Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green Lantern Fountains 1929-1931

On June 1, 1929 an announcement appeared in the Los Angeles Times which promised to revolutionize soda fountains in Los Angeles. The Green Lantern Fountains would fulfill all wishes you could have for your soda fountain; cleanliness (‘always spic and span – with an attendant to match!’), courtesy (with ‘action courtesy, not words’ not just a “Thank You!” with the check ‘there’s too much of that kind’. And not a ‘soda jerker’ in sight), good food and drinks (‘before long they will be famous all over the city for the tempting way they are served, for their flavor-quality and their variety’). This was not a new chain of stores, they were independently owned and operated by established druggists. All sundries were concocted ‘with a chef’s skill’ and ‘every fountain was serviced daily, insuring always fresh ice cream’ and the benefit of ‘chain store convenience and uniformity’. Every Green Lantern Fountain (sponsored by the California Consumer’s Company) was ‘rigidly supervised and frequently inspected to insure that these standards will be maintained’. Who knew there were so many filthy soda fountains run by unkempt folks in Los Angeles?

The president of the company, A.V. Wainwright, knew. The folks behind Green Lantern Fountain had interviewed hundreds of local women who were asked to describe their ideal fountain. Their answers spawned the new company which included experimental dietary kitchens and a training school for fountain attendants. And respondents requested that the ice cream doesn’t taste like ‘store’ ice cream. The Green Lantern ice cream was created in their catering kitchens and contained a high butter fat content which gave it ‘that rich creamy taste’.

Green Lantern Fountains formally opened at 8pm on the evening of June 1, 1929, signaled by the flashing of dozens of their signature lighted green lanterns and a ‘get acquainted offer’ of a 65 cent special ice cream brick for the low discount price of 40 cents. The brick was a combination of ‘creamy Vanilla ice cream, fresh orange juice Sherbet, and fresh California Strawberry ice cream. New specials seem to pop up every week. Mid-June 1929 saw a coupon for a 10 cent fresh peach sundae (any flavor of ice cream covered with fresh peaches, California walnuts, fresh whipped cream and a cherry), mid-August 1929 it was a chocolate ice cream soda for 15 cents, late-August it was ‘Fruit Bowl Week’, and then they began touting their ‘New Green Lantern malted milk’. There was always reason to celebrate at Green Lantern Fountains! From October 18-20, 1929 there was an Autumn Open House, celebrating the success of the chain’s first season. The ice cream brick that accompanied this celebration was concord grape juice sherbet and a layer of black walnut ice cream. Should you have money you’d like to invest- ‘in certain Green Lantern stores, ice cream and fountain sales had increased as much at 89.3% in 1929’ an ad boasted in February 1930.

The holiday ice cream molds were amazing, each slice in the brick of ice cream revealed a themed design. Halloween saw them come out with a ‘pumpkin center’ mold; at Christmas time there was a ‘bell-center’ mold; New Years’ brick held a layer of vanilla ice cream, a layer of frozen fruit nesselrode- rum flavor, and a layer of peach ice cream; for Valentine’s Day there was a ‘heart-center’ mold; St. Patrick’s Day held a ‘shamrock center’ mold; your Bridge tournament could feature a ‘Spade’ center of the finest black walnut ice cream; Easter held a ‘chocolate egg’ mold; Mother’s Day was a silhouette of mother done up in cherry-fruit ice cream; Independence Day saw the red, white and blue stripes of fresh Strawberry ice cream layered with Vanilla and Plum Fruit; Washington’s birthday held ‘frozen cherry fruit pudding within vanilla ice cream’.

By June 1930 they were gunning to give Orange Julius (which whipped up their signature drink in 1929 on Broadway in Los Angeles) a run for their money with the new Valencia Frost Crème – ice cream blended with frozen orange juice by the “electric whip”. Late summer 1930 found them touting Green Lantern sandwiches with ‘higher food value due to milk bread, fresh creamery butter, large slices, generous fillings.’ The last mention of the Green Lantern Fountains I found was an LA Times ad in June 1931 read ‘Goodbye Teacher, Goodbye School’ and featured the layers of Almond Nut (which always screams ‘School!’ in my mind), vanilla and fresh strawberry ice creams. I'm not sure what ultimately lead to their downfall....