Lewis Grizzard once ordered a ham sandwich from the soda fountain at the Springlake Pharmacy.
When the sandwich came out, they forgot his chips, an array of which were hanging on the wall behind the counter. So he told the woman serving him.
“You got two legs. Get your own chips,” was the response.
This, my friends, is the charm of a Buckhead that disappeared long ago.
In his remembrance of the neighborhood mainstay, Grizzard wrote about the wino, Barney, who often sat out front drinking from a bottle in a brown paper sack. When some neighborhood kids were throwing rocks at him, he chased them off.
Barney thanked him by asking for a dollar.
The famed newspaper columnist was lamenting the last soda fountain in the Atlanta Constitution Sept. 8, 1980. We can circle that date, give or take a month, as when Springlake Pharmacy closed. The owner sold the property to a developer, Grizzard wrote, who promptly bulldozed it. Today, it is a newer Chase Bank location.
For four decades, the pharmacy occupied that corner. The first mention, one of just a few I found, is from the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Berkely Park Historic District.
In the 1930s and ’40s, nestled at the intersection of Howell Mill and Collier roads was Springlake Pharmacy. At the time, the area was considered rural. According to the nomination form, a streetcar came up Howell Mill and ended 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.
It was also a pharmacy.
But it was best known for the soda fountain, that lunch counter of yore where you could order a tuna melt and an ice-cold Coca-Cola.
In fact, former Coca-Cola Co. historian — excuse me, Director of Heritage Collections — Ted Ryan told the online publication Bitter Southerner about going to Springlake Pharmacy in the 1970s and ordering a Coke with a shot of cherry, vanilla or chocolate. This was before you could buy a bottled beverage with flavors already added. Out of those, chocolate Coke has yet to catch on, thank goodness.
Neighborhood children rode their bikes and hung out at the pharmacy, Dr. David Lowance told Buckhead Heritage Society. It is where individuals went for ice cream after church or a milkshake.
“At Springlake, you got a milkshake constructed by a human hand scooping real ice cream into a cup with real milk and you could drink the thing as the Lord intended,” the grizzled Grizzard wrote.
It is not a place with which I am familiar. Buckhead was smaller when I was coming up, determined more by where your mother shopped for groceries than anything else.
For us, that was the A&P at Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, “The Hole.” Our drug store was Kings Drugs, and the only thing unique about it was all you needed to buy something was your last name.
Our ice cream and milkshakes — a Coke float for me — were hand-scooped at the Baskin-Robbins, and still are.
The sentiment, however, is the same. In the case of Kings, it is a Rite Aid today, but it is a far cry from what it was back in the day.
Even though it remains, the character of the place — the ladies behind the counter who answered your question with a quip or told you to get out if you aren’t going to buy anything — is long gone.