Behind the Scenes of BREATHE: The Franklin Fountain

September 25, 2018


It’s Travel Tuesday! Today, we are going behind the scenes of BREATHE to The Franklin Fountain in historic Old City Philadelphia. Most Americans associate soda fountains with 1950’s culture and old-timey diners (Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe from Riverdale, anyone?). What you might not know is that soda fountains were a staple of most pharmacies in the late 1800s. Back then, fizzy and phosphated drinks were sold for medicinal purposes. In fact, in 1886, Atlanta pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola syrup from the extract of coca leaves and kola nuts. He took this syrup to his local pharmacy where they mixed it with carbonated water and sold it as a tasty elixir to help with fatigue and headaches. Did Coca-Cola contain cocaine as urban myths have suggested? Maybe. This Snopes article breaks it all down. In a nutshell, probably yes at first but in trace amounts. Though they may have started out as medicinal products, the popularity of soda fountain drinks and ice cream creations found at pharmacies continued to increase throughout the early 1900s, especially when Prohibition took hold in the 1920s and people needed somewhere wholesome to congregate. The history surrounding soda fountains is so interesting that I knew I wanted to put one in BREATHE. And, yes, some Philadelphia matrons (like Margaret’s mother) forbade their daughters to go to such--in their minds--seedy establishments.


In Chapter 18 of BREATHE, I send Virginia to a pharmacy with her older sister Kit and Kit’s beau Grayson for some specialty treats after school.

“Now then, what decadence shall we indulge in today, ladies?” Grayson hands me a menu.


Kit removes her gloves and tucks them into her handbag. “I’m still recovering from luncheon with Mother. I’ll just have a lime rickey.”


Presuming that I should follow Kit’s lead, I put the menu down. “I’ll have the same.”


“Now I feel like a glutton for wanting a banana split. Are you sure a boring old lime rickey is all you crave?” Grayson smiles conspiratorially at me. “Surely I can tempt you with an ice cream sundae?”


Kit chuckles. “If Mother is making dinner, I suggest you do.”


I look over the menu again. There are so many creations I’ve always wanted to try that it’s hard to make a decision. At least I can cross anything that has lemons in it off the list. I don’t need any reminders of Marco.


“I’ll have the Broken Hearts sundae.” I finally decide.

So what is the Broken Hearts sundae exactly? This glorious creation!


As Virginia describes later, the Broken Hearts sundae includes three small balls of vanilla ice cream sitting in a heart-shaped glass dish. It’s decorated with mashed strawberry sauce, whipped cream, and two wafer-like cookies. I took some artistic license and added a few whole strawberries to the dish for a specific reason. And Virginia is right. It would have been decadent for her to be able to eat strawberries in late September.


The best part about this, all the treats are real items that you can buy at The Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia. I first came to this 1917-themed ice cream parlor and soda fountain shoppe over a decade ago when I was first researching BREATHE. Though I turned The Franklin Fountain into a pharmacy for the book, the treats Kit, Grayson, and Virginia have come directly from The Franklin Fountain’s menu. When I was in Philadelphia recently, I went back to The Franklin Fountain. Twice. Friday night, Wonder Twin and I had a lime rickey (me) and a lavender soda (her). We came back on Sunday afternoon to split the sundae. Still two thumbs up, though I may have to go back again the next time I’m in Philadelphia to be really, really sure. I would do that for you, dear reader.


The Broken Hearts sundae isn’t difficult to make. If you feel inspired to create your own version at home, please take a picture, post it on your favorite social media, and tag me. I’d love to see what you make!


By the way, the Berley brothers who own The Franklin Fountain bought Shane Confectionery next door in 2010 and have brought all the turn-of-the-century sensibilities back into this store, too. If you love history, chocolate, and behind-the-scenes TV shows like Unwrapped, stick around. I have a whole post about Shane Confectionery coming up.

There you go. A sweet, behind-the-scenes peek into BREATHE. Want to see how all these details weave into the story? You can buy the paperback version of BREATHE here and the eBook here.


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