Counter top served up scoops of Glen Burnie history

October 22, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

For more than a half-century, elbows leaned on it, scoops of vanilla ice cream plopped onto it, sodas dribbled foam on it. For generations, anyone who was anyone wanted to be seen next to it after school or after the movies.

Now, the Art Deco-style, green marble soda fountain counter from Albrecht's Pharmacy in Glen Burnie is for sale.

It is to be auctioned Saturday in Timonium as part of a nationally advertised auction of country artifacts and advertising memorabilia. Also on the block will be the ceramic-handled dippers and original Coke and Pepsi dispensers from the former neighborhood drug store.

Charles Schurman, who bought the building on Crain Highway earlier this year, originally planned to use the counter, but changed his mind when a tenant wanted to rent the space.

"If the fountain could talk," said Ted Sophocleus, who 40 years ago used to come to Albrecht's from Baltimore with a quarter in his pocket for a soda and a double-dip cone -- and still have a dime left over.

Albrecht's started in 1920 as a grocery store with a post office, soda fountain and patent medicines. It became a pharmacy a few years later when the owner, Louis DeAlba, hired a pharmacist and began carrying prescription drugs, according to the 1972 book "History of the Town of Glen Burnie" by Ruth P. Eason.

Mr. DeAlba sold the store to Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Duff, who sold it to Walter Albrecht in 1928.

Mr. Albrecht and his brother, William, also opened pharmacies in Linthicum and College Park. And they made legendary ice cream in the back of the Linthicum store.

The chocolate milk shakes were so thick they defied gravity from glasses turned upside down. Customers counted on surprise ice cream flavors, as Walter Albrecht tinkered with such exotic ones as licorice and orange.

"The word got out that the ice cream was good," recalled Mr. Sophocleus, who spent many a dime on a double-dip there before he graduated from high school in 1957.

So good, the former county council member from Linthicum said, that when the top fell off his double-dip rocky road, "I scooped it up and I ate it. If I had the chance, I'd lick the counter, too."

And it was quite a counter, a veined bright green marble top, 11 feet, 8 inches long. Vertical inlays of gray marble are trimmed with the green on the front. Horizontal stripes of the two marbles make a 6-inch wide band along the floor. It weighs more than 1,800 pounds.

Bill Nevin, who grew up around the corner from Albrecht's, recalled running down Central Avenue with his brother, Bob, for a nickel Coke or a vanilla cone.

In the 1920s, customers came from miles around to see the silent movie in town, then headed to Albrecht's soda fountain.

A decade later, they went to the talkies, and then to Albrecht's. And a decade after that, it was the weekend double feature, which included a serial and cartoons, and then to Albrecht's.

In the 1940s and '50s, nearly every drug store in town had a soda fountain. And each one had a following. Albrecht's was a low-key, family-oriented drug store where doctors wandered in and out and the pharmacist offered a little free medical advice.

Muriel Carter, who graduated from Glen Burnie High School in 1943, worked in Albrecht's after school, building rock-solid arm muscles from dipping ice cream she served to friends.

"It was a place where the kids used to come, which is one of the reasons I used to work there," she said.

But Albrecht's fell victim to big, discount chain stores. It closed about a decade ago after changing hands one more time.

By the time Mr. Schurman bought the building and the one next door, the soda fountain counter was one of the few items that survived the rains that leaked through the old roof and vagrants who holed up in the empty building.

Mr. Schurman spent about $2,000 refurbishing the counter, which he planned to place in a show room for a homebuilding and remodeling business he was relocating in the old building.

But he rented the space, instead, to an antiques mart and has no use for the counter.

Unlike collectibles people buy on a whim, the counter is the kind of item a buyer already has plans for -- most likely for a bar, said Richard Opfer, whose auction house is running the sale Saturday.

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