Go have a poke around out in the backyard in Grandpa’s shed, I’m willing to bet you’ll come across some old rusting caps and long forgotten vintage glass soda pop bottles covered in cobwebs and dust. They are fascinating finds and tell of years of soda culture. It’s something still very much alive and kickin’ today.
Do you remember your first lemonade? My own was homemade by my mother, made with with fresh lemons, water and sugar. It was full of ice and there were little fleshy bits of lemon floating around in there. I wasn't sure if I liked it, but my curious palate definitely wanted to explore it more
Later on I developed a far more sophisticated taste; one that included fizz. I remember my grandma liked to spoil us with treats in her pantry were these glass bottles filled with bright jewel colored drinks. We have one family photo, taken on one visit...I reckon that the straws had run out, because me and my sister are sporting these soda-colored mustaches!
Grandma would tell us how back in the day, it was a great treat to have a trip to the drugstore where soda was served from an old fashioned soda fountain. If she had done all her chores her weekly pocket money would be spent on a glass of soda at ‘5 cents a pop’. If it was a special occasion she might even get a scoop of ice-cream too, a float being a really special childhood treat.
Goiing by the stories she tells it seems that back then kids would gather at the drugstore, while their parents shopped, sat around at tables, straws in mouth eagerly sucking up their sweet bubbly sodas... Grandpa has a slightly different take on it and says he and his pals would be in competition to see who could make the loudest or longest soda burp! Much to the annoyance of the drug store owner and other customers who would give them disapproving looks!
But strange as it may seem, it wasn't just the kids who drove the early development and popularity of soda. It was influenced by the temperance movement who championed prohibition and soda therefore provided an alternative for adults too!
The earliest sodas were naturally made, created from dandelion, sarsaparilla and so on. Made by drug stores all kinds of health benefit claims were attached to them and in fact, this is how the ‘big brand’ soda’s like Coke and Pepsi came about.
Glass bottles meant for the first time soda could be taken and drank at home, or just about anywhere else. At that time the bottles would be washed and returned for refill.
I guess it wasn't long after that that bottle making and filling machines, along the development stoppers that could withstand the pressure of the gas were mass produced. The days of the old soda fountains at the drug-store were numbered. Now grocery stores and vending machines were selling soda in larger and more readily available quantities; one clever marketeer coming up with the first generation of the Home-Pak.
My Mom, being the entrepreneur of her family, used to boost her pocket money income by collecting all the empties from her neighbors, then drag them in an old wooden box to the store, because you could get money back. Back in her day recycling was big business! I guess it also kept litter down too. Not a bad idea actually, maybe someone should champion the regeneration of that scheme and it would encourage today's youngsters in the same way?
Soda branding, an explosion of flavors and colors , different labels, caps, and bottle shapes that earmarked a particular brand out as being a favorite really took off again, reuniting the craze for collecting. A truly avid collector would make it their mission to collect every single variation, growing his or her collection with each week’s pocket money or by swapping and trading in the schoolyard. Did you do that?
Soda pop, it brings with it nostalgic memories for every generation. It is part of every childhood, a rite of passage. The taste for it sticks around too and as I share some with the family, each glass or flavor seems to trigger another long forgotten memory or story... Has it been a while since you had soda? Why not see if you can find your old favorite and rediscover your own stories in store now?