It is ice cream season and Americans can never seem to get enough of that cold, creamy treat. Each year, we make it possible for the industry to produce 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and we spend almost $10 billion on it. It is so popular that July is National Ice Cream Month as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Perhaps no nation on earth has such a passion for ice cream or the determination to improve it with additions to make elaborate concoctions designed to tempt the palate as well as the eye. Banana splits, sundaes, floats, shakes, malts and heaping waffle cones laden with fruit, nuts, sauces and whipped cream are almost too dazzling to eat — I said ALMOST!
Where and when did all this excess begin? Many times, it was in those old time neighborhood pharmacies back at the beginning of the 20th century. Almost all those emporiums had a soda foun-tain advertising the latest over-the-top ice cream creations.
In late Victorian Atlanta, some of the busiest pharmacy soda fountains were in the several stores of Dr. W. S. Elkin. Open 24 hours, the Elkin “soda founts” were famous for their novelties served by “courteous and obliging experts,” who were willing to make whatever combination of ingredients were available or requested — “Don’t forget to ask for what you want!” was their motto.
It is hard to imagine anything beating the excesses of modern times but here are a few of the ones offered at Elkin Pharmacy in 1913. Along with housemade pineapple and apricot sherbets at only five cents, there was also the Maple Nut Sundae with thick maple syrup and loads of Georgia pecans.
You could also get the “Delightful Fruit Pudding” creation. This was ice cream topped with fresh nuts, figs and raisins as well as a mound of whipped cream and the ever popular maraschino cherry. The banana split was already a big hit in 1913 and was made with five ice cream flavors and the housemade syrups from fresh local fruits. All three of these ice cream creations were only ten cents (about $2.00 in modern terms). A bargain for sure just for the ice cream and toppings. But get this — all three specials were served with a large slice of homemade chocolate cake.