Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Local Milk bottles as collectible

While my primary focus will always be soda bottles I have actually picked up other interesting items over the years which I normally call "Hey that's neat" items. One category of "Hey that's neat" items would be local milk bottles. It started out simple enough with the A. R. Beavers & Son bottles from Tazewell, VA; however, as my search for sodas continued it was inevitable that I would run into other milks that would interest me. That is the basic story of how this collection grew from one bottle to what it is today, which still isn't a huge collection, but fairly interesting.

half pint from the Pure Milk Company of Abingdon, VA.
Here's one you don't see everyday. A 1/4 Pint milk bottle from Rotherwood Dairy in Kingsport, Tennessee. They didn't bottle long as they signed a deal with the Pet Dairy Company in Kinsport to supply them with milk.

The Southern Maid company was a group of dairy producers who were located in Bristol & Appalachia, VA, Kingsport & Johnson City, Tennessee, and Bluefield, Welch, & Williamson WV. This example is from Bluefield, WV.

A. R. Beavers & Sons milk bottles from North Tazewell, VA these are from the 1940's.

According to my research the Tazewell County Co-op Milk Producers Association was formed in 1931 after the local dairy farms started investing heavily in new milk cows. They were hoping to make dairy goods a thriving industry in the area. The only problem was that it was the Great Depression and things didn't turn out as well as they had hoped. They had built a milk processing plant in North Tazewell where the farmers in the association would bring the milk to be bottled and processed into other dairy goods such as cheese, and butter. Unfortunately by 1933 things had gotten so bad in the industry that when the Imperial Ice Cream Company offered to buy the plant off of them, they quickly sold it. So this bottle (which is a 1931 as best as I can tell) would have only been used for two years at the most. One of the officers of the Co-op A. R. Beavers continued to produce milk himself well into the 1940's.

One of two dairies in the little town of Marion, VA is Laurel Spring Dairy. Their competition was Shanklin Dairy which I don't have a bottle for. Shanklin Diary also made Ice Cream.

If you have lived in the Southwest Virginia Northeast Tennessee area for any length of time then you have heard of Pet Dairy, due to the fact that it is the only one of these dairies that survived into modern day. This is an early acl bottle for the brand.

Created in the 1920's as the Southern Refrigeration Company in Bristol, VA, who were manufacturers of Southern Maid Ice Cream, this company would end up with several branch plants in West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee.

A Southern Maid Quart
Fain's Pinemont Farms from Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia.

There don't seem to be too many Southern Maid Painted Label bottles around, the usual form found are embossed examples like the ones above; however, they did produce some in the late 1930's and early 1940's.

Bristol has had several independent dairy producers throughout the years including Gray's Dairy.

Another Bristol dairy was Godsey Creamery, this 1939 ACL bottle is advertising their Holston Brand Butter

Yet another long running brand is Bassett's which also made ice cream as their 1939 ACL bottle indecates.
Pet Dairy Products bottle, no town name listed, but they had several locations in the Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia area.

By the 1950's new space saving square bottles were become the norm, and these two half pints were among them. The left one is Clinch Haven Farms from Norton, VA and the Leatherwood is from Bluefield WV.

Of all the Roanoke VA dairies I have to say that I like Clover Creamery the best, mainly due to their use of a clover on their bottles. These two early bottles for the brand are some of the most interesting of all of their bottles.

One thing that grabbed me early on were Sour Cream/Cottage Cheese jars, of course my two favorites are the Clover Creamery brand from Roanoke, VA.

A recent acquisition is this 1942 ACL war time bottle which not only advertises dairy products but war bonds. It is from the Clover Creamery of Roanoke, VA as well.

Probably the most common of the Clover Dairy bottles is the 1950's green acl bottles like this half pint.

Southern Maid Ice Cream thermometer from the late 1920's.
Southern Maid Dairies ad from a 1937 Bluefield Collage Football program.
Milk and Beer, what does it have in common? Not much except that Southern Maid Dairy was distributing both in the 1930's. After Prohibition was lifted many companies that had no connection to beer started distributing it.
And those are the more interesting examples from my small milk bottle collection. I do have some others, namely a Rotherwood Dairy from Kingsport, Tennessee, and a Piedmont Dairy from Bristol; however, I may post them another time. The number one thing to take away from this post is this, collect what you like, and make sure they are interesting enough to keep your interest even after the thrill of the hunt has worn off.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pocahontas Beverages

If you have never heard of the town of Pocahontas, VA then I’m not surprised. When the Appalachian Coal boom started Pocahontas was ground zero with it’s unusually high coal seam. This little backwoods town exploded into a boom town, and of course every growing town needs a soda bottling company. While there are earlier bottlers in Pocahontas’ history one individual stands out, Nick Crist. Crist opened his Pocahontas Bottling Works operation on a small scale in 1919, equipped with a foot operated bottling machine and a wagon, which he used to deliver his sodas himself, he created a bottling business which would spend fifty years serving the coal fields of Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia. Throughout it’s history the company would bottle brands such as Nu-Grape, Canada Dry's Carlton Club, Spur Cola, Double Cola, Nesbitts Orange, Sunny Isles Pineapple Soda, and Sun Drop among other brands.

Of course this article isn’t about the bottling company itself, or the man, but it is actually about the Pocahontas Beverages line which it appears the company created around 1935 after Crist renamed his Nick Crist Pale Dry Ginger Ale to Pocahontas Club Ginger Ale, and produced a 7oz green embossed neck bottle for the drink. With the bottling company name being the Pocahontas Bottling Company I’m sure that they were bottling a flavor line which would be the true origins of the brand; however, the Pocahontas Club bottle is the first evidence of the name used as branding. The earliest acl bottle I have found is from 1947 and is from the period when the company was bottling Canada Dry's Spur Cola, thus calling itself the Spur Bottling Company. These early acls for the brand are a deco bottle with an applied color label and are usually 7 ½ ounces with red lettering on a white background.

The centerpiece of the label is the side profile picture of the Native American Princess Pocahontas who figures prominently in the marketing of the town, and coal company that shares her name. Of course Pocahontas is deeply ingrained in the history and legend of Virginia itself. She was the daughter of Powhatan the chief of a group of thirty Algonquin speaking tribes in tidewater Virginia. John Smith, who was among the colonists of Jamestown, was captured by Powhatan’s brother’s hunting party and was to be executed, but Pocahontas intervened on his behalf. The story has been told over and over again, and is also debated among historians as to it’s authenticity. Needless to say the legend of Pocahontas inspired the name of the town, and beverage line that sprang from it.

After the company moved from Pocahontas, VA to it’s new plant in neighboring Falls Mills they updated the label on the Pocahontas Beverages bottles. They still use the deco design of the earlier bottles; however, now have a red  & white acl on a clear background. This bottle is dated 1951 and is labeled property of the Nesbitt Bottling Company of Falls Mills, VA. By 1953 a 10 ounce bottle has been added to the line and uses a different deco type style with a new all white ACL design. They are still bottling the 7 ½ ounce size that by 1963 has dropped the deco aspects in favor of a straight side design with all white acl and the portrait of Pocahontas has been applied to the shoulder as well as the main body label. This is the form that the label will take on all of the sizes of Pocahontas Beverages bottles from this point forward. The next step seems to happen in 1965 when the brand is moved to a 16 ounce size bottle. These 16 ounce bottles are the most common form of this bottle that can be found; however, I have identified at least seven variations of this bottle, most of which can be seen on my page dedicated to the Pocahontas Bottling Works on my website www.tazewell-orange.com. The 16 ounce  bottle would be the standard bottle for the brand from 1965 until the closing of the bottling company after the death of Nick Crist sometime after 1982, which is the newest Pocahontas Beverages bottle I have found.

If you are interested in collecting some of these then maybe some advice is warranted. I’ve been collecting from this area for going on five years, and while some of these bottles are easy to find in the area, the 16 ounces, others have proven more difficult. The toughest one to find for me was the 1963 7 ½ ounce, I ended up purchasing one off eBay from Indiana. That’s a long way for a Pocahontas bottle to travel. The deco style 7 ½ ounce bottles are a tougher find, but are the more desirable bottles from the brand. My personal favorite is the 1953 10 ounce deco/ACL which is a tougher find than the 7 ½ ounce bottles, but well worth the effort, it is the best of these bottles. There isn’t much in the way of advertising for this brand, there are brand specific crates with white lettering on a blue background that have been showing up on eBay recently. Unfortunately there are no brand specific bottle caps for this brand as the company used generic flavor caps with the company information on the skirt. Truly a shame as the profile of Pocahontas would have made for a nice looking cap. You can read more about the company in the Pocahontas VA section of my site.

1935 Pocahontas Club bottle.

1947 Pocahontas Beverages bottle.

1951 Pocahontas Beverages Bottle.

1953 10oz Pocahontas Beverages bottle.

1960 7 1/2oz Pocahontas Beverages bottle.

16oz Pocahontas Beverages bottle.

Pocahontas Beverages crate.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A cola brand of their own: a brief history of Kroger's Wescola.

Back in the early 1990’s I used to work for my local Kroger Grocery store as a bag boy. One of my duties was to go to the back and work the returned bottles. Yes we were still using returnable bottles in the early 90’s. Little did I know that this experience would come back to me later in life as a bottle collector. What was an annoying job now fascinates me. Of course the connection to Kroger would rear its head while some friends and I were digging in a dump a couple of years back. We happened upon several Wescola deco style bottles and our only clue to who produced them was the embossing on the bottom “Wesco Foods Cincinnati Ohio”. Figuring they have come in via train from there I didn’t think much of them; however, I got curious one day and looked up the company. It turns out that Wesco Foods was a branch of the Kroger Grocery Company, and that Wescola was Kroger’s attempt at creating their own cola brand.

Wescola was part of the Kroger Latonia Club line which would evolve into today’s Big K line of soft drinks. The majority of the Latonia Club line was actually paper label straight side bottles with very few surviving into modern day; however, Wescola for some reason was different. Kroger produced a specially designed embossed deco bottle for the brand. Deco bottles were a type of bottle that was popular during the 1920’s into the 1950’s and would either be embossed with some pattern or have its own unique shape. Wescola was the latter. The brand seems to have started being produced around 1937, which corresponds with the dates on the bottles themselves. The advertising of the time noted that it was their “new cola drink”. Unfortunately although the name shows up a lot from 1937 until the late 1940’s in their advertising, I’ve only found one actual ad that pictures the bottles themselves.

Early Latonia Club 24oz Lime Rickey paper label label.

8oz Wescola deco bottle dated 1937.

Wescola bottle cap from Detroit Michigan. Wesco Foods had three different branches which included Chicago, Detroit, and Cincinnati Ohio.

Big K Cola as it exists today, I wonder if this is the same formula as Wescola after all these years.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fading signs that I have found in my research.

As I search for the locations of these long gone bottlers, I happen upon some ghosts from their vibrant past. These come in the form of painted wall signs and many of them can be interesting. Here are some that I have found so far and where I found them.
This is the wall of the Jones Vance Drug Company in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Just across the street from the Jones Vance building is this sign which was partially covered by another smaller building until a few years ago.

To give you a sense of age of this particular sign here is a photo showing the newly built building that helped preserve the bottom part of the sign, as you can tell from the cars this sign is quite early.

This is a sign just off of State Street in downtown Bristol, VA. I would love to see this one restored. It's huge!

Also in Bristol is this newer Enjoy Coke sign, even a sign this new is in danger of fading into history.

This sign is on a store in an area of Tazewell County Virginia known as Baptist Valley. You don't often see Upper 10 painted wall signs.

On the other side of the same building is this RC cola sign, you can even see the older sign ghosting through the present paint.

This is a store just outside the town of Tazewell, VA. Like the Baptist Valley sign there is ghosting from an earlier sign showing through the present sign.
It's one thing to find national brands such as Coke, Pepsi, or RC, but it is an entirely different thing to find a local brand painted on a wall. This is Rhythm Punch a grape soda produced only by the Sun Rise Bottling Company which was located in Tazewell, VA. This sign is on both sides of the building shown above.

Below that sign was this metal 7-up sign long since rusted into oblivion.

Now this is an interesting ghost sign indeed from Pocahontas, VA. For some reason there is a part of the building that is either missing or the sign extended out from the building. It was covered up by another building for a long time and that building is now gone revealing this.

As I was prowling around a road just outside of Princeton, WV, I ran upon this sign on the side of this long shuttered store. There wasn't really enough room to get off the road properly.

Very near the railroad depot in Princeton, WV is this sign. I wish I could read the rest of the sign, but very little remains aside from the obvious.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

K. B. Co. embossed on the bottom, the bottles from the Keystone Bottling Company of West Virginia

The Keystone Bottling Company, whose principal office was located in Keystone, West Virginia, was incorporated on February 2, 1907. The stockholders of the company was C. S. Angel of North Fork W. VA, C. C. Hale of Keystone, VA, C. W. Elliot of North fork, W. VA, W. E. Stuart of Keystone, W. VA, and T. W. Zink of Keystone, W. VA. This company was comprised of a group of bottlers with branches in Keystone, W. VA, Welch, W. VA, Williamson, W. VA, North Fork, W. VA, and finally Bluefield, W. VA. The main product of this bottling group was Coca-Cola, and would add Nu-Grape in the middle 1920’s. This bottling group identified its bottles not by using a town name on them, except in certain cases, but by using the initials K. B. Co. which is usually located on the bottom of the bottles including their Coca-Cola Bottles. The company would be renamed the Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company by the late 1920’s, and would create a bottler in Rock, W. VA known as the Rock Mineral Springs Bottling Company.

Thanks to the good folks at Coca-Cola in Bluefield WV, I now have a photo of the C. W. Elliot Company of Northfork, WV. This building was also the corporate offices of the Keystone Bottling Company group.
1913 Coca-Cola Soda Water bottle from the Keystone Bottling Company.

1916 Coca-Cola bottle from the Keystone Bottling Company

1923 C. C. Soda Water from the Bluefield Bottling Company which was part of the Keystone Bottling Company

1924 C. C. Soda Water from the Flat Top Bottling Company of Welch, WVA which was part of the Keystone Bottling Company

November 16, 1915 patented hobble skirt Coca-Cola bottle from the Keystone Bottling Company

1927 deco bottle from the Bluefield Bottling Company

1930 Big Bottle from the C. W. Elliot Company of Northfork, WVA which was part of the now named Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

1937 Big Bottle from the Welch Coca-Cola Bottling Company, former Flat Top Bottling Company, of Welch, WVA which is also part of the Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling group.

Dixie Beverages bottle from Northfork, WVA, which is most likely part of the company as well.
 And that's all of them I hope you enjoyed the bottles from the Keystone / Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company bottling group.