When I poked my head into the old doorway, I was greeted by Marvin Garriott, guitar in hand, swinging to his own jaunty cover of “That’s Alright”.
“That was the first Rock ‘n Roll song,” he told me after playing his last chord, tweaking the curled-up ends of his handlebar mustache, and then leading me to his pink and black counter at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop.
“What’ll you have? Chocolate, vanilla, cherry?” Marv asked.
I was afraid to admit to Marv that I had never ever tasted a real ice cream soda–not like this. Marv has an authentic 1950′s soda fountain and serves the same, frothy cold sodas that he remembers as a child.
“My dad took me for my first ice cream soda when I was 9 years old!” he remembered, and then grew nostalgic for the fifties. What does he miss most from that long-gone era?
“The freedom,” he shot back, with shiny eyes, remembering a time when everything seemed alright.
But today, decades later, this town of Black Diamond, Alberta, far away in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, seems about as free as a place as exists in the world. I parked without any signs or parking meters. I strolled along the main street, past antique shops and bakeries and barber shops, and then followed my nose to the good smells of Marv’s.
All this is 45 minutes southwest of Calgary, but it’s an entirely different kind of Canada down here. As I slurped up cold and sweet hot pink bubbles, I chatted with Marv and his other kitchen staff, two ladies who had migrated to Alberta from eastern Canada.
“I can let my ten-year old run freely out here,” said one.
“We got used to it real fast,” said the other, who loves the open space of Alberta.
And I’ve got used to it real fast, too. One day I’m out looking for grizzly bears, and the next, I’m sipping anachronistic beverages with a part-time Elvis impersonator.
And to quote him (and the King) . . . that’s alright.