Lewis Grizzard once ordered a ham sandwich from the Springlake Drugstore Soda Fountain.
When the sandwich came out, they forgot his chips, a row of which hung on the wall behind the counter. So he told the woman who was serving him.
“You have two legs. Get your own tokens, ”was the response.
This, my friends, is the charm of a long gone Buckhead.
In his remembrance of the neighborhood mainstay, Grizzard wrote about the wino, Barney, who often sat in front drinking a bottle from a brown paper bag. When neighborhood children threw stones at him, he chased them away.
Barney thanked him by asking him for a dollar.
The famous newspaper columnist lamented the last soda fountain in the Atlanta Constitution on September 8, 1980. We can circle that date, plus or minus a month, like when the Springlake Pharmacy closed. The owner sold the property to a developer, wrote Grizzard, who quickly bulldozed it. Today is a new location for Chase Bank.
For four decades, the pharmacy occupied this corner. The first record, one of the few I have found, is from the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Berkely Park Historic District.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Springlake Pharmacy was nestled at the intersection of Howell Mill and Collier Road. At the time, the area was considered rural. According to the nomination form, a streetcar came to Howell Mill and stopped at Collier. Springlake was the end of the line until the streetcar ceased operations in 1949.
For the neighborhood, it was a place to buy toothpaste, aspirin, magazines, and candy bars.
But he was best known for the soda fountain, that old-time lunch counter where you could order a tuna fondant and an iced Coke.
In fact, former Coca-Cola Co. historian – excuse me, director of heritage collections – Ted Ryan told online publication Bitter Southerner that he visited the Springlake Pharmacy in the 1970s. and ordered a coke with a shot of cherry, vanilla or chocolate. This was before you could buy a bottled drink with flavors already added. Of these, Coke chocolate has yet to catch on, thank goodness.
Neighborhood kids cycled and hung out at the drugstore, Dr David Lowance told the Buckhead Heritage Society. This is where people went for ice cream after church or a milkshake.
“In Springlake you have a human hand built milkshake that puts real ice cream in a mug with real milk and you can drink it the way the Lord intended,” wrote the Grizzard Grizzly.
This is not a place that I know of. Buckhead was smaller when I went up, determined more by where your mom shopped than anything else.
For us it was the A&P of Peachtree Battle Mall, “The Hole”. Our drugstore was Kings Drugs, and the only thing unique was that all you needed to buy anything was your last name.
Our ice cream and milkshakes – a Coke float for me – were hand picked at Baskin-Robbins, and still are.
The feeling, however, is the same. In Kings’ case, it’s Rite Aid today, but it’s a far cry from what it was then.
Even if it remains, the character of the place – the ladies behind the counter who answered your question with a joke or told you to go out if you’re not going to buy anything – is long gone.
Thornton Kennedy is the chairman of PR South, a public relations firm and a former editor of that newspaper. He can be contacted at [email protected].