The United States of America has provided much inspiration for Scarborough attractions – past and present. Scarborough Zoo was intended as a ‘mini Disneyland’ and its successor, Marvel’s boasted stars and stripes flags and colour schemes to match. Likewise the allure of the brash American funfair was emulated in the naming of Coney Island (formerly Jimmy Corrigan’s Amusements on the Foreshore) and Luna Park.
A little earlier, the Corner Cafe had its own taste of the American Dream – in the form of a Soda Fountain.
Above: An American soda fountain – the Corner Cafe version was modelled on such establishments (source)
A soda fountain is, quite simply, a machine that dispenses carbonated drinks. Although the idea originated in Europe, it was in the USA that it found fame. The design was developed during the 1800s, and soda fountains were typically found in chemist shops, ‘candy’ (sweet) stores and ice cream stalls. Sometimes the business itself was referred to as a Soda Fountain or Soda Bar.
Above: The more recognisable modern day version of a soda fountain (source)
Also known as the Soda Bar, the Corner Cafe Soda Fountain occupied a small booth alongside the main cafe area. Not only did it sell carbonated drinks, but there were also sundaes, iced drinks and a variety of egg cream drinks (including Horlicks and lemon flavour). The latter, surprisingly, may not have contained eggs at all; later versions of the drink (reputedly invented in the late 1800s by Louis Auster – American candy store owner) consisted of milk, soda water and flavoured syrup.
Above: A nostalgic egg soda drink kit – such beverages are no longer as popular as they once were (source)
Horace Gough was the proprietor behind Scarborough’s Corner Cafe Soda Fountain. He is pictured in an old newspaper article (with his establishment) in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.
Due to copyright restrictions the image cannot be reproduced here.
The exact dates of operation are somewhat unclear, but it is likely that the Soda Fountain was in business either during or just after WWII (the Corner Cafe was severely damaged during the war). Although the Corner Complex opened in 1925, Stories From Scarborough has thus far been unable to locate any records mentioning a soda fountain prior to the 1940s/50s.
Above: On the left you can see the Corner Cafe – the soda fountain would have been located in one of the booths inside the archways (from the author’s collection)
Gough wasn’t the only person in Scarborough to capitalise upon the success of the American soda fountain. Rival firm Evelyn’s was located on the South side – on the Windmill site at the Foreshore to be precise. This spot, next to the central cliff lift, now stands empty, but was once home to Scarborough’s Grand Restaurant – an impressive venue that could cater for 2000 people at a time. Built during the 1800s, it was badly damaged by the German bombardment in 1914, and was later bought by Scarborough Council in 1949. It was demolished shortly after to enable the widening of the Foreshore road.
Above: The restaurant below the Grand Hotel (from the author’s collection)
Evelyn’s soda fountain operated at a similar time to Gough’s, although the former opened before the latter. However, whilst Evelyn’s establishment likely ended when the adjoining restaurant was demolished (if not before), the Corner Cafe has maintained a long tradition of fizzy drinks and ice cream. It is unclear when the Soda Fountain disappeared, but an ice cream stall remained a consistent fixture at the Corner Complex until its closure and subsequent demolition.
You can view pictures of the demolition process here.
Today the Corner looks completely different. The old building was demolished in 2007, as part of the Sands redevelopment project, and was replaced by modern apartments and shop units, including the Waves Cafe. Coincidentally the mother and son duo who opened it in 2009, previously worked in the Corner Complex ice-cream parlour.
Above: Promotional image depicting the new Sands development (source)
Soda fountains and egg cream drinks may have been relegated to the misty realms of nostalgia, but their legacy has shaped the consumption of seaside beverages in the present day.
Do you remember the Corner Cafe? Did you visit the ice cream parlour or even the soda fountain? What do you think of the new Sands development? Please comment below.
Old newspaper articles at the Scarborough Room in Scarborough Library