Dear Readers:

I was surprised when several members of my critique group, youngsters that they are, were unfamiliar with various things discussed in my Great Depression novel. One of them was the term “soda jerk.” During my early years in small town Minnesota, my Mom would periodically send me, my Dad, and my big brother off to the local drug store to pick up a prescription or two. My Dad had a sweet tooth and my brother Royce and I would happily ride along to the pharmacy, salivating as we anticipated a stop at the soda fountain just opposite the drug counter. “How’s about a black cow?” my Dad would ask and we would all belly up to the bar for an afternoon treat. So I was surprised when I described one of my characters as a soda jerk and got some puzzled responses from my peers reviewers. Antibiotics were just emerging on the scene in 1939, the year of my tale. So enterprising business men were busy concocting remedies for common ailments. The list included everything from upset stomachs, scurvy, and typhoid fever to syphilis. The remedies often consisted of horrendous tasting ingredients. So the patient would limp from the pharmacy counter to the soda fountain, where the soda jerk would disguise the vile-tasting powder using sweet, flavored syrups and sparkling water. A scoop or two of ice cream didn’t hurt. So, viola, the restorative power of dessert started the healing process whether the ingredients had any affect on the illness. The plot thickens.

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