in a roguish manner, asked Jack, “Do you want a-a-a “Marry Me Sundae?” Although the dispenser was at the far end of the counter, he heard the passionate words of Jack, “Yes, darling, I want to marry you today.” And they were later married, and lived happily ever after, “tra la, le, la, le, la.”

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While perhaps few romances like this are woven around the soda fountain, undoubtedly many dispensers who feature heart-throb drinks can recall instances where the fountain played an important part in the drama of love.

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Sodas and drinks with names written in the words of love find great popularity in some sections, and if a soda shop owner has not yet tried to capitalize on them, it would certainly be worth-while for him to feature one or two for a few weeks.

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~ “Romance at the Fountain,” in The Soda Fountain, Volume 20 (December 1921), pp 33-34. (emphasis added)

“Glass of Coke, a pair of straws, and thou.” Appears to be a full-sheet Magazine advertisement, probably from the 1980s. 100 years later, the dual-straw image, connecting a Coke to romance, was still going strong. Image: courtesy of Pinterest.

According to NPR.org, the evolution of courtship (in the home) morphing into one of dating, occurred at the turn of the century:

Dating itself represented a historical change. It evolved out of a courtship ritual where young women entertained gentleman callers, usually in the home, under the watchful eye of a chaperon. At the turn of the 20th century, dating caught on among the poor whose homes were not suitable for entertaining, according to Beth Bailey’s history of dating, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America.

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Young couples would go out for a movie or dinner. The expectation was that dating, as with courtship, would ultimately lead to a relationship, the capstone of which was marriage. Precious few of these young women attended college.

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~ Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships, NPR.org, June 8, 2009 (emphasis added)

An 1890s girl with soda. The Spatula Soda Water Guide and Book of Formulas, 1901.

LET ALL DROP BY THIS EVENING (Guys, bring your Best Gal)

Ice Cream Soda Fountain serves New ICE-COLD beverages, advertised in The Indianapolis News of Indianapolis, Indiana on June 20, 1870.

Hartford has Dow’s Ice Cream Soda Machine! Published in Hartford Courant of Hartford, Connecticut on June 4, 1864.

“Ladies at Soda Fountain.” From The Spatula Soda Water guide and book of Formulas for Soda Water Dispensers, 1901.

STRAWS, AT THE SODA FOUNTAIN

If straws were seen as a special element of shared intimacy in courtship (after all, how else could two people share that single glass of soda water?), that raises the curiosity about when straws became commonplace. Two posts ago (The Victorian-era Soda Fountain), I shared a patent image for the “straw-spoon” combination, dated 1901.

Where would courtship be without the use of straws?

Additional straw patents were awarded during the late nineteenth century.

According to National Holiday Calendar, January 3rd is National Drinking Straw Day because Marvin C. Stone (see his patent improvement, two images down…) first patented the paper drinking straw on January 3, 1888.

Artificial Straw for imbibing beverages, patented by L.H. Britton on January 12, 1897. U.S. Patent No. 575,206. Image: Courtesy of Google.

Soda straws have come a long way!

Artificial Straw with double bore patented (as an improvement of previously patented product) by M.C. Stone on June 22, 1897, U.S. Patent No. 585,057. Image: Courtesy of Google.

This invention has reference more particularly to a double paper tube of peculiar construction adapted to be employed for imbibing liquid beverages in a manner similar to the natural straw now commonly used for this purpose. The double tube is made of a single strip of paper by bending the same longitudinally in the general form of the letter B that is to say, the two edges of the straw are turned or curled. inward to form two tubes.

~ Patent No. 585,057 by M.C. Stone

“At Our Fountain”. Image contained within Spatula Soda Water Guide and Book of Formulas for Soda Water Dispensers: A Complete Compilation of Valuable Formulas and Information for the Manufacture of Carbonated Waters, and the  Dispensing of All Kinds of Carbonated Drinks, the Compounding of Syrups, Tinctures, Extracts, Fruit Juices, Etc., Giving Accurate Instructions for the Serving of Each and Every Drink in the Best and Most Attractive Manner Known. By E.F. White, Soda Expert, Editor Spatula Soda Water Department. Published by Spatula Publishing Company, of Boston, Massachusetts, 1901. Find links to this title online, in my previous post, The Soda Fountain: Behind The Counter.

 

 

Up Next!

New at the Soda Fountain: Coca-Cola!

Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC

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