No one who knows me would remark to anybody else that there is a sprig of the artist sprouting in my makeup. It doesn't show from any angle from which one can view me. It doesn't exert itself except on occasions and no one but another artist of the same category could recognize it.
There is at least one fellow in Hazard who has the same artistic whim. He is Hal Cooner of the Hal Cooner Studio and this has nothing to do with photography. Hal is a good man in his profession. I've has some experience in mine. We both have a common ground, appreciation of an art that has disappeared almost from the scene.
A discussion of this almost-gone art occurred a few days in a place where soft drinks and sundaes are served. The eating of a sundae and the watching of several sodas and sundaes being served to other persons brought up recollections. We both talked about times we worked behind fountains, back in the days when fountain work was more than a job. It was a privilege, an opportunity to be something "extra" in a community, not just a soda jerk.
Maybe it was Hal who started the subject. "I remember when I worked at a fountain, when a fellow who served what we get today would be looking for another job next day," Hal mused. "This is nothing more than a scoop of ice cream with some flavor slapped on the sides. No thought behind it, no effort, no art." He sounded sad.
I could understand such words. I felt just as Hal. Art of a grand stature of years ago...going...going...almost gone. It has been run over by the modern times, degraded by the hurry of today.
There was a time when a banana split bought most anyplace, was a delight of color and fascination, created by a fountain artist who knew just how to cut the long golden fruit which formed the base in a long, shining clear glass container. The ice cream was not slapped onto the dish, but placed there gently in varied colors, each with a tantalizing beckoning, as if the handler loved what he was doing. The many fruits that sought to hide the glow of the ice cream, and failed, were an artist's effort to outdo the rainbow, and the gently crushed nuts were placed lightly as culler would handle a diamond. And the marshmallow, always a "must," was guided around the edges of the dish to form a white rivulet which reflected the peaks of the ice cream now capped with flaming red cherries.
That, my friends, was what used to be placed before anyone who ordered a banana split. It represented time, affection, and love of customer. It was never meant to be disheveled, rushed and smeared. It was never meant to be created by anyone but an artist's hands. It was never meant to be ordered by anyone but one who had time to relax.
Hal and I didn't stop with banana splits. We talked about the careless sodas of 1955, the ruthless creations now called sundaes. Just ice cream and fruit or ice cream and water to too many fountain workers today. We longed for the old days, and as we did we let our tears fall into the mess that would have been a beautiful concoction several years ago.
We didn't blame the boys and girls, men and women who work behind soda fountains today. We blamed their bosses for failing to insist on the artistic standards that once lived. 1955