Ok, I can hear all you logical people out there. “Cherry Coke is not a color, it’s a flavor.” Oh yeah? What if I wrote, “The body lay in a pool of sticky blood the color of cherry cola.” Then it would be a color. So there.
I tasted my first cherry coke at Carmen’s Drug store in Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Our family doctor had his office in Prairie Grove so every time Mama took Grandma for a check-up or just anytime we happened to be in town, we’d top off the visit by going to Carmen’s Drug Store.
Carmen’s had wood floors that creaked with every step and big dark ceiling fans with black metal. No matter how hot it was outside, Carmen’s was cool and shady. The store smelled of perfumes,old furniture polish, and just plain age. A soda fountain with steel bar stools and big glass mirror behind it stood to the right. Toward the back of the store were the high-backed booths the color of mustard with brown leather seats. We always sat at a booth. Grandma, Mama, my brother, and me. Grandma would buy. Ten cents bought a big cold, frosty class of coke with a splash of cherry flavoring. Mama wasn’t a fan of cherry however, so she always got a vanilla coke.
Mr. Carmen was tall and skinny with white hair. Friendly, but to a kid of four or five, kinda scary. Mrs. Carmen was round as a whiskey barrel and talked non-stop. She wore her hair pulled back in a bun and wore black glasses. She loved it when we came into the store because she got to see “those darling Burkett Twins.” Sometimes she’d sit with us and have a coke as well. I remember the tables had gum stuck to the underside and Mama always told my brother we were not to chew it.
Isn’t it funny what a kid remembers? I have no idea what made me think of Carmen’s and cherry cokes. The memory just popped into my head last night while I was trying to sleep. It was a bitter/sweet kind of memory. Made me happy and sad all at the same time.
I loved going to Carmen’s as a kid. I loved returning there last night, almost fifty years later.