The Soda Shop
My daughter Maggie will be home from college next week, and we’re going—where else?—to the Soda Shop.
The Elliston Place Soda Shop is a Nashville institution—the city’s oldest continually operating restaurant in its original location—but more importantly for us, it’s a family tradition.
The tradition, like the Soda Shop itself, began in 1939. That was the year Lynn Chandler added a lunch counter to his Elliston Place Drug Store. My dad, Paul Kidd, was a student at nearby Peabody Teachers College, and he would stop by after class to sip a milkshake.
After graduation Paul returned more frequently, on doctor’s orders if you can imagine that. He was incredibly thin, and his family doctor prescribed a milkshake a day. I want that doctor.
Years later, in 1997, Maggie was born across the street at Baptist Hospital. The day after Maggie’s birth, I got tired of hospital food and found myself gazing wistfully out the window at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, by that time a free-standing restaurant. My wife Yvonne, surely a mind reader, said I should go, and I did.
Maggie and Ron
We blinked, and Maggie started preschool, just a block from the Soda Shop. Thursday night became our father-and-daughter date night. She would drag me down the sidewalk and through the door, where we’d be greeted by our favorite waitress, Miss Barbi. The dishwasher, Mr. Carl, would come out to say hi, and once he gave Maggie a shiny dollar coin.
Red vinyl booths lined the wall, but we always sat at the counter, where Maggie ordered macaroni and cheese, which is considered a vegetable in the South. I’d get black-eyed peas and cornbread. Often we’d be joined by Mr. Keith, a salesman at Gruhn Guitars on Broadway, who complained about his customers but only had smiles for Maggie.
Between bites of macaroni, Maggie would ask for quarters and go to the back of the shop, to a vintage jukebox loaded with music from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. She would drop in her coins, press the buttons, and out would come music by the Everly Brothers—maybe “Bye Bye Love” or “Wake Up, Little Susie,” recorded less than a mile away on Music Row.
Maggie, Ron, and Paul
Next week we’ll be back at the Soda Shop. We’re hoping to see Miss Barbi. Macaroni and cheese may be involved. The Everlys could make a comeback. And at the end of the counter, twenty-year-old Paul will give us a nod and a smile, then turn back to sip his milkshake.