I have often joked that when I was considerably younger I was a soda jerk and now I’m just a jerk. I did work at the local candy store in the 60’s and later. Spent much time in the place I called “Irving’s” even earlier. I remember it well.
Irving’s had a small store front which was comprised of the newspaper stand and the candy display, located on Broadway between 81st and 82nd. You entered the store proper through a door which was angled to share an entry space with, if I recall correctly, a Chinese laundry next door.
Directly in front of you, when you entered, was a counter top behind which were racks of cigarettes and just over the counter, to your left, was the sliding glass door to the candy display. Here stood Irving or Joe minding the window and selling the smokes.
To the right on the other side of the counter, on both sides of a walkway there were all the paraphernalia for making sodas and ice cream dishes, sinks for cleaning up and the soda spigots.
On the public side of the counter, down to the right were the counter stools for those of us who ate or drank in the shop. Behind us there was the comic book rack which rose way above my reach. Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris and so many many others resided back there. I remember them as 10 cents in those days.
If you walked further into the back of the shop you passed a wooden phone booth on your left and racks of magazines on your right. I wondered if there was anything besides storage in the back room.
This is where I learned the proper way to make an egg cream. If you wanted smooth, this was the way: chocolate syrup, milk, stir until a smooth looking chocolate milk, leave the spoon in the glass, add seltzer to the tipped glass, stir again and serve.
We served only Breyers Ice Cream. Today as then, I am in awe of Breyers’ vanilla. I made a mean ice cream soda too and in those days a malted actually had malt in it (those mixers were loud). Chocolate malted was my favorite, strawberry ice cream soda was my favorite; I never had any kind of egg cream except chocolate.
I did fool around behind the counter before I was old enough to work but I did actually work for Irving and his father-in-law Joe. So I really was a soda jerk.
Irving’s was not a hang out for a group of us but it was a place I frequented probably more than once a day for many, many years. Joe was older and a little scary. He was my father’s height, no more than five, six with short cropped white hair. I remember a glare and a bark but he could be made to smile.
Irving was probably five nine or ten. I remember black hair and a kind and friendly manner. He even came to my Bar Mitzvah. He was one of those West Side institutions that my dad and I shared.