Coca-Cola: For many, it's 'the real thing'

By Lynda Hollenbeck

Among the "official" emails I have recently received was one informing me that I had been awarded an astronomical amount of money from a Coca-Cola promotion drawing held in the UK.
I wonder how many people receiving this bought into it and supplied the required information that is supposed to bring the prize money to their pocketbooks. Probably more than I would imagine.
Perhaps one of the secrets of successful scamming is to relate the promotion to a common product, and who doesn't know about Coca-Cola. It's a household commodity for many people.
I grew up in a home where the matriarch of the family elevated this beverage to the same level as a winemaker would his finest product.
Mamma, a complete teetotaler, drank her favorite beverage — always pronounced "Co-Cola" — every day, early in the afternoon while she was watching her "stories."
Occasionally she poured it over ice in a glass, but that wasn't her preference. She liked it in its coldest state, straight from the ice box (she never called it a refrigerator), in the short, squatty green bottle that was its norm until it underwent "improvements" and modernizations. Most of the time, she wrapped the bottle in a napkin as she sipped it.
For Mamma, it never was so tasty as it was in that little bottle. She detested the metal canned version and swore a different liquid was distributed in the two- and three-liter bottles.
"That's not real Co-Cola," she would declare with the same degree of somberness a coroner might say, "This man is dead."
Coca-Cola has been around a long time. It was invented in May 1886 by Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Ga., who concocted the formula in a three-legged brass kettle in his backyard. (Makes me think of the famous scene from "MacBeth." "Cauldron fire and cauldron bubble ... ")
The name of the drink reportedly was a suggestion given by Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson.
Being a bookkeeper, Robinson had excellent penmanship and was the one who scripted "Coca-Cola" into the flowing letters that has become the famous logo of today.
The soft drink was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886.
At that time about nine servings of the soft drink were sold each day. Sales for that first year added up to a total of about $50. The funny thing was that it cost John Pemberton more than $70 in expanses, so you couldn't call the first year of sales a notable success.
Until 1905 the soft drink, marketed as a tonic, contained extracts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut. I'm sure my mother never sipped any of that variety. She would have been horrified had that happened.
According to historical sources, in 1887 another Atlanta pharmacist and businessman, Asa Candler, bought the formula for Coca-Cola from inventor Pemberton for $2,300. By the late 1890s, it had become one of America's most popular fountain drinks, largely due to Candler's aggressive marketing of the product. With Candler now at the helm, the Coca-Cola Co. increased syrup sales by more than 4,000 percent between 1890 and 1900.
Advertising was an important factor in Pemberton and Candler's success and by the turn of the century, the drink was sold across the United States and Canada. Around the same time, the company began selling syrup to independent bottling companies licensed to sell the drink. Even today, the US soft drink industry is organized on this principle.
Until the 1960s, both small-town and big-city dwellers enjoyed carbonated beverages at the local soda fountain or ice cream saloon and Coke was the reigning king. Often housed in a drug store, the soda fountain counter served as a meeting place for people of all ages. Often combined with lunch counters, the soda fountain declined in popularity as commercial ice cream, bottled soft drinks and fast-food restaurants became popular.
Coca-Cola calendars from earlier years are highly collectible. As a kid I remember those hanging my Uncle Rommie's filling station. (We didn't call them gas stations then.)
One of the best ad campaigns related to Coke was the one that featured the song "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke." Few people didn't know that catchy little tune.
As with a lot of products that are popular with the public, the folks in charge haven't known when to leave a good thing alone. They tried Coke Classic and New Coke and other jazzed-up versions.
What should have happened was what apparently did eventually and that's to abide by the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought.
A good thing is a good thing. And, as the company said, you can't beat the real thing. Period.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.