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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • Soda fountain-of-youth

  • Restoration project underway for piece of downtown Wellington nostalgia.
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  • Today, Wellington teens converse through text message and social media.
    In yesteryear, asking that special girl on a date started at a different place -- at one of several pharmacies that lined Washington Avenue.
    Pharmacies started selling soda water as a cure-all for a variety of ailments. The flavoring soon followed, and the concept of a soda shop was born.
    Teens quickly converged and lasting memories began.
    It was a different time, but those memories will soon be flooding back – ironically because of social media.
    Jami Kuchar created a Facebook page called, "Historic Wellington, Kansas."
    Kuchar is a Wellington native that loves this town. As a child, she wanted to restore the Antler's Hotel. She was a little late on that; it was demolished in the 90's.
    In high school, she helped paint the mural facing the south side of the Memorial Auditorium.
    "When we moved into our house, I wanted to build a soda fountain in the basement. I asked if anyone had pictures of any old fountains. Around Christmas time, I was looking back at some old messages. Kip Etter responded."
    Etter didn't have pictures. He had her fountain.
    He had recently purchased a building (and its contents) downtown to open the 'The Dore.' Fortunately for Kuchar, it had something she wanted – the Lawrence Drug Soda Fountain.
    "I was going to put it in my basement and preserve it," said Kuchar, "but the size…"
    The size, indeed...
    The soda fountain and bar measures more than 12 feet long, and it can't be deconstructed.
    Kuchar looked at restoring the fountain to function, but that task proved pricey.
    "There's a place in Chicago that rebuilds them, but there's a huge price tag. They gave me a quote -- around 20,000 dollars."
    With her heart in the right place, she knew the right home for the fountain … the Chisholm Trail Museum.
    There is one tiny catch in her plan.
    Would the museum be willing to accept the large donation? More importantly, how can you fit something so large inside? Walking it up the front steps would prove impossible.
    The museum was excited to have such a large piece, but the big question of 'how' weighed on the museum's board of directors' minds.
    "We didn't want to sacrifice the integrity of the building. Once we found we could get it in, we agreed to take it," said Gillian Cubbage, the museum's board president.
    After consulting with local contractor Terry Horsch, a plan is made.
    A crane will lift the soda fountain and bar into a window – a daunting, but doable task.
    The fountain and bar have been purchased through donations from Security State and Intrust Banks. But before the heavy lifting begins, Kuchar is planning to renovate the soda fountain at her residence.
    Page 2 of 2 - She is going to need some help.
    "I would like to see as much output from the community as possible … any dollar amount," said Kuchar.
    Gillian and Kuchar encourage friends of the fountain to "like" the Facebook page, "Preserve the Fountain," and to share any memories or stories about the downtown soda fountains in Wellington.
    Their ultimate goal is to dedicate a room to our historic downtown, decorated with replicated business signs of the times.
    The project is far from complete, but once funding is ensured, the restoration and heavy lifting will start.
    Any donations, large or small, should be placed in The Chisholm Trail Museum's drop box or mailed to:
    The Chisholm Trail Museum
    502 North Washington Avenue
    Wellington, Kansas 67152
    Don't forget to earmark any donations to benefit the fountain.
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