by David Cecelski
At Davidson College, the prestigious liberal arts school founded by Presbyterians in Davidson, in Mecklenburg County, in 1837, the Soda Shop has been a cherished part of student life for more than half a century. I was there earlier today and I can see why the students are so fond of the place. Nothing is fancy, but you can get pretty much any kind of sandwich you want, hamburgers, hot dogs, and some delicious sweet potato fries. There are also great drinks: fresh-squeezed orangeade, lemonade and limeade, milk shakes, floats, ice cream sodas, phosphates and fountain sodas. The shop is full of Davidson College T-shirts, photographs of the college’s basketball team and all manner of Wildcat memorabilia.
When you’re at the Soda Shop, you can imagine the young’uns saddling up to the counter to have a burger and a limeade with a new friend or maybe to soothe a broken heart. Or you can picture them sitting in one of the booths and sipping a vanilla Coke while they discover Aeschylus’ plays or James Baldwin’s essays for the first time. I’m sure they return years later, too, to remind themselves of their younger days and the people that they loved while they were here.
Opened in 1951 and previously named the M&M Soda Shop, after the original proprietors, Mary Potts and Murray Fleming, this little café is located a block from the college on Main Street. If you come, be sure to visit the unforgettable little memorial to the college’s alumni who died in the Second World War. It reads: Dedicated to the Davidson alumni who gave their lives in the service of their country so that those who live could fight for peace and justice. A gift from the classes of ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’47, the memorial lists the names of 160 young men.
Also, if you come on a summer evening, like I did, try to make it a Sunday evening. On many Sundays, the Town of Davidson hosts an outdoor concert on the green in front of the town library, just across Main Street from the Soda Shop. Tonight it was the Carter Brothers out of Nashville—Appalachian folk/rock/bluegrass/gospel. A big crowd sits on lawn chairs and blankets, people bring picnic baskets and eat supper, and a few adults and lots of little children dance.
photos by David Cecelski