We Boomers bought a lot of Coke when we were kids. We still do, for that matter. So did our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. In fact, so have our kids and even grandkids. I didn’t research any figures, but I’m guessing that Coca-Cola is the largest selling product in the history of the US, possibly the world.
I bought a slew of Cokes from the old machine at my father’s truck garage in Miami, Oklahoma. It looked just like the one to the right. You dropped a dime in, and pushed that big lever to move an endless belt of cokes inside one step along. Then, you opened that little door and grabbed six ounces of frosty refreshment. You ended the ritual by popping the lid off in that opener, hearing a reassuring clink as it fell among its brothers in the bin.
That bin full of lids would prove to be very lucrative to me about 1966. Coke had a Things Go Better contest, where you scraped the cork off of the inside of those lids to reveal letters that would eventually spell “Things” and “Better.” Then it was a matter of finding the Holy Grail: the word “Go” surrounded by stars.
You glued all of the caps to a piece of paper. And what would happen is that you would quickly spell the words, then look in vain for that elusive “Go.” That’s where the bin full of lids paid off for me.
Over a period of a couple of weeks, I would sit in the floor in front of that Coke machine and dutifully scrape cork from dozens of lids. Then it happened: I scraped off cork and revealed a Go!
I was ecstatic. The color of the magic token revealed your prize. I had a black one, the lowliest, but it didn’t dispel my joy at all. Dad drove me to the local bottling plant (many small towns had them) and, beaming with pride, I turned in my completely filled out set of caps and received a case of 16 oz. Cokes.
I was so excited that I drank one of them hot as soon as I got home.
I also bought a lot of Cokes from Moonwink Grocery. They were contained in a slider machine, like the one to the left. You dropped in a dime, then maneuvered your desired pop through a maze of sliders until it finally rested under the locking mechanism which kept you from stealing them. Your coin unlocked it long enough to pull your Coke up and out of the chest.
Indeed, Coke can do no wrong. Even the seemingly disastrous 1984 flavor change worked out in their favor in the long run, with a stronger fan base than ever after the return of the original formula.
Someday, our grandkids will be reminiscing about drinking Cokes as a child, as our grandparents and ourselves also have.
One thought on “Things Go Better with Coke”
The great thing about those slider machines was those 6-1/2 ounce Cokes were ice cold and stayed cold to the last sip. That machine doesn’t look right without a stack of wooden crates and empties beside it. Some of those bottles had probably been filled a thousand times. I had forgotten about the cork under the caps, it was a plastic disc with thick edges just a few years later. The big retailers didn’t want to deal with the returns so they went to non-returnable bottles, cans, and plastic which a lot of places only pretend to recycle nowadays – such is progress.