by Rose-Mary Rumbley
You know you're old when you can remember seeing a SODA JERK at a Soda Fountain! Now, you Boomers probably do not know what I'm taking about, unless you happened to frequent the Highland Park Pharmacy on Knox Street. There was always a soda fountain there, but it's gone now. The building was torn down. It's called progress!
Soda water was created by Joseph Priestley, an English scientist who lived in the middle 1700s. This bubbly water was prescribed for upset stomachs, thus it was distributed at pharmacies from a spigot! That's why soda fountains were found in drug stores. My mother always gave me a Coke when my stomach was acting up! Carbonated water can be an instant cure!
I just recently read that writer Jack Kerouac, singer Patsy Cline, and artist Andy Warhol all worked as "soda jerks." The name developed with the soda. The spigot of carbonated water had to be "jerked" in a certain manner to make the soda fizz. Soda fountains blossomed in the 1930s and 1940s, but they were a thing of the past by the late 1950s.
The most famous Soda Jerk in the world was Wade Morrison, who came to Waco, Texas, from Virginia in 1885 and bought the Old Corner Drug Store. He was in love with a Doctor's daughter in Virginia and the doctor didn't think he was worthy of a doctor's daughter. After all he was just a Soda Jerk. The doctor suggested he leave!
Wade left, came to Waco, Texas, and there bought a drug store. He named it "The Old Corner Drug Store" and it's still on the corner in Waco. He had a pharmacist, Charles Alterton, working there, and it was he who created this special drink that the people truly enjoyed. R. H. Lazenby dropped in one day, tasted it and decided it should be bottled in Dallas.
"What will you name this great drink?" Morrison was asked. Former Soda Jerk, Wade Morrison, said, "I'll name it after the doctor who threw me out of Virginia, Dr. Charles T. Pepper!"
This story cannot be proven, but as I always say, "Don't let the truth interfere with a great story!"
The next time you're in Waco, don't stop with Chip and Jo, the Fixer Uppers, store, but be sure to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum. It opend in 1904 in Waco and the fine displays will tell you all of the great stories about Texas' favorite drink, Dr. Pepper.