By the 1960's, Coca-Cola was already an integral part of American families. Most people didn't have a Coke every day, but more often than not, a carton of Cokes could be found in most refrigerators. In fact, the generic term "coke" was used to refer to any brand of soft drink. On TV, we heard kids ask their mothers for "pop" or "soda," but around our neighborhood, when you wanted a soft drink, you asked for a coke.
And we were definitely a Coke family. The Yates' just didn't care for Pepsi. Now, when Pepsi introduced the totally different Mountain Dew (and I'm old enough to remember when Mountain Dew first started showing up), I will admit that the allure of that tasty treat did cause me to switch my loyalty on occasion. When Mountain Dew first came on the scene, it was not marketed as the trendy, action-oriented soft drink it is now. No, the bottle had a picture of a hillbilly standing in the yard of his hillbilly shack, and since we were all hillbillies, we assumed Mountain Dew was the drink for us. And their advertising slogan was not the yuppie-fied "Do the Dew" that it is now. Their commercials back then proudly proclaimed, "Yah-hoooooo! Mountain Dew! It's goooooooooooooood."
Cokes came in glass bottles that were reused. In other words, when you bought a Coke, you were expected to either return the bottle when you were through drinking it or, if you were taking it with you, either put down a bottle that you had brought with you or else pay a deposit of a few cents. So, when you drank a Coke, you could take great comfort in the knowledge that someone else had previously enjoyed a Coke from that very same bottle, and that the giant corporate washing machines from Coca-Cola, Inc., had adequately and efficiently disinfected that bottle from any germs that might have belonged to the typhoid-inflicted slob that preceded you.
Coke was originally available in two sizes: the six and a half ounce bottle and the ten ounce bottle. We were all convinced that Coke tasted better from the little bottle, but I have seen no scientific studies to back that up. Sometime in the '60's, Coke introduced the giant 16 ounce bottle, which seemed to us to be enormous. You could also enjoy Coke served from a soda fountain, where Coke syrup was mixed with carbonated water. A "fountain Coke" was a real treat, because after you finished the Coke you still had Coke-flavored ice to munch on. One of our favorite places for fountain Cokes was The Shed, which was a drive-in on Main Street just north of Buddy Gray's store. We could easily ride our bikes to The Shed, or walk there if we wanted. People who buy fountain Cokes at convenience stores would be amazed at the minuscule size of the cups from back in the '60's. Usually a small was 8 ounces, a medium was 12, and a large was 16 ounces. Not exactly a Big Gulp.
Having a Coke out at my Aunt Addie's farm was a real treat, mainly because of the way it was served. Using an ice pick, Addie would chip up some ice from an ice tray and put the pieces in a brightly colored aluminum drinking glass (she had about four of those glasses, each one a different color). She filled the glass with Coke, and something about the aluminum I guess caused the Coke to seem to be extremely cold. Man, it sure tasted good in those aluminum glasses, and there was almost always a Little Debbie snack cake to go along with it.
But, back to the original premise of this blog entry. I will present three distinct serving suggestions for Coca-Cola. Each one has its advantages and drawbacks. My personal favorite is listed last, but all three are completely adequate.
Suggestion 1: Coke with peanuts. Best served at a gas station or some other locale with vending machines, you simply take your bottle of Coca-Cola, and after opening it with the bottle opener conveniently located on the front of the Coke machine, you proceed over to the candy machine and buy a ten cent bag of Tom's peanuts. You then open the peanuts and pour the contents directly into the Coke bottle (it may be necessary to take a few swigs to create enough room for the peanuts). Then, with every swig of Coke, you get a delightful serving of peanuts.
Suggestion 2: Frozen Coke. This one requires a bit of advance preparation. On Friday night, you take a bottle of Coke from the fridge and pour it up into one of the pink bowls that Mama has in the cabinet (if your mama has no pink bowls, feel free to substitute another color). Carefully place in the freezing unit of the refrigerator and allow to remain overnight. Early Saturday morning, just before cartoons are to begin on TV, remove your bowl of Coke, grab a spoon, and head to the living room. Then, while watching cartoons, scrape the now solid Coke from the bowl and savor the flavor as it melts in your mouth. For an added treat, fix yourself a cracker sandwich to go along with your frozen Coke. A cracker sandwich is made by placing a large cracker between two slices of bread. I invented the cracker sandwich in 1964, but I'm having trouble duplicating it now because the only crackers I can find are the little two-inch square things.
Suggestion 3: Coke under pressure. My favorite. Here, you take a Coke and, rather than removing the bottle cap with the traditional Coke opener, you take an ice pick and punch a small hole in the bottle cap while leaving it attached. Directly under the bottle cap is a layer of cork, so you want to make sure that no cork is blocking the hole. Then, every time you turn the bottle up to take a swig, the pressure inside the bottle causes the Coke to fizz, resulting in the proper amount of Coke being delivered to your taste buds. Plus, if someone is bothering you, you can put your thumb over the little hole and shake the bottle, so that when you remove your thumb you can aim a stream of Coke at the offending party.
One last little story about the best Coke I ever had. About 1988, I decided to drive out to the Grand Canyon, since Teddy Roosevelt said it was the one sight that every American should see, and I hadn't seen it. I was awestruck. I hadn't planned to do any hiking, but there was a little trail that wound around the edge of the canyon, and there were many bus stops along the route, so I just spontaneously decided to hike for a while. It was a beautiful, pleasant hike, but I had no water. Now, I was never in danger, I could have stopped and gotten on a bus at any time, but I was just really enjoying hiking along the rim. I was getting a little thirsty, but I knew that there was no water available until the end of the trail, a little store called Hermit's Rest. I came to one parking area and saw a little family there, and the dad was using his canteen to pour water out to wash his little girl's hands. I almost asked those total strangers for a drink, but my pride wouldn't let me. So, I soldiered on, and after a long, long walk, I finally made it to Hermit's Rest in time to catch the last bus back down to Grand Canyon Village. After getting a drink of water, I noticed a Coke machine and paid what seemed at the time to be the exorbitant price of seventy cents for a Coke. But that Coke tasted so good. I sat there beside a little fence and watched this cat that was climbing on a branch that extended out over the canyon, evidently oblivious to the distance below it. I just drank my Coke and watched that cat until the bus came to give me a ride back down. I'll tell you, that was one great Coke!
Click here to see a Coca-Cola commercial from 1954...