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Gone, But not Forgotten, Soda Pop

Squirt kid, circa 1948The carbonated soft drink industry has been largely consolidated into two big players: Coca-Cola and Pepsi. These two brands have absorbed most of the competition, either continuing to market brands like Dr. Pepper and 7Up, or merely letting other brands disappear. Royal Crown continues to battle gamely, a distant third place contender.

But when we grew up, there was a veritable cornucopia of brands of soda. I would stand in front of Moonwink Grocery's chest-type pop machine for several minutes trying to make up my mind as to which beverage to spend my dime on.

My favorite back in the 60's was Grapette. "Thirsty or not!" Grapette was started in Camden, Arkansas in 1939. It became a national seller by the 1950's. I remember it had a really cool bottle with a recessed band around the middle. Grapette was absorbed by rival Nu-Grape in the 70's and disappeared. It's back now as Sam's Grapette in Wal-Mart stores. The flavor is supoosed to be the same, but I guarantee you it's not in those cool bottles any more.

Speaking of Nu-Grape, it too was an option. Founded in Atlanta in 1921, it too disappeared in the recessions of the 70's But you can still obtain it somehow, along with many of the other brands I mention in this piece, at http://www.retrosoda.com/.

Nehi matchbook adNehi started in 1924. It became so popular that its producers, the Chero-Cola/Union Bottle Works, officially changed their name to the Nehi Corporation. In 1955, they changed their name again to Royal Crown Cola. You could find all sorts of flavors of Nehi all over the country. Radar's favorite was grape, as you know. While RC Cola can still be found everywhere, albeit in an obscure corner of the soft drink section of the supermarket, I haven't seen Nehi since the 70's.

Some disappeared brands were made by the Big Boys. Fanta was Coca-Cola's answer to Nehi, coming in various flavors. Coke's Sprite has survived to our day, Pepsi's Teem has not. Coke also made a diet drink called Like, and another vanished brand called Simba in the 70's.

Speaking of Pepsi, when Mountain Dew was introduced by them in 1965, it was marketed as a hillbilly drink. "It'll tickle yor innards!" was its claim. A rival soon arose, Kickapoo Joy Juice, produced by Monarch Beverages, which still exists. Kickapoo was named after a potent concoction that moonshiners brewed up in the Li'l Abner comic strip. They still make the citrus soda, but only market it overseas. Monarch also produced Bubble Up, Dad's Root Beer, and Moxie, which continues to have a huge NE US following, but which never made it down to Oklahoma.

Another long-gone brand was Whistle, produced by the Vess company. "Thirsty? Just whistle!"

Orange Crush tasted like, well DUH! It achieved tremendous popularity in 1978 when the perennial weakling Denver Broncos made it all the way to the Super Bowl before remembering their weak nature and getting clobbered. I preferred Strawberry Crush myself.

Grapefruit sodas have long been popular. I really loved Squirt. It had a bonzer bottle with a twist in the middle. Canada Dry also made a rival, Wink. Fresca was great, too, before the 1969 ban on cyclamates. That ban nearly drove RC Cola out of business, because the public quit buying its huge generator of revenue, Diet-Rite. RC added a little sugar to make the nasty saccharine taste more palatable, but the public preferred the now-vile-tasting Diet Pepsi and Tab with their zero calories. Tab tried adding a bit of sugar, too, at first, and marketed it with a very politically incorrect "Tab tastes good enough for guys!" Yeesh.

The soft drink concept lost a lot of its charm when returnable bottles were discontinued. In fact, look for an upcoming article on that very subject. In the meantime, imagine you're eight years old, and you have finally made a decision. A frosty cold Mission orange soda is about to withdrawn form the chest, as soon as you maneuver it down the rails towards that coin-operated opening.

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