As I drove up North Beaton Street in Corsicana looking for Caleb’s Diner, I watched the historic store fronts slowly slip by. I drove along and then, there it was, 125 N. Beaton St, but the sign said “Dee’s Place.” Later I would find out that Dee was the previous owner, but for that moment I knew numbers don’t lie, so I turned the corner looking for a place to park.
There on the side of the building was proof positive I had arrived at a long established soda shop. That proof came in the form of a very old Dr. Pepper sign on the side of the building and another sign next to it declaring a soda fountain was just around the corner. Out of the car and across the street I went.
As I walked in the front door, the very first thing I noticed was the soda fountain and counter on the right side of the diner, just a little beyond the cash register and juke box which populate the very front of the store. The counter seems long with its eight red vinyl upholstered stools. A black counter top contrasts with vintage stainless steel behind the counter. The whole setup is reminiscent of a 1950’s lunch counter. The soda fountain and syrup dispensers look quite vintage and probably predate the rest of the fixtures.
Beyond the Counter on the right are several booths, upholstered in red vinyl, then further back in the store several more tables. The walls of the store are a mix of pegboards and wooden shelving. Just about every place I look, I find Coke and Dr. Pepper memorabilia and antiques. Other items on display tell the story of this business which has a long history going back to 1905. There’s an old red Coke case at the end of the lunch counter, apparently still working. Atop the counter are two old soda dispensers, not working, but which no doubt served this business for years.
All the antiques and memorabilia, the soda fountain, and the old fixtures collectively document the provenance of this old soda shop and lunch counter. Caleb’s Diner claims to be the oldest continually operated soda fountain in Texas. As evidence of their claim, the current owners tell an interesting story of the ownership and history of the business dating back to 1905.
I can’t vouch for the authenticity of their claim. What I can tell you is that my drink was made the old fashioned way, mixed from Dr. Pepper syrup and stir, stir, stirred. There’s a real sense of tradition at Caleb’s. Roseann, soda jerk the day of my visit, told me she had worked at the store for two owners and for 15 years, and she “still loves it.” Caleb’s Diner definitely doesn’t have the “shiny as new” look of a freshly minted reproduction of an old soda shop. No, this is definitely the genuine article.
125 N. Beaton St.
Copyright © 2008 by Sam Fenstermacher
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