Friday, March 12, 2010

Cola Memories

No, I am not selling this product. However, history must be observed. It was on this date in 1894 that the concoction was first sold in bottles. The cola wars and the soft drink industry has been a major part of our culture. Too much so, for who can deny that we would all be better off if only we stopped the consumption of the stuff entirely?

My Dad used to confound the young waitresses in restaurants by ordering "Adam's Ale." Of course he was referring to nature's original drink and the only one that is an absolute condition of our existence.

A few snippets of cola history from my own youth, the reflections for my own entertainment. But of course I hope you enjoy them, and perhaps recall some of your own experiences.

1) Soft drinks were a virtual unknown in our household when I was a child. However, on very rare occasions Dad would bring home a bottle of Pepsi Cola (with "12 full ounces-- that's a lot!"). Mom would combine it with a like amount of water and each of us would get a glass of the wonderful treat along with our supper. Very rare. And obviously memorable.

2) As I grew and eventually acquired means of earning small amounts of cash, my taste turned to RC cola. Again, twelve ounces as opposed to the six and one-half ounces Coke provided for the same nickel. I liked Dr. Pepper, too, but should I include that fact in a cola tale? I have earlier recounted my penchant for buying a bottle of RC and a five-cent pack of Planters Peanuts, taking a long swig of the cola and pouring the peanuts into the throat of the bottle. Mmmmmm!

3) The deposit on pop bottles was two cents. (Yes, they were "pop" bottles. "Soda" was something Mom used in cooking or gave you a dose of when you had a belly-ache.) This bottle deposit was a boon to us kids, because, people being the slobs they are, often threw the bottles out along the road, just as many morons dispose of their trash yet today. We would collect the bottles and turn them in at the corner grocery for the proceeds. Which of course the grocer got back immediately because of the candy counter and pop case.

4) When I was very young, I was introduced to the soda fountain at the Woolworth's. This by my friend who somehow had the means to patronize such a place. Lime Coke was pretty good, but again a dime and the glass was very small. Donald preferred something he called a "phosphate," whatever that might have been.

5) As a teenager I delivered telegrams for Western Union. I would often stop on a hot summer day in the lobby of the Mining Exchange building where the Coke machine would take ten cents of my hard-earned pay. Ten cents because, though the pop was a nickel, the bottles were too small to quench my thirst and I required two of them.

What memories of your youth do these tales evoke?


Anonymous said...

I grew up in an RC household. My parents were on a tight budget but Dad liked a pop and some nuts at night, and RC was the least expensive national brand. (He didn't put the nuts in the bottle, though!) Every week, seven of the eight 16-oz bottles were for him, leaving one for my brother and I to split. We fought so over who had more in their glass -- and the difference could be measured in drams -- that Mom said, "I'll have no arguments. Whichever of you pours, the other picks." If my brother and I could only have afforded titration equipment...

And you heard me call it pop up there. It's a southern Michigan and northern Indiana regionalism. To us, at least in those days, soda had ice cream in it. I call pop soda now, but only because I've been worn down after 25 years of living this far south of Lake Michigan.

As a kid, I used to love to go to this five and dime near my home that had a soda fountain. I liked to order chocolate malts (with extra malt) the best, but I didn't always have enough money for those. But I could almost always scrape together 35 cents for a Green River. They had a modern dispenser for Coke, Tab, etc., but they made Green Rivers and root beers by squirting syrup into the bottom of a glass, adding soda water, and swizzling a bit. My brother was well known for liking a strong root beer, so much so that the moment he'd enter the store, the lady at the counter would make one for him double strength and set it on the counter.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. Memories can never be erased. It has been a pleasure knowing the both of you and the memories of Joann's singing. Hope she gets to feeling better soon and GOD be with you both and give you safe travel. Mary Glass

Secondary Roads said...

It was pop where I grew up in central Michigan. Caused a little confusion when we lived in Connecticut (it's "soda" there).

When we were students at Mich State Univ, Sylvia and I would get a couple of 5-cent Cokes (3 or 4 oz) and would make them last a couple of hours. Even that taxed the budget.

Vee said...

Never was into drinking "pop" that much, but enjoyed "sodas" (coke with a scoop of ice cream) at either the drugstore soda fountain at the corner of Bijou and Walnut Streets or at "The Cow" by the Colorado Avenue vaiduct. (Remember those places?)

Have to admit I did try asprin in Coke to see if what my big brother told me about getting drunk was true. NOT!

vanilla said...

Jim: Thanks for sharing your "pop" memories. It was pop in Colorado where I grew up, too. You had a wise mother.

Mary: Thank you. We appreciate you and Bob and we hope that you are surviving the Midwest winter in comfort!

Chuck: Wonder what so many kids today would think about the restraints of many college student budgets back in the day?

Vee: What you described I would call a "float" and specifically, a "black cow." My favorite was a root beer float. I remember the corner of Bijou and Nevada Avenue much better than I do your haunts. Shame on those teenage older brothers.

Anonymous said...

The drugstore located at Tejon and Nevada streets in Colorao Springs had a great soda fountain. It was there that a cherry coke was purchased and shared with a close friend. I think we used the same straw which made it even better. Cherry cokes and root beer floats were my favorite beverage.

Anonymous said...

A correction is needed for the location of the drugstore in Colorado Springs. It was located on the north side of Pikes Peak close to Tejon street. I also recall "The Cow" as being a stop off for me on my way to attend the First Pilgrim Holiness church on Wednesdays. In those days the cost of a coke must have seemed to me a negligable expense.

vanilla said...

Anon: Tejon at Pikes Peak: Busy Corner. Do you recall that back in the day it was said that if you hadn't seen someone for a while all you had to do was stand for a bit on Busy Corner and you were sure to encounter him/her?

A cherry coke with a shared straw-- has to be the best!