Tag Archives: Sugar

Her Fountain of Youth

July 11, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Few visitors who sneak a peak at Betty Davis’ treasure trove of soda fountain collectibles can appreciate their impact on generations of Americans who grew up before the 1950s.

The ice cream molds, dippers, five-headed malt mixers, banana bowls, trays, tall glasses, tin Coca-Cola signs, and a 12-foot-long counter with a gray marble top and marble frontage—stored in Davis’ spacious Council Bluffs home and garage—recall a more innocent age: a time when a boy and girl slipped two straws into one ice cream float and sipped as they leaned toward each other, and when soda jerks, in their white jackets and bow ties, had more swagger than Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Cocktail.

“The soda jerks were what bartenders are today,” says Davis, retired executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society in Omaha. “They knew everybody, they listened, they gave everyone personal service—mixing the concoction in front of you. They were the biggest big shots in town,” she says with a laugh.

From the early 1900s through the soda fountain’s heyday in the Depression-era 1930s, most jerks were men (no kidding!), until women filled in during World War II. “They got the name when they jerked the pull handles of the carbonated water in two different directions to regulate the flow into the flavored syrups,” she explains.

An unabashed romantic about the era, Davis grew up across the river listening to stories about how her parents “courted at the soda fountain” at Oard’s Drug Store, now Oard-Ross, on 16th Avenue in Council Bluffs. And she vividly remembers holding the hand of her “tall, Danish” grandfather as they walked to the drug store to get ice cream.

Years later, in the late 1980s, while volunteering at the old Western Heritage Museum in what is now Omaha’s Durham Museum, those memories came flooding back when a group of former “fizzicians” from the region gathered for a reunion around the museum’s established soda fountain.

“Over 500 people showed,” she marvels. “I discovered that the soda fountain was implanted in people’s memories. The public came just to look at the soda jerks and talk to them. It was magic.”

The overwhelming success of that first reunion led Davis in 1990 to found the National Association of Soda Jerks. The association grew quickly, swelling to more than 1,000 members in less than two years. “I got a personal letter postmarked Washington, D.C., from a former soda jerk. It was from [former U.S. Senator from Kansas] Bob Dole. He’s a member.”

But age has caught up with the dwindling ranks of soda jerks, as it has with Betty Davis. Now 83 and experiencing mobility difficulties, she realizes the window of opportunity to open a soda fountain museum showcasing her happy hobby has closed. “This is of no value to me locked in a garage,” she reasons quietly.

After months of searching for a “worthy” home for her collection, Davis heard about a multi-pronged, ambitious nonprofit headquartered just a few blocks north of the Historical Society, where she worked for many years.

The mission of No More Empty Pots, located on North 30th Street in the historic Florence neighborhood of north Omaha, revolves around food. The organization not only provides access to locally grown, affordable, nutritious food, it offers culinary arts training in one of two commercial-grade kitchens, located in the labyrinthine basement of the renovated turn-of-the-20th-century row of buildings.

Another component of this food hub, the Community Café at 8503 N. 30th St., slated to open to the public in the fall, caught Davis’ attention on many levels because of its parallels to the soda fountains.

“Betty told us how drug stores started selling sodas and ice cream to draw people into the store to buy things, and the fountain was never meant to be a moneymaker,” says Nancy Williams, co-founder and executive director of No More Empty Pots. “This cafe will help our employees learn how to converse with people and really serve them, and not just with food. That will translate into many different career paths.”

Believing the cafe can become “a beacon…to unite all the ethnic differences we have,” Davis signed over her soda fountain collection and the trademarked National Association of Soda Jerks to Williams and No More Empty Pots. A display case in the middle of the cafe will house Davis’ relics of the soda fountain era, her contribution to the preservation of an American tradition.

The 12-foot-long World War I-era soda bar, which Davis picked up years ago in Soldier, Iowa, will stand behind the large windows of the storefront, beckoning people to come in, enjoy a freshly made soda, and socialize.

“We’re going to make our own soda syrups and extracts from seasonal fruits and herbs and then add the carbonated seltzer water,” Williams says. “And we’ll have local seasonal ice cream.”

Confident that her goals and the mission of No More Empty Pots align, Davis sees her soda fountain breaking barriers, inspiring conversation, and making people happy for many years to come.

Visit nmepomaha.org for more information about the nonprofit receiving the soda fountain and memorabilia.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

Flag Cake

Photography by @Baldwin Publishing, Inc.

The secret ingredient to this cheesecake is whipped tofu, a fluffy substitute for cream cheese. Add berries, and you have a patriotic treat that will stand out on any Fourth of July dessert table. 

Find more great recipes at HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness.



  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 block (12.3 oz.) silken tofu
  • 1/3 cup light vanilla soy milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 low-fat graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup blueberries


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Chop 1/2 cup of the strawberries. In a blender, combine tofu, soy milk, vanilla, chopped strawberries and sugar until well blended; do not over blend.
  • Pour mixture into graham cracker crust. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the top appears cooked.
  • Slice remaining 1/2 cup strawberries. Arrange blueberries and sliced strawberries in flag design.
  • Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1/8 of cheesecake; Calories: 203; Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0; Sodium: 104mg; Carbohydrates: 31g; Fiber: 1g; Protein: 4g. Yield: 8 servings

Sugar Low

February 18, 2015 by

Holly Martens struggle may sound all too common. After the birth of her children she experienced a variety of symptoms. She had low energy; she experienced moodiness and mood swings, felt generally crabby and could not lose weight around her mid-section. Martens knew her struggle was not unique, but also knew she had to do something about it.

“With both pregnancies, I gained so much weight and really had trouble with my mid-section. I finally figured out what to do about it and was so happy I made the decision to be healthier overall,” Martens says.

Martens, with the help of Vice Cross Fit gym, went on what she calls a sugar detox. Once she was educated about sugar and added sugars, she was shocked at how much of it she had been consuming.

“They really taught me how much sugar I was eating and what all that sugar was doing to be body. The sugar in our diet really has a bad affect on our bodies.”

Martens was in for even more of a shock. After 21 days, she was amazed at how different she felt. “I felt awesome. I was not so tired. I didn’t get headaches anymore. My skin cleared up and my stomach was much flatter.”

What was even more refreshing was that Martens never felt deprived. She says she truly felt she could maintain healthy or “clean” eating.

“I ate so much food, especially meat. I never did feel deprived. The cravings were not there,” Martens says.

It was that lack of deprivation that Martens felt was the key to her success. After the 21 day sugar detox, Martens continued to maintain sugar-free eating during the week and would indulge a little on weekends.

Shannon Muhs, a dietician with Hy-Vee, was able to shed some light on how our bodies react when we have too much sugar in our diet.

“When we eat more sugar, our bodies experience a brief high, followed by a sort of crash, which is why we feel more sluggish. Our bodies will also produce excess insulin, which will cause the body to want to eat more and eventually our bodies run out of places to store that excess sugar and it starts to store itself as fat,” Muhs says.

As Martens experienced, once sugar is eliminated it doesn’t take long for our bodies to recover. “Within a couple of days, you should have more sustained energy and a more balanced energy load. You should not experience as many highs and lows and should be craving less sweets,” she says.

Martens plans on maintaining her healthier lifestyle and even convinced her husband to join her on her journey, who after limiting sugar lost close to 40 pounds.

“We both feel so much better. It’s really amazing. I was never really big on diets, but this is something I don’t feel is necessarily a diet. It’s a lifestyle and I am very passionate about it.”


Brian Langbehn

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

An accounting career wasn’t what Brian Langbehn, the executive chef at 801 Chophouse at the Paxton, had in mind when he graduated with a business degree, but that’s exactly what he took on. When the position didn’t work out, he recalls telling himself, “I can get another accounting job…but do I want to go back? Or change my life?”

Having a love of food and a fascination with even the simplest of spices, Langbehn packed up and moved east to attend the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. One of his first jobs in the industry was as a pastry assistant at Sugar in Chicago for Christine McCabe, who was named Bon Appetit’s 2005 Pastry Chef of the Year. She taught Langbehn skills, technique, and professionalism. Another opportunity Langbehn took in his quest to learn more about food was an internship with a bed and breakfast in Italy.

Upon moving back to Omaha, Langbehn continued to hone both his cooking and baking skills first as lead baker with Paradise Bakery & Café, followed by work as a caterer with Attitude on Food, and then as a chef in a small café owned by his aunt. He was brought on as the pastry chef for 801 Chophouse in 2007 and has continued to grow there, moving up to sous chef, and eventually executive chef in Spring 2010. (The sous chef role at 801 Chophouse is now covered by Ivan Dondiego, who Langbehn says is doing some great things.)

When Langbehn isn’t working as executive chef at 801 Chophouse or cooking any number of his favorite foods, including risotto, which “is like a blank canvas,” he says, he and his wife enjoy competing in and teaching swing dance. In fact, they met when he began to take dance lessons where she was an instructor. “Time isn’t something I have a lot of,” he notes, adding that being with his wife, brother, sister, and parents is always appreciated.

And while his grandmother, who he was also close to, has passed away, Langbehn fondly recalls the small tart cherry pies she used to make for his family using fresh cherries from her backyard. Recently, he has worked to recreate them and feels that every batch gets him a little closer to his grandmother’s original recipe.

801 Chophouse at the Paxton
1403 Farnam St.