OakleySpa30 years ago I lived in Newtonville and would sometimes go into the Oakley Spa on Washington St.  Even back then it was clear that the Oakley had been around for many years.

Back then there were other “spas” scattered around the area.  They were mostly small, old style, neighborhood convenience stores.

What originally distinguished a spa from a neighborhood shop was that a spa had a soda fountain.  Most of the remaining spas gave up their soda fountains many years ago but the “spa” names live on.   This meaning of “spa” is a uniquely New England thing.  In fact I think its primarily just eastern Massachusetts.  Somehow, I’d guess there’s some connection between “spa” and the name for what they served there – “tonic”.   “Tonic” was the common eastern MA word for soda years ago, though that has mostly faded away … like the spas.

I always wondered whether there was some Puritan connection in all this.  In other parts of the country, people would treat themselves to a delicious and sweet soda at the soda fountain.  In MA we would go to the spa for a tonic – which sounds much more like an unpleasant medical necessity than a frivolous treat.

These days the Oakley Spa still lives on.  The soda fountain’s long gone and they mostly sell convenience store items, beer and wine.  You can still get a tonic there but you’ll have to take it in a bottle or can.


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