The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Rooney column was originally published Feb. 4, 1985.)

"The good old days" have never interested me much. Most days, both old and new, are good. I like remembering familiar and pleasant old things, but it doesn't pay to spend much time thinking about them. You can probably guess what's coming. I'm going to talk about "the good old days."

I saw a picture in the paper of a lot of kids hanging around a video game parlor and I got to thinking that they're missing one of the best places there ever was to hang around in: the drugstore. The drugstore I knew as a kid had nothing to do with medicine. The drugstore to us was the place with the stools, the soda fountain and the wire-legged chairs around a few white marble tables. It was where my mother sent me to buy Cliquot Club ginger ale or a quart of hand-packed chocolate ice cream.

There were lots of things we did in the drugstore. We weighed ourselves on the scale, twirled around on the high stools in front of the fountain and drank sarsaparilla, root beer or Coca-Cola. Pepsi wasn't in the picture yet.

Each of us distinguished ourselves by ordering our Coke a different way. We never had it just plain. We'd order "a cherry Coke," "a lemon Coke" or "a vanilla Coke." When someone wanted to be different, he'd order "a chocolate Coke." That was a terrible combination.

At one point, some of the older kids--real tough guys, we thought--started whispering among themselves. After they ordered their Cokes, they'd furtively slip something else into the glass. The rumor had spread that adding an aspirin to Coke would make you high and that's what they were doing. It was as close as we ever got to the drug scene.

Some of the drugstores had a magazine counter and kids would stand there for hours looking at racy publications like Photoplay, with pictures of Bebe Daniels or Dolores Del Rio in bathing suits.

All druggists were called "Doc." They hated their ice cream fountains, but having one helped pay the bills so they kept them. "Doc" provided services for which he'd be sued out of business today. If you got something in your eye or a splinter in your hand, you didn't go to the doctor then, you went to "Doc" and he removed it. Today a pharmacist hardly dares recommend a cough drop for fear he'll be accused of practicing medicine without a license.

I don't buy medicine in Baskin Robbins, but I miss buying ice cream at the drugstore.

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