It’s the real thing

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2010

She pulled out two dimes; one for me and one for her.

“Run up to the store and get us a Co-Cola” she said. She didn’t have to tell me twice. I was off before she could change her mind, barefoot and walking on the painted white strip along the edge of the pavement to keep my feet from burning.

It was mid-morning and I knew that with a little luck, I would be going back in the afternoon. She believed in the advertising slogan of 10, 2 and 4. The fact that belonged to Dr Pepper didn’t bother her. Her beverages of choice were a Coke or a Dr Pepper and I was the delivery boy.

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My great-grandmother would occasionally visit Compass Lake when I was there. In fact, she and my great-grandfather built the lake house that I grew up in. It constructed during World War II and building supplies were scarce. Every door knob in the house was different.

She was a bit heavy set and had a great lap to snuggle up in. The big white rockers on the front porch had belonged to her and she fit in them just fine.

She loved to fish, usually with a cane pole. The wide brim hat she wore survived her by many years. She was the oldest of 10. I was her third great-grandchild and the oldest that lived close to her home in Brantley, Ala.

“Why do you always choose the bed at that end of the porch,” I would often be asked. In truth, it was because the other bed was close to her window. Her snoring was legendary and fully capable of drowning out the big attic fan that cooled the entire house.

She was born the year after Coca-Cola and two years after Dr Pepper. I don’t know if she had a life-long fascination with these drinks, but I know she loved them while at Compass Lake.

Coke and Dr Pepper products were all we were allowed to drink. Notwithstanding the tremendous good works of Max Langston and the Pepsi Bottling Company in Bainbridge and Southwest Georgia, I was reminded as a child that Pepsi’s headquarters were in Purchase, N.Y.

Though Pepsi was born in North Carolina, the fact they were headquartered in New York made them Yankees and that wasn’t good in her eyes. Her grandfathers and father-in-law were all in the Confederate army. She didn’t hold any grudges about the war, but she did hold allegiances to things made in the South. That included Coca-Cola in Atlanta, and Dr Pepper in Texas.

Like many my age and older, I grew up checking the bottom of the bottle to see where it came from. It was like a geography lesson as we would look up in the Atlas to see where some unknown town was located.

The first vending machine we had at the peanut mill office held cases upon cases at one time. Only the 6-ounce bottle would fit and if my memory serves me right, they were the coldest drinks anywhere around.

The drinks were a nickel. In fact, bottled Cokes cost a nickel for 70 years, from 1886 until 1959. Not one bit of inflation from the year my great-grandmother was born until I was about to enter the first grade.

Later, technology enabled the machines to take two types of coins and the price went up to six cents. A decal was placed on the machine indicating the new price. Despite the rising prices over the years, the six-cent decal was never changed until the machine was finally replaced to accommodate the larger bottle sizes.

Years later, I would become a Hardee’s franchisee, and Coke and Dr Pepper would become my partners. They have been a large part of our success these many years and continue to bring innovative marketing ideas to the table. The other operators I met from around the country describe it as soda or pop. No matter the flavor, they are all just a Coke to me.

The largest cup size when we started 26 years ago was 20-ounce. Our smallest cup size is now 20 ounce. The occasional promotional size goes all the way up to 64 ounce. It takes a big boy to drink that much and they usually combine it with the largest burger and fries.

This past week we took some of our managers to the new World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. There is quite a bit of history tied to this soft drink and its advertising, including the modern day rendition of Santa Claus.

For those of you that have never been, there are more than 70 flavors from around the world available for tasting. A word to the wise; stay away from the flavor from Italy called Beverly. Its indescribable taste will stick with you long after you wish it was gone.

It’s been a long time since those days on the front porch at the lake sharing a cold small drink with my great-grandmother. Today almost 100,000 employees in more than 200 countries produce more than 3,300 different types of beverages for The Coca-Cola Company. As for me, well you still can’t beat that small bottle with the big taste. It’s the real thing.