A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 10, 2019
Sweet Water Chemist (soda jerk)

"Sweet water chemist” (or “sweet-water chemist") is a fancy name for a “soda jerk(er).” The name became popular when many soda fountains were located in drugstores.

“Sweet-water chemist” was printed in the Montgomery (AL) Advertiser on February 14, 1930, and “sweet water chemist” was printed in The Evening Reporter-Star (Orlando, FL) on August 23, 1932. Soda fountains began to disappear by the 1950s and the term “sweet water chemist” is of mostly historical interest today.


14 February 1930, Montgomery (AL) Advertiser, “The Passing Throng” by Atticus Mullin, pg. 2, col. 3:
Otto Dees, former soda dispenser at Hamrick’s, isn’t dispensing soda any more. Otto now is dispensing jazz with a capital “J.” The sweet-water chemist profession lost its charm for Otto when he learned to toot a saxophone and now he has taken up what he hopes will be a more entertaining and lucrative vocation.

23 August 1932, The Evening Reporter-Star (Orlando, FL), “Grist,” pg. 1, col. 1:
Chemist
MY SODA SKEETING FRIEND INSISTS THAT HE IS NOT A SODA JERKER, BUT A SWEET WATER CHEMIST.

2 November 1933, The Evening Reporter-Star (Orlando, FL), “Grist,"pg. 4, col. 4:
Fancy
Everyone’s going fancy these days. The undertakers are “morticians.” Publicity men are “public relations counselors.” Legislators from Pumpkin and Onion county refer to themselves as statesmen and not a few newspaper reporters refer to themselves as journalists. But the climax was capped the other day when we encountered the dispenser of soda who said he was a “sweet-water chemist.”

15 April 1934, Miami (FL) Daily News, “Soda Jerkers Coin Own Talk” by Margaret M. Miles, pg. 10, col. 2:
And here the professor stopped, the sweetwater chemist drifted away and the bubble engineer confessed himself as having run out of drinks.

25 April 1934, Austin (TX) American, “Short Answers” by Robert Quillen, pg. 4, col. 3:
All is comparative, and a sweet-water chemist in a hick-town drug store calls farmers darned hicks.

13 December 1935, San Diego (CA) Union, “The Northeast Corner” by Nor’easter, pg. 4, col. 7:
A San Diego girl refers to her boy friend, who is a soda squirt, as a “sweet water chemist.”

9 June 1938, Kerrville (TX) Mountain Sun, “It Happened Here” by N. S. G., pg. 8, col. 4:
The tall Nordic, blonde, Dudley Johnson, at the Blue Bonnet Drug has lots of fun, and is teased a lot. He says he has gone for all sorts of titles, “soda jerker,” “soda dispenser,” “sweet water chemist,” and the latest is “fountaineer.”

3 September 1939, The Sunday Sentinel-Star (Orlando, FL), “Inside Dope on Lake County” by Ormond Powers, pg. 17, col. 5:
The lingo of the drug store boys has always seemed to us nothing short of marvelous. With the help of Guy Neal of Leesburg, who seems to be perfectly at home with simple syrup and cracked ice, we have prepared a list so you can marvel, too.
(...)
And soda jerks, strangely enough, are “sweet water chemists.”

10 June 1951, Miami (FL) Sunday News, “A Language Of Their Own” by Harvey Keller, Miami Sunday News Magazine sec., pg. 4, col. 1:
A second youth directed the sweet water chemist, more commonly known as a counterman, to “Stretch one, paint it yellow.” He received a large coke with a dash of lime.

13 August 1964, Orlando (FL) Evening Star, “Oysters Available At Holiday Inn” by Hanley Pogue, pg. 7-D, col. 6:
Joe is one of the fast disappearing craftsmen who were known many years ago as a “Soda Jerker,” “Soda Skeet,” or a “Sweet Water Chemist,” and in his Yum Yum SHoppe everyone can become his own “Soda Jerk.”

Google Books
Kiss Me Soldier Boy:
American Wars with the Rainwater Sons

By Julius Rainwater
iUniverse
2011
Pg. ?:
He is still living with the McLaughlins and working at Chapman Drug store as a sweet water chemist.

26 April 2011, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Deaths: Clarence ‘Pete’ Peterson” by Linda Florea, pg. B8, col. 1:
While a student at Orlando High School, he rode his bicycle downtown to work as what he called a “sweet-water chemist,” also known as a soda jerk, in the former San Juan Hotel.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • Sunday, March 10, 2019 • Permalink