For my high school graduation in June of 1984 my granddaddy took me out to eat to the fine dining establishment of my choice. So we went down to the Sonic Drive-In near where he lived in Memphis, just a little ways from the Summer Twin Drive-In Movie Theater.
The Sonic was notable because you could sit at the counter and watch your food being prepared, and — for me — because you could order a real live cherry coke. This was before any of the soda brands offered a “cherry” version. At the Sonic, your waiter would retrieve a frosted glass mug from the depths of the ice cream freezer, then scoop it full with crushed ice. At the soda fountain, coke or sprite was dispensed into the mug, and then a squirt of cherry syrup and a maraschino cherry — two if you were lucky — were added. It was delivered to the counter with the waiter’s handprint just beginning to etch itself on the white frosty handle.
My granddaddy, on the other hand, loved Sonic for their milkshakes. Again, the process started at the waist-high chrome freezer. When the waiter opened the top a giant cloud of cold air erupted, and he would reach in with bare and muscled arms to scoop the made-from-scratch ice cream into an aluminum blender. At least once I saw a female waitress ask one of the guys to scoop the hard-as-rock ice cream for her. Milk and other desired ingredients were added (chocolate syrup and bananas were a favorite) and the whole concoction was blended into a smooth and delicious shake, served up in a frosty mug.
To this day my mother eats ice cream most days, just like her father does. Me, I wish I had a way to make crushed ice. But otherwise, my cherry cokes are most happily made the real old-fashioned way.
Image credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr