Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pop Bottles

Do you remember when Coca-Cola and Pepsi used to be delivered in wooden crates each containing 24 8-ounce bottles? Now, that was a part of Americana that permeated our childhood days.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi were available at soda fountains and burger joints from the "tap" but there was nothing like the special treat of having your own bottle in your hands on a hot sweltering summer afternoon. That was a special occasion; Mom didn't buy cokes every week. Down in the deep south we called everything that came in small bottles "cokes," Sometimes they were Coca-Colas, sometimes, Pepsis and sometimes Royal Crown Colas of the "RC Cola and Moon Pie" fame. But they were all dark, carbonated sweet drinks. There were no diet drinks back in the day. Everything was fully caffeinated and loaded with sugar. And we loved it so.

We had to have it straight from the bottle too. We wouldn't water it down by pouring it over ice. It had to be ice-cold, straight from the bottle, completely unadulterated. And we had to pop the top off the bottle ourselves, just to be sure that we were getting the real thing. Those bottle caps were colorful pieces of tin with cork glued to the underside in order to form a seal with the bottle to keep the carbonation inside. The caps of my youth were plain, just the logo of the drink company and no contest information either. They were for keeping the soda inside until we were ready to drink it, period! We used to put the caps on the railroad track so that the trains could make large medallions of them, but that did not work as well as coins did. Later on, the cork underside was replaced by plastic, and then the cola companies would be using them as game pieces or in contests in order to boost their sales. Some folks today still have large collection of those old soda caps.

Those old bottles were reusable and as such had a return value. For 2 cents apiece, you could always collect bottles from the roadside and take them to the grocery store to earn some pocket money. We did that too when necessary. What I remember most about those old soda bottles was that the Coca-Cola bottlers would put the name of the city that produced the bottle on the bottom. Whenever Mom passed Coke out to us kids, we would be torn between sipping slowly to enjoy the drink and guzzling it down so we could turn it over to view the name on the bottom. It was always cool to be drinking from a bottle from a distant city. It was amazing but about 20 to 30 percent of the bottles would be from out of the city and 10 percent or so from out of state. Later, the bottlers quit labeling the bottles with their cities. I thought that was a bad idea. It took some of the fun out of the experience.

These days, cans have replaced bottles and another childhood memory has faded into the midst of time. Every now and then, I spot a promotional bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi on the super-market shelf. If it is a Coke bottle, I always pick one up and turn it over to see if it would tell me where the bottle was made. Oh MY!

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