Carney's Drug Store


September 06, 1992|By Bob Morris of The Sentinel Staff
Every now and then, usually about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the time school lets out, I get the urge for a special beverage. If I’m near a place where there’s even a remote likelihood that one of these special beverages might be served, Ill go inside and order one.
“Gimme a Cherry Smash,” I’ll say.
“We don’t make ‘em,” is the usual reply.
“How about a Vanilla Coke?”
“Nope. Dont make them either”.
At that point, I realize it’s probably hopeless. Still, I have to ask.
“Any chance of getting a Midnight Suicide?”
“Listen,” the person behind the counter will say. “We’ve got Coca-Cola, Seven-Up, root beer, the usual. Take your pick.”
So much for my 3 p.m. pick-me-up. If only Carney’s Drug Store were still around. Doc Carney would have fixed me up with whatever I wanted, then let me sit around reading comic books and wasting time for the rest of the afternoon.
Carney’s Drug Store was where I spent the better part of my youth, at least that crucial portion between the ages of 10 and 16, when I was old enough to wander away from home but too young to drive a car. Carney’s sat on Main Street in Leesburg, my hometown, conveniently located on my route home from school. It was on most every kid’s route home, even if they lived clear across town.
And most everyone I knew raced straight there after school with hopes of getting first shot at the comic book rack and a seat in the infamous Back Booth.
Doc Carney was a dignified old man who wore rimless spectacles and bore an uncanny resemblance to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, especially when he was using his ivory cigarette holder. He wasn’t a pharmacist. And his place was a drug store by name alone.
Oh, it carried a slew of patent medicines, toilet articles and a thorough selection of fishing tackle. But there was dust on all that stuff.
The only thing I ever saw anyone buy at Carney’s was ice cream, homemade lemonade and Doc’s specialty soft drinks.
He never served pre-mixed drinks like most places. If you ordered a Vanilla Coke, it demanded four important steps. First, Doc had to chip ice off a big block and put the chunks into a paper cup. Next, he shot a healthy squirt of cola syrup onto the ice. And then a smidgen of vanilla. The final step was a splash of carbonated water from a big, stainless steel spigot.
If you were a real big spender, you plunked down an extra dime and ordered a Midnight Suicide. For the money you got a little bit of everything that Doc’s spigots would squirt. Cola, grape, orange, cherry, vanilla, chocolate . . . the works.
     Of course, it took Doc a couple of minutes to make one of his special drinks. But the wait was worth it, not only for the drink itself, but because you were entitled to take a seat and help yourself to the magazine rack whenever you bought something.
Unlike other drugstore owners, Doc never made kids actually buy comic books if they wanted to read them in his place. Whatever was in the racks was yours to flip through.
I killed many an afternoon following the exploits of Superman, Batman and Alfred E. Neuman from a chair at Carneys..
But the real adventures came in the Back Booth.
It had high side panels and gave occupants a bit of privacy. More than one teen-age love affair began and ended in the Back Booth. The walls of Carney’s were testament to that. Doc let you write anything you wanted to on his walls, as long as it wasn’t dirty. Decades-old inscriptions reached to the ceilings, scrawled in lipstick, crayons and Magic Markers: “Lynne luvs Tony,” “Ricky and Suzanne 4-Ever” and “Flush toilet twice, Mt. Dora needs the water.”
Doc Carney died, oh, 20 years ago. His wife tried to run the drugstore for awhile. But it was too much for her. The last time I checked it had been turned into a pawn shop.
I got to thinking about Carney’s the other day when I stopped at a convenience store. A bunch of kids, just let out of school for the afternoon, were standing in line by the door. Mainly because a sign said: “Only three students in store at one time.”
Inside, the three kids who had been granted admission were filling their cups with one of those frozen slushy concoctions that contains more air than anything else.
I walked by the magazine rack. A sign said: “If you read it, you buy it.”
No, it wasn’t Carneys. It wasn’t even close.