Ice Cream Pharmacy

George Bailey making Mary a chocolate ice cream with coconuts at his drugstore job.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say the ultimate holiday movie is It’s A Wonderful Life. Each December, local channels pull the movie out of their vault and play it yet again. Even though I’ve watched it more times than I can remember, I saw something this past year that I’ve never noticed before.

Early in the movie, young George Bailey shows up for work at old man Gower’s Drugstore. In that scene, George’s future bride, Mary, orders chocolate ice cream. George asks if she wants coconuts which Mary replies, “I don’t like coconuts.” George then calls her “brainless” for her decision. The part I just caught this time around is George ignores Mary’s request and puts coconuts on top of her ice cream anyway.

Normally, I’d say that missing this little fact is quite understandable, except, I love the pharmacy scene. Not only is the overall scene important to the movie, but I’m completely taken by the old time drug store that has a soda fountain/ice cream shop in the front. It’s a business I was quite familiar with in my youth but rarely see these days. That’s not to say you can’t find one.

The Fair Oaks Pharmacy soda fountain.

While I think there’s a drug store/soda fountain in most every state, the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain in South Pasadena, California provides the most authentic step-back-in-time experience. Opened in 1915 (when George Bailey would have been eight years old), the Fair Oaks Pharmacy almost appears frozen in time. The soda fountain decor is truly early 20th Century with chrome and red cushioned counter stools, antique lighting, a tin ceiling, and honeycomb tile floors.

These furnishings set the stage for an old-fashioned ice cream experience where soda jerks make egg creams, malts, shakes, phosphates and sundaes worthy of earning the Los Angeles Times‘ title of “Best Ice Cream Sundae.” Taking a quick look at the ice cream menu, there are quite a few ice cream desserts and sundaes including something called The Kitchen Sink. It features eight ice cream flavors, eight toppings, banana and brownie chunks and goes for $35.00.

As for the other ice cream desserts, Mary Bailey need not worry. I didn’t see one that came with coconuts.

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