It was the first real job. I had a steady babysitting gig with the owners of a local pharmacy, just walking distance from my home. They lived in an apartment above the store. When I turned 15, they moved me downstairs, to the soda fountain.
The counter seated 12. There were a few regular lunch customers, but it had a reputation for being a local teen hangout, much to the dismay of the owner. They came to socialize, not to spend money. It looked very much like this one.
We served the usual fare…fountain drinks, ice cream treats, hot soft pretzels, light sandwiches heated in infrared ovens, canned soups. At the end of the counter was a tobacco station…pipe and chewing tobacco, cigars, cigarettes; no restriction on who could purchase them.
It had a very old, manual cash register that was a challenge at times. Taxes needed to be calculated and posted. Change was counted aloud, the old-fashioned way. Math skills were important.
The shiny, stainless steel bins were filled with fruit flavorings, ice cream, sundae toppings, nuts, and Coca Cola syrup, which was also dispensed in the pharmacy counter as a health remedy for stomach ailments.
Sadly, the soda fountain did not survive. It was more nostalgic than profitable and was replaced by a greeting card display and gift center sometime in the 1980’s.
The pharmacy was sold, its owner went to work for a CVS store in the center of town. It is now an ethnic grocery store, serving a much-changed neighborhood.
But for a while, in the 1960’s, we were the “most popular” and, at the rate of 85 cents an hour, some of the most underpaid “gals” around.
There was a greater benefit. It set me on a path of regular employment, financed my teen years, got me away from some familial responsibilities, and was a great boost to my budding social life.
Plus, I just liked saying that I was paid to be a jerk.