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Meet the Soda Jerk

An architect recalls hard work and days serving friends

By Kelly Twedell

Though it seems like yesterday in his mind, the lines on Dan MacMillan, Jr.’s face say otherwise. MacMillan is one of the local architects who worked on renovating Horne’s Drug Store, now known as Horne’s Café & Deli. The two brothers who ran Horne’s lived in The Horne House on Green Street.

MacMillan, now a 90-year-old man, arrived at Horne’s for an interview with CityView dressed in his seersucker blazer and khaki’s, and sat at a table sipping his steaming mug of coffee. The restaurant was abuzz with morning traffic and the aroma of strong coffee filled the air, almost the same as MacMillan remembered the place years ago.

MacMillan’s family’s history in the area goes back to his Scottish ancestor Archie MacNish, who first arrived in Fayetteville in 1840 with his family to work as a farmer. The people on MacMillan’s father’s side were all farmers and they settled in the Gray’s Creek part of town. His mother’s people settled in Wade and were from Flora MacDonald’s lineage. MacMillan graduated from NC State and worked at Fort Bragg as a surveyor, back when cars were bumper-to-bumper entering the over-crowded post. He recalls how Fort Bragg built up quickly with the two-story wooden barracks, some of which are still standing today.

Though MacMillan and his brother, Frank, got their start in architecture in Chapel Hill, where he met his wife, Lola, a journalist, their network of clients quickly built up in Fayetteville, where they were known working on local doctors’ offices, office space and houses. The MacMillan brothers set up an office in Fayetteville 1953 and Dan MacMillan estimates he made $5,300 a year back then.

MacMillan recalled his family being hard workers, so it’s not strange that he took on many odd jobs starting at a young age. He worked at The City News, a news distributor, and The Point News, a curb service for newspapers, where he peddled The New York Times for 15 cents and 25 cents on Sundays. Another paper they carried was The Washington Post. Dan said the front page came via the train and was delivered everyday by 11 a.m.

Besides being a soda jerk at Grady’s Soda Shop, Dan said his favorite job as a young man was when he was in high school. He worked at The Broadway Theater on Hay Street and on Tuesdays the theater had a Vaudeville stage show with a three-piece band. Inside the lobby was a small 8 by 12 square feet room where he worked for Henry Drake selling tickets.

Back then, the baseball tickets sold were an early form of gambling. Drake was quite the bird hunter and liked his afternoons off, so he employed Dan to arrive at 1 p.m. and encouraged him to bring his school books and paid him a wage of 25 cents to 50 cents an hour – nice pay for a boy in high school at that time.

The one eatery that Dan remembered well was the Carolina Shop, owned by Bill Crawley. “They served the best hot dogs around, grilled and pressed down. There was nothing like it,” he said. “I think they were a nickel.”

George Edd Waren, our Publisher's father, also worked for Bill Crawley during his high school years.

Bob Bleecker also recalled the famous hot dogs and how he shared that time with his father. “I also remember eating the pistachios with the red shells that would stain your fingers, giving away where you had eaten lunch that day,” he said.