This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An old soda fountain

As a result of writing the blog, I have become much more interested in other small cities. When I visit them, I am always looking for similarities and differences. What do they have that Rensselaer has, and what do the have that is different from what Rensselaer has?

Last week I spent part of a day in Ely, Nevada and noticed that they had something that Rensselaer does not have, an old drug store with a soda fountain.
My father operated several drug stores as we moved from one small Minnesota town to another when I was a child, though none had a soda fountain. However, when he was a teenager, he worked in the drug store that his adoptive parents owned, and he did work in a soda fountain there. I do not recall him saying much good about the experience, which may explain why he never wanted one.

I vaguely recall someone telling me that the original Longs had a soda fountain in the early 1960s, and I would not have been surprised if there were others.
For some reason the chains of drug stores, the Walgreens and CVSes have not invaded some of the small cities in the isolated west, but even so, Ely will soon lose this soda fountain. The store, Steptoe Drug, which is the oldest licensed pharmacy in Nevada, has been bought out by a grocery store, and the pharmacy department will move to that location. The soda fountain and the rest of the store will be closed down. I wonder if they realize that they are losing a bit of history.

By the way, Ely is very different from Rensselaer. It was founded as a mining town and there very little agriculture in the area. Much that was there has been bought out by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which supplies water to Las Vegas. Vegas wants to pipe the little water that is in this part of the state several hundred miles south to supplement the water that it gets from the Colorado River, and it is not doing a very good job of running the ranches that it has purchased.

Some other differences: Ely has a small Indian reservation on the south part of town, a large railroad museum with its original and impressive train station, a tourist industry, and casinos. Also, White County Nevada has legalized prostitution, so it also has a red-light district.

PS: Here is a little video I took while I was in the area.


Zibby said...

Long's Drug Store was one of THE places to hang out back in the day. I worked as a soda jerk there '56-'58.

Butch Long said...

There were essentially 2 distinctly different Long's soda fountains one on the north side of Washington near the the intersection of Van Rensselaer and the other on the south side of Washington in the middle of the block where w moved to in 1959 and where it was destroyed by a fire in 1964 or 65.

There were several groups who used the soda fountains as handouts...the dountown merchants who gathered there in the early morning to start their day with coffee and conversation. The second group were the students after school...since "main" street was only a 3 block walk after school the soda fountain was packed with students within only a few minutes of the final bell. The 3rd group was the most unusual and only gathered there for a couple of weeks a year. The Chicago Bears were forbidden by George Halas to frequent any of the taverns in town, and the time being before convenience stores often hung out in the soda fountain...their biggest passion was the frshly made lemonades and ginger-ale coolers (lime and orange).