Owing to the generosity of one Fred Butler, the Coca-Cola impresario in my neighborhood, I got to enjoy the six and one-half ounce Coke in the traditional contour bottle at Christmas. It made my holidays.
I drank the “contour” Coke for lunch and supper with whatever was on the Home front menu. However, as much as I enjoy Coca-Cola, it is not the best drink accompaniment for eggs and bacon.
If you have experienced enough birthdays to have earned senior citizen status, you likely remember the days of the contour Coke bottle in iceboxes at every corner grocery store in your town.
I remember the pretty models with million-dollar smiles posing with the contour bottle. I remember a robust and rosy-cheeked Santa Claus swigging from the contour bottle. I remember, too, saving enough pennies to purchase a nickel’s worth of Coke in the contour bottle.
My favorite time during the recent holidays were the evenings when I grilled a Bubba Burger, then raked mayonnaise across a soft bun, added ketchup, lettuce, and tomato, and took my burger and my six and one-half ounce bottle of Coke to my favorite chair by a full-bodied and agile wood burning fire—the best meal(s) of the holidays.
It made me wonder about the possibilities of making a deal with my friend, Fred Butler. If I cut his grass each week, would he pay me in 6 and one-half ounce, contour-bottled Cokes?
You may have brushed up against the story of a long-time friend by the name of Earl Leonard, who was an executive with Coco-Cola. He was attending a reception at the White House and was summoned to the Oval Office by President Ronald Reagan who was an avid fan of the world’s most popular soft drink.
The former President wanted to know why the six and one-half ounce bottle of Coke tasted so much better than in a larger container. Earl explained that “Coca-Cola” was designed to be consumed ice cold. “In a larger container, it takes longer to consume a Coke and it begins to warm up in your hands or while sitting idle on a table or desk top,” Earl told our 40th President. This led to the UGA-educated Earl Truman Leonard arranging for a routine shipment of Cokes to the White House.
After much frustration at the outset, the contour Coke bottle became iconic. In its early days, Coca-Cola had to fight off intrusion from knock-off and outlaw operators whose bent was to confuse consumers. It took years to bring about control.
Leading the effort to give bottlers a “distinctive package” for Coca-Cola, was attorney Harold Hirsch, for whom the University of Georgia law school building is named—Harold Hirsch Hall. Hirsch was a long-time benefactor of UGA and was the man who propped up Georgia football in financial hard times. One of his major efforts was to create summer employment opportunities for Bulldog players.
One of his efforts during those “knock-off” days was to send UGA footballers to places like New York for the summer. At the time, fountain sales were the backbone of Coca-Cola’s business.
Often when you ordered a Coke, unscrupulous drug store and café owners would have brought to your table a drink that might have the appearance of a Coke and a similar taste but was a cheap knock-off. The “Bulldog detectives” had a pouch in the vest pocket of their coats and a straw which they used to siphon a sample from the drink served which was sent to Atlanta where chemists would examine the contents. If it were a knock-off, they would then initiate legal action against the proprietor.
A former player, Harold Ketron, is the reason Charley Trippi became a Bulldog. Ketron was the Coca-Cola bottler in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., eight miles from Pittson, Trippi’s hometown. Ketron gave Trippi his own Coca-Cola route. Trippi made more money as a part-time Coke employee than his coal-mining father made full-time in the mines. Early on, Ketron got a commitment to play for the Bulldogs from Trippi who never wavered, even when Notre Dame came calling. A great day for Georgia.