Harrington Museum event recreates a time gone by

Saturday’s Share a Soda and a Kiss event at the Harrington Museum will feature treats from a soda fountain used in the former Burton’s Sports Shop. The Calloway family bought the building and gave the machine, with mirrors and counter, to the museum. (Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik)

HARRINGTON — A recipe for success can be found inside the heart of Harrington, flavored with ice cream floats, soda and a splash of memories from the past.

The Harrington Museum, run by the Greater Harrington Historical Society, is hosting the Share a Soda and a Kiss event Saturday in hopes of bringing those memories alive.

Burton’s Sports Shop was the place to be during its prime. With a jukebox to play the tunes of the day and a soda fountain filled with delicious drinks, kids and kids at heart from all over town could be found inside its doors on Commerce Street where Main Street Café now operates.

“Burton’s was opened in the 1930s and then sold not long after it opened to the Smith family. Burton Smith and his wife Alma owned the shop. She operated it until she was well into her 70s and everybody loved it,” said Greater Harrington Historical Society Museum curator Doug Poore.

The hot spot closed in the 1980s, but memories live on in the hearts of those who enjoyed the popular shop.

A jukebox and pinball machine, donated by community members, will complete the flavor of the day at the museum on Fleming Street in Harrington. (Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik)

“As a kid, I delivered newspapers and the deal with my mom was that I had to put most of my money in the bank. But some of it, I could keep and do what I want. And that’s where I went was to Burton’s,” said Mr. Poore.

“When there was a high school here in town, kids could go out for lunch or leave when they had a break and that’s exactly where they went. It was very well known and very well loved. It was the center of town.”

The Calloway family purchased the building after Burton’s Sports Shop closed and donated the old-fashioned soda machine, complete with mirrors and a marble counter, to the Harrington Museum. Although it didn’t work at the time, they knew it would be something to remember.

Repairs to the fountain were offered by the Hart family of Norfolk, Virginia, helping the museum come alive with a functional piece of community history.

“The soda fountain is something every small town had,” Mr. Poore said. “The Historical Society has had the fountain for a long time in its collection and decided to get it up and running again.”

The first sodas served from the fountain since its use inside Burton’s Sports Shop was during Harrington’s Heritage Day celebration last year.

“Almost 1,000 people came through the museum that day. We served over 300 sodas from that fountain. It was insane. There was a line that ran around the building for three hours,” Mr. Poore said.

“So, we decided to open it every few months with a fundraiser.”

Valentine’s Day weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity for a fundraiser with an old-fashioned twist.

The museum, located at 108 Fleming St. in Harrington, will serve sodas and ice cream floats Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. in honor of the holiday and memories decades in the making. Sodas will be $2; floats will be $4.

This year, the museum also has a jukebox and a pinball machine, donated by community members to help recreate the feel of Burton’s Sports Shop.

“During Heritage Day, we made it just like it used to be to the point where we had a citizen in town who wrote us a check to buy a jukebox and a pinball machine, as well. They aren’t the ones that she had in her business because she rented hers, but they are very close. The jukebox was made in 1953 and is the same model as the jukebox in the opener for ‘Happy Days’. It’s just a lot of fun,” Mr. Poore said.

“It’s about the opportunity for people to come to the museum, give them a memory of their youth, make that community connection and, in turn, spur donations and membership. That’s just as much as anything else is to just keep that sense of community alive.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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