Celebrating happy hour with root beer floats


The weather outside was hot and stormy, but on a summer Friday afternoon at Homeland Center, residents were inside enjoying a cool and universally beloved treat.

“Cheers to root beer floats!” From left, residents Betty Wise, Mary Anna Borke and Doris Coyne.

As resident Doris Coyne put it, “Root beer floats, my favorite food!”

Every Friday at 3 p.m., Homeland Center’s personal care residents are invited to their own TGIF get-together. They convene in Homeland’s Gathering Room, the cheery space where Homeland displays its priceless collection of Hummel figurines and plates. There, residents converse and enjoy a treat. One week, Homeland staff might serve up fresh fruit. Another week, there could be cocktails.

“This is our happy hour,” said Director of Activities Ashley Bryan, while the music of Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin played in the background. “It’s a chance for residents to say hello and catch up on the week in an informal way.”

Root beer floats, it seems, were created in Philadelphia, so they didn’t have to travel far to be enjoyed by Homeland residents at this particular TGIF gathering. Made with A&W Root Beer and vanilla ice cream hand-dipped by CNA/Activity Assistant Nina Wyatt, they were an especially popular happy-hour offering.

Resident Mary Anna Borke gets ready to beat the heat with a root beer float.

“Root beer’s one of the few sodas I like, and when you mix it with ice cream, it makes it fun,” said resident Mary Anna Borke. “It bubbles and gets all that white foam on the top.”

Borke remembered another happy hour, when she was pleasantly surprised to find that “the ‘cocktail’ was shrimp cocktail.”

“I was glad I showed up that day,” she said with a smile.

Borke gets involved in as many Homeland activities as she can, “trying to enjoy what’s here and now. They have a lot of good things.” A favorite of hers is Roy Justice, the “Singing Historian,” who serenades residents with classic American songs from different eras and shares the tales that go with them.

Resident Betty Wise came to the airy Gathering Room just for the root beer floats.

“I like ice cream, and I especially like it with root beer,” she said. “They couldn’t have a better treat than this.”

“On a hot day like this, you deserve a perk,” added Borke.

Wise grew up in the Pennsylvania coal-region town of Tower City, eating ice cream floats made with her father’s homemade birch beer. He brewed it from the bark of a birch tree in their yard.

“My daddy was a great birch beer brewer, down in the basement,” she said. She also remembered that her dad and grandfather made wine down there, from fox grapes grown on a huge arbor in the backyard, or from dandelions picked by her grandmother.

“Oh, that was delicious,” she remembered with a laugh. “I really liked it.”

As the root beer float happy hour progressed, some residents sat around a table, sharing the week’s news. Coyne joined the group and recalled why root beer floats were always her favorite.

“If I’d have company, we’d often have root beer floats for dessert,” she said. “They’re just light and refreshing.”

“And,” added Borke, as the temperature outside hit the 90s, “they’re nice and cool.”