Soda fountain a part of Americana

02_sodafountain_2245SODA FOUNTAIN LADIES  — Once a year the ‘Soda Fountain Ladies’ gather at Olson’s Drug for a refreshing soda. This is the 11th year in row the group has come together. Clockwise from the front, this year’s group consisted of Carol Bain, Pat Keil, Donna Kellogg, Linda Sanders and her granddaughter Sophie Sanders, Jean Duncan and Jean Baringer.  I-O Photo by Buck Traxler




Whether they realize it or not, the ladies of the ‘soda fountain’ at Olson’s Drug are a part of history when they gather once a year for a soda.

In their heyday, soda fountains flourished in pharmacies, 5-10 cent stores, ice cream parlors, train stations and department stores.

They served an important function as a public space were neighbors could socialize and exchange  community news.

Soda fountains reached their peak of popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Their decline came about from a number of sources; the car-culture, the rise of the suburbs and Walgreens, one of America’s largest chain drugstores, when they introduced full self-service stores.

Today, only a sprinkling of vintage soda fountains survive, one being right here in downtown Conrad.

In an interesting bit of history, the first of the soda fountains began with the drug revolution in the 1850s.

People would go to the soda fountain to get lit up with some “pep.”

Many fountain drinks made by the early druggists contained cocaine and caffeine. The combination of the two drugs was used to cure headaches and other aches and pains.

These new drugs were looked at as being harmless to the consumer. Doctors, druggists and the public looked at the drugs as being safe and effective.

Then in 1914, the Harrison Act became law and banned the use of  cocaine and opiates in over-the-counter products.

The soda fountain eventually lost the old reputation and became known for serving “soft drinks.”