Even having two teen aged kids at home, raising Flying Squirrels Grey Squirrels, and every other kind of a critter that I brought home, she still had time to run a soda fountain, with my aunt Vivian as a partner.
My mother, Elsie Branscomb and my aunt Vivian Newland owned a small soda fountain and hamburger grill in Garberville back in the late fifties called Owens Alley. It was the quintessential “Chocklit Shop” right out of an Archie Comic book. The shop was literally built in an alley between the Ford garage and the Unique Log House. It was about ten feet wide and maybe fifty or sixty feet long all together.
Most all of their customers were "regulars". People that worked in town would have their lunch there, and they always had a large after school crowd. The grammar school kids would come in and have their after school treat to tide them over until dinner. The high school kids would come in on the bus from Miranda and they would gather there. It was more a social gathering than food eating, but they would all enjoy a treat before heading home.
One gentleman that my mother remembers well was a world famous man that most of the north coast surfers will remember. Doctor John Ball was the town Dentist back then. I still have a tooth with a root canal that Dr. Ball put in for me. He used to have lunch there every day. He was a health nut even back then, and he used to worry about what was in everything. The one downfall that he had was that he got hooked on moms “Sweet-potato Pie”. He never asked what was in it, he would just order his wicked little treat, and eat it like he was a little kid with candy.
Dr. Ball made his own surf boards back then, and he helped a friend of mine build one out of plywood. It was hollow inside and it was fiber-glassed on the outside. It was about nine feet long.
The fountain served any kind of a sweet concoction that you can imagine. We made all of our own Ice Creams and Ice Milks in the ice cream machine right out front. I say “we” because I used to work there after school. So, I get “part-time” credit. The ice cream room was state certified and it had to be built to state standards to sell ice cream that was made for retail sale. It had concrete floors and walls up four feet, with a central drain for hosing out the room on a regular basis. I’ve often wished that houses were built that way, so instead of dusting and cleaning all the time, all you would have to do is get out a hose and hose everything , dust and all, to the central drain.
We had a full “Soda Fountain” with the Swan-Neck tall faucets. One for soda water, and one for fresh water. We had all of the little tubs filled with strawberry sauce, pineapple sauce, and chocolate. We had pumps with every kind of syrups known to mankind.
We made malted milkshakes on order. One person that came in liked a chocolate malted milkshake, with a raw egg in it, then all whipped together on the milkshake mixer.
One of my girlfriends liked a chocolate cherry coke, and she always wanted me to make it for her because it had extra stuff in it that wasn’t really on the menu. The standard drink was three pumps of syrup, and soda water mixed up with ice. We would put an extra pump of syrup in the drink no-charge, but she liked three pumps of coke syrup, one pump of cherry syrup, and one pump of chocolate syrup. I had to sneak the extra pump of syrup past my mom. (I think she knew, but she liked all the kids that came in there, and the pretty much got anything they liked.)
I’ve said before that we made all of the ice-creams for the upscale restaurants in the area at the time. We were the only ones that could provide the restaurants with the high butterfat content and freshness that they required in their ice-creams. So we were kept quite busy with making ice-cream out front.
I think that the best way to describe the place, is that it was the Starbucks of the fifties. Everybody had their own custom designed drink or fountain treat made to order. My personal favorite drink was a Vanilla Soda. Three pumps of vanilla, one scoop of vanilla ice-cream, soda water, then blended on the mixer with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the top. That’s called a “Soda”. A freeze is soda and ice cream mixed on the mixer, like a Brown Cow, which was Root Beer and ice cream mixed on the mixer. A Purple Cow was grape soda and ice cream mixed. A Pink Cow was Strawberry soda and ice cream, unless you wanted a Cherry Pink Cow, which was cherry syrup, soda and ice-cream mixed.
The shop also had a broiler grill that they made hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, and hot dogs on. They also served a variety of cold deli sandwiches.
Boy, has this ever been a trip back in time for me. One of my old girlfriends from Alaska stops into the store once or twice a year and we reminisce about the good old days, when all we had to do was hang out in a soda fountain. (It’s okay, my wife and her are friends.)