Ohio soda fountain

Visiting an Old Soda Fountain that Turned Out to Be an ’80s Time Capsule

We stumbled upon a country store in Ohio this weekend with an old soda fountain said to have been in continous operation since 1957. Judging by the inventory of the store, its heyday happened smack in the 1980s.

Behind the fountain was a room crammed with books and other items. Randomly parked in one aisle was a tall L’eggs “sheer energy” display case. These white shelving units held plastic eggs full of pantyhose and were inexplicably everywhere in the 80s.

I skipped the phosphate and headed down memory lane.

I was on the cusp of adulthood in the ’80s and didn’t need pantyhose yet, but the showcase of shiny eggs captivated me as kid. I’d go to the convenience store for candy, pop open a few eggs and imagine the careerwoman I’d become. A teenager’s Easter egg hunt. I favored the burgundy color.

I thought about the tagline sheer energy. This was the era when many moms, including my own, went off to work for the first time since raising kids.

L’eggs hosiery are still sold today, minus the egg. Boo.

I made my way over to the greeting cards section. I hadn’t thought about how the shape of cards has changed. In this era, they were taller, rectangular – and raunchy! The first one I picked up read:

HUGS AND KISSES

And inside …

AND MORE IF YOU’RE LUCKY!

Wink wink.

I made my way over to the “housewares” section, which was full of wallpaper, especially borders. Man, those were popular in the 80s. They transformed any mom with a free weekend and a step ladder into an interior decorator.

We passed a nook of cleaning supplies. My mom pointed out that Fels-Naptha will remove any stain with just a little bit of scrubbing.

I wound my way through shelves of books and stacks of records. I remember lots of moms reading Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel in the 80s.

There were dusty albums everywhere, some in milk crates. I thought about how I went off to college with my life’s possessions in milk crates in the late 80s, then built a shelving unit with them with my roommate in our dorm. We thought we were so clever! Milk crates were the IKEA furniture of the 80s.

I looked down. At my feet was a Disney album called Mousercise.

This little 80s throwback tour was special because the store wasn’t selling the items from the 80s that would make valuable collectibles people might actually want to buy.

There weren’t any Swatch watches, Apple IIe computers, or a pair of perfectly preserved mom jeans.

The stock just happened to be from the 80s, as if people still needed wallpaper borders or a recipe from the Rodale Cookbook.

In that way, it was more of a museum than a store. It seemed like the merchandise might remain for another 40 years.

On our way out, the nice woman behind the soda counter told us the author of The Empire Strikes Back, Leigh Brackett, lived in this town of Kinsman, Ohio, just a couple blocks away.

Brackett, hailed “the Queen of Space Opera”, was the first woman shortlisted for the Hugo award. She published her first books in her 20s and went on to write dozens of novels, short story collections, and screenplays, including The Big Sleep.

Sheer energy.

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