50th Post! Fair Oaks Pharmacy

This post is my 50th post which is a huge milestone for myself. I have you, the readers to thank for that. If it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t have the motivation to write a post everyday. So a big thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I like writing it. I have always wanted to visit a real Soda Fountain. These are usually located in Pharmacy’s and the first ones ever introduced date back into the early 1800’s. This one is located in South Pasadena in California. As you may have noticed there is a huge following for retro/vintage scene in the Los Angeles area. I am not sure why that is but its great none the less. The Fair Oaks Pharmacy has a website you can check out, just point your browser to: Fair Oaks Pharmacy

The soda fountain was made with attempts to replicate mineral waters that bubbled up from the Earth’s crust. Many civilizations believed that drinking and/or bathing in these mineral waters cured diseases, and large, profitable industries often sprang up around hot springs, such as Bath in England or the many onsen of Japan. Thus, it is not a surprise that early scientists tried to create effervescent waters with curative powers. These scientists included Robert Boyle, Friedrich Hoffmann, Jean Baptiste van Helmont, William Brownrigg, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, and David Macbride. In the early 1770s, Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman and English scientist Joseph Priestley invented equipment for saturating water with carbon dioxide. In 1774 John Mervin Nooth demonstrated an apparatus that improved upon Priestley’s design. In 1807 Henry Thompson received the first British patent for a method of impregnating water with carbon dioxide. This bubbly water was commonly called soda water, even though it contained no soda.

The soda fountain began in Europe but achieved its greatest success in the United States. Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemistry professor, was among the first to introduce soda water to America. In 1806 Silliman purchased a Nooth apparatus and began selling mineral waters in New Haven, Connecticut. Sales were brisk, so he built a bigger apparatus, opened a pump-room, and took in three partners. This partnership opened soda fountains in New York City and Baltimore, Maryland. At roughly the same time, other businessmen opened fountains in NYC and Philadelphia. Although Silliman’s business eventually failed, he played an important role in popularizing soda water.

In 1832 John Matthews of NYC and John Lippincott of Philadelphia began manufacturing soda fountains. Both added innovations that improved soda-fountain equipment, and the industry expanded as retail outlets installed newer, better fountains. Other pioneering manufacturers were Alvin Puffer, Andrew Morse, Gustavus Dows, and James Tufts. In 1891 the four largest manufacturers—Tufts, Puffer, Lippincott, and Matthews—formed the American Soda Fountain Company, which was a trust designed to monopolize the industry. The four manufacturers continued to produce and market fountains under their company names. The trust controlled prices and forced some smaller manufacturers out of business.

Before mechanical refrigeration, soda fountains used natural ice to cool drinks and ice cream. Ice harvesters cut frozen lakes and ponds into large blocks of ice in the winter and stored the blocks for use in the summer. In the early 20th century, new companies entered the soda fountain business, marketing “iceless” fountains that used brine (cold salty water).

A soda fountain as we know it today.

The L.A. Becker Company, the Liquid Carbonic Company, and the Bishop & Babcock Company dominated the iceless fountain business. In 1888 Jacob Baur of Terre Haute, Indiana founded the Liquid Carbonics Manufacturing Company in Chicago, becoming the Midwest’s first manufacturer of liquefied carbon dioxide. In 1903 Liquid Carbonic began market-testing its prototype iceless fountain in a Chicago confectionary. Louis A. Becker was a salesman who started his own manufacturing business in 1898, making the 20th-Century Sanitary Soda Fountain. In 1904 Becker’s company produced its first iceless fountain. In 1908 William H. Wallace obtained a patent for an iceless fountain and installed his prototype in an Indianapolis drugstore. He sold his patent to Marietta Manufacturing Company, which was absorbed by Bishop & Babcock in Cleveland.

Liquid Carbonic spawned another leading soda fountain manufacturer, the Bastian-Blessing Company. Two Liquid Carbonic employees, Charles Bastian and Lewis Blessing, started their own company in 1908. The newer manufacturers competed with the American Soda Fountain Company and took a large share of the market. The trust was broken up, and its member companies struggled to stay in business. During World War I, some manufacturers marketed “50% fountains,” which used a combination of ice and mechanical refrigeration. In the early 1920s, many retail outlets purchased soda fountains using ammonia refrigeration.

Rare survivors: Soviet-style self-service soda fountains in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in 2007

In their heyday, soda fountains flourished in drugstores, ice cream parlors, candy stores, dime stores, department stores, milk bars and train stations. They served an important function as a public space where neighbors could socialize and exchange community news. In the early 20th century many fountains expanded their menus and became lunch counters, serving light meals as well as ice cream sodas, egg creams, sundaes, and the like. Soda fountains reached their height in the 1940s and 1950s. With the coming of the Car Culture and the rise of suburbia, they began to decline. Drive-in restaurants and roadside ice cream outlets, such as Dairy Queen, competed for customers. North American retail stores switched to self-service soda vending machines selling pre-packaged soft drinks in sealed metal cans, and the labor-intensive soda fountain didn’t fit into the new sales scheme. Today only a sprinkling of vintage soda fountains survive.

In the Eastern Bloc countries self-service soda fountains, located in shopping centers, farmers markets, or simply on the sidewalk in busy areas, became popular by the mid-20th century. In the USSR, a glass of carbonated water would sell for 1 kopeck, while for 3 kopecks one could buy a glass of fruit-flavored soda. Most of these vending machines have disappeared since 1990; a few remain, now usually provided with an operator. (Info from Wiki)


In the “good, old days,” it was convenient for people to meet at the corner drug store to grab a bite to eat, enjoy a hand-dipped milk shake, pick up a prescription, buy some candy for the kids, and find gifts and greeting cards for every occasion. Situated on the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street in historic South Pasadena, California, Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain brings back the days when the corner drug store was the social hub of America’s small towns.

Originally named the South Pasadena Pharmacy when it opened its doors in 1915, this South Pasadena landmark was known as the Raymond Pharmacy throughout the 1920s and ‘30s and was a popular rest stop on the westernmost end of Route 66. Today’s Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain was restored in the early 1990s to its original turn-of-the-century splendor. Authentic tin ceilings and honeycomb tile floors, and a complete set of antique pharmacy fixtures and an original soda fountain all the way from Joplin, Missouri, to round out the store’s vintage interior décor. Coincidentally the heirloom fixtures were purchased from the Me Gee pharmacy located in Joplin Missouri on Route 66!

Step inside Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain and you will find that while the ambiance may be “vintage,” what we have to offer is thoroughly modern:

  • Pharmacy – a state-of-the-art, computerized pharmaceutical facility that offers compounding to fit each individual patient’s needs and fertility medication. We accept most third-party insurance plans. And most importantly is a caring and compassionate pharmacy staff led by owner, and Pharmacist Dr. Zahra Shahniani.
  • Total Health Center – consult with our clinical pharmacist about any of your health concerns. We offer blood pressure monitoring, medication reviews and emergency contraception. And when flu season hits, we are usually the first pharmacy to offer flu vaccinations!
  • Soda Fountain – we use only the highest quality ice cream for our hand-dipped shakes & malts, fancy sundaes, ice cream cones and other frozen concoctions. Order an old-fashioned phosphate, lime rickey or egg cream and our specially-trained soda jerks will give you an authentic taste of a by-gone era. Our Lunch Menu features a wide variety of specialty sandwiches and salads, hot dogs and hamburgers.

  • Gifts & Greeting Cards – We have every occasion covered, from Valentine’s Day to Christmas, baby gifts to 50th wedding anniversary cards! We specialize in retro memorabilia including unique toys and collectibles. And, whatever the season, expect to find distinctive, one-of-a-kind gifts elaborately displayed throughout the store.
  • Bath & Body – from the familiar Crabtree & Evelyn, Caswell-Massey, Thymes Ltd. to the trendy Blue Q, Primal Elements, Archipelago Botanicals. And we carry the full line of Ahava skin care products. We offer only the finest lines of bath and body products. Jewelry from Liz Palacios and La Vie Parisienne by Catherine Popesco. Fashion accessories and apparel from Loop NYC, Lounge Fly, Tokyo Bay, Red Tango, Junk Food and Mighty Fine.
  • Vintage & Unusual Candy– If you’re looking for vintage and unusual candy look no further we’ve got it! From Black Jack gum:

to Mary Jane:


This is one place that has really survived all the change in this world. I truly appreciate business’s and establishments that due to their lease and location they are saving pieces of history. I plan to visit the Pharmacy on my next trip to Los Angeles. Just the atmosphere alone is worth the trip.

Trip to LA = $200

fresh flavored soda = $3.25

experiencing one of the best American treasures and receive an authentic taste of a by-gone era  = priceless.

Thanks for reading,


Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 8:57 PM  Leave a Comment  
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