"A Retreat from the heat"

from the Memphis Magazine City Guide, August 2022

By Vance Lauderdale

“If you’re reading this City Guide in August, you’ve endured days when temperatures topped 100 degrees. To take your mind off that misery, I wanted to share this wonderful photo of an old-timey soda fountain, with a clerk — ice cream scoop in one hand, crunchy cone in the other — eager to serve you an ice-cold sundae, soda, malt, milkshake … whatever you desired.

Look at the eye-catching signs, the neat shelves of saucers and dishes, the soda dispensers, the milkshake mixers ready to churn ice cream. Don’t you feel better — and cooler — already?

An enterprising fellow named Harold Fortune deserves credit for your brief respite from the heat. Born in Kentucky in 1883, he came to Memphis when his family opened Fortune-Ward Drug Store on Main Street. Working there as a teenager, he noticed the soda fountain attracted more customers than the pharmacy. In fact, some days (and nights) the drugstore was so crowded that motorists would park outside, and carhops would bring them frozen treats — making this business our city’s first “drive-in.”

In the early 1920s, Harold opened his own soda fountain at Union and Belvedere (shown here), followed by a larger establishment, also on Union, called Fortune’s Jungle Garden. But why sell somebody else’s products? Fortune opened his own factory behind the Belvedere location, dispensing cartons of ice cream with the distinctive blue-and-white Fortune’s label.

They’ve melted away over time — the drive-ins and the factory, along with other soda fountains here that dished out “America’s Finest Ice Cream.” But look again at the photo, taken by Memphis photojournalist Don Newman. Admit it — can’t you taste a frosty chocolate soda, maybe a double-scoop sundae?

Surely you feel just a little cooler now?