My chocolate malt was a tad thicker and creamier than any that I have had in years. Topped with a mound of whipped cream and a single stemmed maraschino cherry, it was more than tasty . . . for me it was a flashback to the days of Billy Hailey, Chuck Berry and the Big Bopper. This was the real deal right in the middle of Corsicana, Texas.
Originally opened in 1905, The Diner on North Beaton Street is the oldest continually operating soda fountain in Texas and with the same ice cream machine purchased in 1922 it still cranks out old-style Dr Pepper floats, sodas, sundaes and banana splits to customers from the Piney Woods to Waco and north to Ennis.
It’s been years since I had a Purple People Eater – a tall drink of grape soda and vanilla ice cream, or a Brown Cow – an incredible mix of root beer and chocolate syrup with vanilla ice cream. When was the last time you even heard of a Phosphate? For readers under the age of 50, a Phosphate is a well balanced mix of flavored syrup and soda water over ice. The perfect combination should be left to the professionals like Pepper, our waitress and hand scoop extraordinaire.
As we sat at a red vinyl booth it was impossible not to take in the history around us. The scuffed, stained floor was worn white tile with Art Deco patterns in black, red and teal green. The matching green and red counter was original with a row of chrome-railed red and black vinyl swivel stools. Above the mirrored back wall behind the counter hung a large sign from the early days that read “Hashop Drugs – ice cream”.
Well used Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper fountains rested on the counter top as customers sat and enjoyed their meal to either side.
I ordered my cheese burger done the old fashioned way, the way burgers used to be served up during the heyday of diners and soda shops. It was loaded with great taste and better memories.
As I savored those memories along with the ¼ lb. stack of beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and extra mustard, classic country tunes from the ‘60s floated over head. If only for a moment it was small town Texas from decades past and I was hanging on to every second of it for as long as I could.
When the check came I quickly returned to present day reality . . . there was no 5-cent dipped ice cream or 15-cent soda on my tab like there used to be. But, the modern day price was well worth the cost of admission to this malt shop memory maker in Corsicana.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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