We called ’em cokes. Or soft drinks. Never would we have said soda. Or pop.

            We called ’em cokes. Or soft drinks. Never would we have said soda. Or pop.

            I reckon it was a regional thing. And we used the word “coke” in a generic sense. Coca Colas were so popular in our area of the south we just referred to any soft drink as “a coke”.

            I remember when getting your hands on one was such a special treat! The “real thing” only came in the small, green tinted 6 and ½ ounce glass bottles. And if you weren’t careful, you could drain the entire contents in two seconds! We developed the “ice pick procedure” out of necessity. To stretch out our cola treat me and Leon and David Mark would jab a whole in the cap with an ice pick. You couldn’t get much drink out like that. But if you nursed it along, that coke would last for an hour!

            Mother was big on milk. She believed it developed strong bones and good teeth, promoted growth and warded off evil bacteria trying to invade our bodies.  Plus, as I look back on it now, I realize Mom was thankful the cow didn’t charge much to “deliver”. She considered an ice cold Coca Cola a luxury. We grew up in a day and an age when luxury took a way back seat to necessity. 

            But every once in a while when the moon was right or the stars lined up or she found an extra fifteen cents, she’d bring home three refreshing bottles of that extraordinary liquid. It seems so silly now, how wildly excited three little boys could get over a drink! Maybe it spoke to the simplicity of the times; to a period before television, long range intercontinental ballistic missiles, mini skirts, drive though restaurants, bottled water, high speed internet and phones that attached to your ear. Lost in the ’50’s wasn’t the worst place to grow up. As Uncle F. D. would often say, “We were as naïve as flies on a frog’s back, and we were proud of it.” 

            I never let my coke out of my sight. I said we were naïve. Nobody said nothing about being stupid! Listen, I knew better than to sit that coke down and go to the bathroom. One of my brothers would take a swallow or two…or three the second I turned my back. I’ve seen world class melees break out over a missing gulp!

            As we got a little older you can’t imagine the prestige of sitting up on the front porch of Woodrow Kennon’s store and “downing one” with the grownups. We knew better than to say anything. But we’d turn a Royal Crown Cola case up edgeways for a seat, lean back against the wall and listen to Mr. Willard Brush tell about the time Charlie Barton ran his Farmall Tractor into the Big Sandy River. We’d take a sip of a NuGrape and slowly nod along with the story….just like we had been there!

            You talk about shinning times!

            When cotton was in and we could make a little spending money we’d gather up in front of Pat Houston’s Grocery and carefully pour a package of Tom’s Peanuts down the neck of a cold Dr. Pepper. There was an art to cupping your hand around the top of that bottle and funneling the peanuts carefully in so as not to spill a single one. We’d munch on the soaked peanuts and talk about the future. Of course, the “future” for us was the ballgame we were “working on” for the afternoon. Or school the next day. And we had lots of meaningful discussions over whether a Sun Drop tastes more like an Upper 10 or a Seven Up.  

            We were just starting out in high school when we discovered the soda fountain in John Motheral’s Drugstore. He’d drop a couple scoops of ice cream into your coke and make a float. We spent a happy hour or two, or a hundred, on those old red bar stools talking about football practice, girls, Mr. Arlie “Chuck” Berry’s science class and maybe letting our hair grow out long like that new singing group in England.

            My first date with Mary Hadley we ended up at Frank’s Dairy Bar starring at each other over a Coca Cola. It was the first time in my life I didn’t notice the taste. It could have been a Grape, Orange Crush, Dr. Pepper or any of the aforementioned “green” colas. I was more interested in her eyes. And her hair. And that incredible smile! I wasn’t thinking about football practice, Coach Smith, a baseball game or the price of eggs in China. I was trying to think of something really intelligent to say…..

            Mary Hadley laughed so easily. And before the moment was gone forever she hinted that she liked me a little too.

            It was the best coke I ever had!

            I can hear Mom to this day reminding me that milk is better for me “than all those soft drinks”. My wife worries that I drink “way too many”. My health conscious son is always on me about the caffeine and the carbonation and the phosphoric acids and the artificial flavors. 

            I know they’re right but I can’t help myself. A good Coke today seems to slow my pace. It takes me back to some great pre-television melees. It transports me to Woodrow Kennon’s delightful front porch; I can feel the red bar stools of Motheral’s Drugstore, taste the excitement and wonder lust of our youth……and appreciate a time that I so flippantly took for granted as I passed through…..

            I think we all did.