While bellying up to the bar at the original Boone Drug Store downtown, I took a look across the counter and thought “Boy, those guys are jerks!” and well, they were, Soda Jerks from years ago! Soda jerks got their name from jerking the lever on the soda fountain while making ice cream sodas at the drugstores back in the day. A real treat on a warm afternoon. In the 1950s and 60s, the position was coveted and only the best would hold the title. When Drive-Ins and Fast Food joints became popular, the drug store soda fountain faded with the times. These three original drug store soda jerks are rare, but in Boone they tend to make an appearance every once in a while.
Well, on this day, who would you guess was behind the counter at the old drug store but Cheap Joe, himself. Joe Miller, the pharmacist gone art stuff guru, was right at home, literally, at Boone Drug. Joe was actually born in front of the drugstore in his parent’s car many years ago. And many years after that fateful day, Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff was born there as well. While working as a pharmacist, Joe started selling art supplies in a small corner of the drug store with a hand printed sign overhead reading “Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff.” Well, look at him now!
Joe took our order and kept on the go, as more of Boone’s locals were filing in to be served. It was all in a day’s work though, for Joe and two other local jerks, Jim Furman, Wendy’s owner and Boone Drug’s manager and pharmacist, John Stacy, as they all participated in the annual Celebrity Serve for Boone’s Oasis Program. This local charitable event raises funds to provide care and assistance for women in abusive situations. The jerks had their hands full with refilling drinks and wiping tables, but at the end of the day, it was quite the happy reunion for the reminiscent trio who are always willing to lend a hand.
There may be a day when you are on King Street in Boone, NC, that you’ll find yourself wandering into the old Boone Drug. And if you are lucky, you might just get to exclaim, “There’s those jerks, I’ve heard tell of, and Boy, she was right!” Those guys ARE jerks! It might even leave you thinking, “Man, I wish I was a jerk, too”
Have a Happy (Soda) Jerk Day!