by Bill Cook
is one of a series about some of the memorable landmarks on
the Southside during the Fifties. If you have a favorite landmark
that you'd like to see featured here on the website, please
contact me and we'll get a picture of it up for viewing. And
if you'd like to write an accompanying piece for it - please
let me know - another perspective besides mine might be refreshing
to our readers.
among us can say we never had a Coke at Scurvy Erv's Soda Fountain?
I know I can't. I can still smell the mustiness of the place
and see the display windows piled high with merchandise that
only Erv Himself could sort through for a customer.
When you walked into his store, your first impression
was that you'd entered someone's garage and that they were getting
ready to back up a dump truck to the place and cart everything
off. There was no rhyme or reason on how Erv arranged things.
Only he knew the key to find whatever it was that you wanted
and usually in less than 30 seconds, he'd find it and ring it
up on the cash register.
I first met Erv when he drove a Crosley. Rumor has it that he had parked it one
day on the street at the north end of the Southside High School
building and a bunch of Clionian's or Alpha Zeta's carried it
up the stairs of the school and put it into a hallway. Erv,
shocked as to how it got there, was left with the task of getting
it back outside and onto the street. This was almost believable
because a Crosley was about half the size of a Volkswagen Beetle
and weighed almost nothing. So maybe it happened. Anybody know
Most people don't know this, but my Dad (Clay,
the barber next door) owned the building that Erv had his store
in. For some reason, he would seldom admit it in public. My
dad bought the building back in the mid-40s and opened up a
soda shop, moving his barber shop into the building (prior to
that, he had been located over on Luce Street, just off Maple
Avenue). In the early Fifties, he sold the soda shop to a pharmacist
who converted into a drug store - it remained that way a very
short time until about 1954 when Erv bought the business and
started converting the store into what it finally became when
we were teens at Southside, a mish-mash of paraphernalia on
which Erv made his living. Erv finally bought the building from
my dad in 1959.
Scurvy Erv's (as it came to be known by Southsiders)
was open all hours of day and night. Erv usually worked the
night shift and you could stop in after 1AM and find him asleep
in the phone booth. You'd go back, tap on the window of the
phone booth and wake him up to make your purchases. Just another
piece of Fifties trivia that we find unbelievable today. But
this is the way it was back in the Happy Days decade of our
A few SHS grads will admit to having worked there.
Dan Reibson ('58), Nancy Wood ('58), Steve Eastman ('59), Mike
Reidy ('60), Bob Allen ('62) are among them. Anyone else out
there who'd like to come clean?
In 1998 I visited Elmira and took the picture
that you see at the top. This is how it appeared then. It has
since been torn down. Scurvy Erv's had gone out of business
some years prior to my visit, but it was still piled high with
junk, and if you approached the front window and peered in,
there it was just like when we were teen-agers. It looked like
Erv just got tired of coming to work one day, locked the door,
Bill is an author and columnist now residing
in New Smyrna Beach Florida. You can usually find him wandering
about town looking for a story. Maybe yours will be his next
tale. You can read more of Bill's published stories at his website
or write to him at POB 1029, New Smyrna Beach FL 32170.