Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunny Isles Sparkling Pineapple Soda

One of the rarest bottles from my local area isn’t actually a local brand as one would expect, but is in reality a franchise brand that had a relatively long history, and very little of it left for researchers like myself to find. I am of course referring to Sunny Isles which while originally just a pineapple flavored soda actually grew into an entire line of drinks before disappearing into history sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.

Most of what I knew before I started researching came from the records of the now defunct Marion Bottling Company. It appears that they started bottling the brand in 1940; however, according to a 1945 letter from the Sunny Isles Corporation there had been freezing and rationing of pineapple juice brought on by World War II. That combined with the sugar rationing had lost them many of their franchise bottlers except for a few that had continued bottling the brand.

This letter also states that the Murray Company, manufacturers of the Murray Cotton Gin, who apparently had purchased the company, wanted to know if the Marion Bottling Company would be willing to bottle the brand again. The answer was apparently no as the bottler was actively trying to sell the bottles to another bottler in later letters, but finding no buyers. In the last letter I have on the subject the bottler was told by Chattanooga Glass to break them up for cull, which is most likely the reason these bottles are so rare from Marion, VA.

Sunny Isles Inc. was incorporated in the state of Georgia on August 8, 1939, and was originally located in the Hurt Building Suite 1045, Atlanta Georgia. Their first bottle features a red and yellow ACL (Applied Color Label) on green glass featuring a mountain with the sun behind, and Sunny Isles in an arch in front, of it. There are also palm trees on one side and a pineapple plant on the right. This bottle incorporates an embossed texture on the shoulder and heel which mimics the outside of a pineapple. This has to be one of the best examples of a bottle combining an ACL and embossing that I have ever come across which is why I started collecting the brand.

As the aforementioned letter states they had issue within the first couple of years of their existence due to the outbreak of World War II; however, apparently under new ownership they were soon back on track and are located at 420 Courtland Street, Atlanta, GA by 1945. In 1947 they have a new ACL design on their bottles which is basically the same but with Sunny Isles being horizontal rather than arched. The company is actively advertising for franchises in the bottling industry magazines as well. They have once again moved to 237 Trinity Avenue S. W. in Atlanta GA. Yet again they have redesigned the label with new simpler design, and the brand name has a new thinner font which will actually follow the brand throughout the rest of its history.

Having been solely a pineapple soda, Sunny Isles appears to be revamping its image with the introduction of other flavors in the 1950’s. Ko Ko Nut, a flavor mixing both Pineapple and Coconut, was introduced in 1955. In these ads their address is given as 72 11th street N. E., Atlanta, GA. Sunny Isles Tropical Quinine Water is being marketed in 1956 as a chaser for Gin, Vodka, and Rum. Introduced around the same time is Red Mule Ginger Beer which can be mixed with Vodka to create a “Moscow Mule.” From these two flavors the Sunny Isles Tropical Mixers line is created in 1957, which aside from the Tropical Quinine Water and Red Mule, includes a pale dry ginger ale, lemon-grapefruit mixer, and a “professional type” Sparkling Water.

By this point I had guessed that the original pineapple soda that Sunny Isles started as was no longer in existence; however, according to a blurb in one of the bottling industry magazines they are indeed still producing it in 1958. The blurb also states that they have created a new drink mixing grapefruit with pineapple flavors, but they hadn’t yet designed a bottle for this new flavor. So they were offering crowns so that their bottlers could bottle it in their own bottles. This is the last mention of Sunny Isles that I have found. Sunny Isles, Inc. was dissolved officially as a corporation in 1990. There are so many of these lesser known brands in the history of soft drinks in this country that we may never know the history of all of them, but it is always fun to try.

1940 Sunny Isles bottle
1948 Sunny Isles bottle

1949 Sunny Isles bottle

Porto Rico Sunny Isles bottle

Sunny Isles bottle cap

Sunny Isles paper label

1949 Sunny Isles ad

1945 Sunny Isles letterhead

Sunny Isles truck

Those Thevin' Varmints: The Imitators of Mountain Dew

In June 1964 a small corporation in Marion, VA is purchased outright by the Pepsi-Cola Corporation in order to acquire their soda which had recently started growing in popularity after a reformulation. That corporation was the Tip Corporation of America, and the drink was Mountain Dew. The introduction of Mountain Dew coincided with a fad that was taking the nation by storm at the time with the popularity of television shows like the Beverly Hillbillies and the Andy Griffith show. Of course with its hillbilly mascot Mountain Dew fit right in; however, that isn’t the focus of this article.

As with any great idea, there will always be imitators, and Mountain Dew is no exception. There was a virtual boom of different citrus flavored sodas that incorporated a hillbilly theme by 1965. Some like Royal Crown Cola’s Kick, Faygo’s Moonshine, and Nu-Grape’s Kickapoo Joy juice were introduced by the other major soft drink companies; however, some were created by many smaller companies hoping for their own franchise success. That is what this article is going to accomplish, exploring the back stories of some of these Mountain Dew imitators.

First off we have to address the absence of Sun Drop / Golden Girl Cola which in reality wasn’t actually an imitator, but the originator of the orange citrus flavor that Mountain Dew was imitating through which the others were imitating as well. I have often wondered how Charles Lazier responded to this multitude of imitators of his product. A 1965 fold out advertisement gave me my answer. To quote the ad he was “hoppin’ mad” complete with an artistic rendition of a kangaroo in boxing gloves. The center fold of this advertisement features Golden Girl mounted on a chariot pulled by four horses running down hillbillies with moonshine jugs, all marked imitator, with the blurb at the top of this scene declaring “The Victor! Over all imitators… colorwise and tastewise!” You gotta love Lazier’s style.

One of my personal favorites is White Light-nin’ which was a brand marketed by the Beverage Distributing Corporation of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The real man behind this brand was William A. “Red” Powell who was president of the corporation. Red created the brand early in 1965, and was already advertising franchises by February of the same year. With the tagline “Refreshes in a flash” they already had forty two franchises signed up with twenty four of those in production by May 1965, and there was every indicator that they were well on their way to many more. Red Powell actually predicted the rise and fall of the hillbilly inspired citrus drink very well stating that, “This type of drink is here to stay, but it will ultimately boil down to a few drinks in the field.” White light-nin’ was actually one of the longest running of the Mountain Dew imitators; however, ultimately the brand joined its fellows in obscurity.

The White Light-nin’ bottles went through some changes over time. Starting out with the red and white ACL on green bottle with the single lightning bolt striking the T in Light-nin’, to the Yellow and white ACL bottle which would show up in the 1970’s. The red and white label bottles have a variation that you don’t see very often, and that variation is in the name, instead of White-Light-nin’ the name is White-Lightning. Another interesting variation is the amber White Light-nin’ bottle with an orange and white ACL. It is a scene with a hillbilly making moonshine at his still; this bottle is a tough one to find usually bringing decent money on eBay. The brand can also be found in can form as well. I also know that there was advertising made up for this brand, one poster shows a pot belly hillbilly mixing up a batch of White Light-nin’ in a bathtub with an oar. The brand appears to have made it to the barcode era in can form; however, didn’t seem to last too much longer than that.

Another one of my favorites of these imitators is Stone Mountain Mist with its tagline “Pleezin Squeezins” which was offered to bottlers in either green or amber bottles, and in a ten or twelve ounce size. The green bottles are hard enough to find, and I’ve never seen an amber version; however, the main ACL label for these features a gun toting hillbilly being butted in the posterior by a goat. The brand was franchised by the Citrus Products Company of Schiller Park Illinois and was introduced in April 1965. The Citrus Products Company was the makers of the Kist brand. I doubt the brand really caught on as the bottles can be tough to find and bring a pretty penny on eBay when they do show up.

Quite possibly the most famous and most interesting of the imitators comes to us from the National NuGrape Company of Atlanta, and this is the Kickapoo Joy Juice brand. Kickapoo, having tried one recently, is actually a grapefruit flavored drink, and was introduced in April 1965 with a two day sales meeting in Atlanta. The thing that makes Kickapoo interesting is the fact that the name, label, and sales promotion of this drink are based upon Li'l Abner. Li’l Abner was a comic strip created by Al Capp in 1934 which was based around a clan of hillbillies from Dogpatch, Kentucky. The strip ran from 1934 until 1977. The main characters were Li’l Abner Yokum, and his would be love interest Daisy Mae, that is if Abner wasn’t so dense that he doesn’t notice her interest.

The label comes in either yellow and red or white and red, and features a wooden wash tub flying into orbit from the earth with the characters of Lonely Polecat (a Native American), and Hairless Joe (who is anything but hairless) in the wash tub. Apparently Kickapoo Joy Juice is a beverage created by these two characters in the comic strip. The first bottler to produce the brand for sale was the Seven-Up Bottling Company of Kansas City, Mo. One issue that faced Kickapoo during the first few months after its introduction was a shortage of glass bottles due to a strike in the glass industry at the time; however, they had already started issuing Canadian franchises through an affiliate in the country by November 1965, and were starting to receive inquires from the rest of the world. Of course it was some of the overseas franchises, mostly in Asian markets, which helped the brand to continue to exist to this day long after it had disappeared in this country. Thanks to the internet the brand has returned to these shores in a 12oz paper label bottle. This makes Kickapoo the only imitator from this era that still exists today.

The brand had several different packages over the years including the two bottles I previously mentioned, there were no return bottles, cans, and thanks to its existence overseas some strange variations of the returnable bottles have cropped up online. Of course there is advertising galore, including signs, cartons, glasses, and many other items featuring the Li'l Abner characters. There is even a variation of the regular returnable bottles that instead of having the brand name label on the neck actually have Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae’s heads on either side of the bottle. These are a bit tougher to find than the regular versions.

There were several of these hillbilly sodas coming out of the woodwork during this period, many of which I still don’t know the stories behind, but I will list them here. Of course not one to miss a fad, Faygo came out with a brand called Moonshine. I’ve never seen an ACL bottle for this brand only paper labeled returnable bottles, non-returnable bottles, and cans. This brand may or may not be the same soda that they now sell as Moon Mist, because they sold the moonshine brand name several years ago to a gentleman who wanted to revive it along with the Tru-ade brand, but never did.

Another is the Hillbilly Brew / ‘lil Brown Jug brand which are using the same bottle design as the Sun Drop bottles at this time, combine that with the use of the tagline “Refreshing as a cup of coffee”, which was also being used by Sun Drop at one time, makes me wonder if Charles Lazier decided that if you can’t beat them, then join them. Given that the rarer variation with Hillbilly Cola on the neck makes a note that it is produced by the Mi Cherie Corporation, the name of another Lazier product, I'd say I was correct. One side has an old hillbilly woman sitting by a moonshine still, while the other side features and old man doing the same, and another tagline “Tastes Better ‘cause it’s “Stilled” Better”.

Even the Cott Company got into the game by taking their existing grapefruit and lemon soda Quiky, and introducing a hillbilly theme to the cartons. Then there was Cotton Club’s Hillbilly Joose which appeared mostly in can form with three variations. Royal Crown Cola decided to play the game as well with the introduction of their Kick brand which features a mule on the main label kicking a star burst with the tagline “Like a Mule” at the bottom of the label are the words “Just ain’t none better!” The interesting thing about this bottle is that there is a tougher to find variation which explains what the mule is actually kicking, and that is a hillbilly who is flying through the air inside that star burst. This of course makes for a funnier bottle in the vein of the Stone Mountain Mist. Kick actually lasted for a long time, and eventually dropped the whole mule motif altogether, but I don’t think it made it through the 1980’s.

One of the last that I know if is the Hillbilly Dew brand which features a curvy hillbilly woman who is trying to bring up her moonshine jug from a well, while in the background there is a mule kicking a guy off a cliff. This brand has a copyright of 1964 by the Hillbilly Dew Corporation and includes the tagline "It's Powerful Good". Often included in the list of imitators is the Hill Billy Beverages line out of Richland Center, Wisconsin, these bottles come in clear and green, the clear version being the most common. The only real connection I can find to Mountain Dew is the fact that they use a hillbilly with a jug on their label. Of course this was a flavor line with many different flavors.

An ebay find brought to light a new imitator from 1967 going by the name Kintucky Hootch which assures us on the back "Contains No Booze". This new imitator was produced by the Holly Beverage Company of Youngstown, Ohio, and as I've never heard of another one of these I'm not sure if it made it into production or was a prototype bottle that escaped into the wild. Then there is Home Brew from the Royal Crown Bottling Company of Winchester, VA, which was one of the original sixteen non-Pepsi bottlers who most likely sold their franchise rights to Mountain Dew, but still wanted their own hillbilly inspired soda. Other notable entries are the Tennessee Toddy which was produced in Bowling Green Kentucky, and a recent entry named Corn Squeezin' which is owned by a bottler in Louisa Kentucky, but has been bottled locally in glass bottles by Tri-City Beverage.

Then of course, more often than not last to the party is Coca-Cola who in 1979 introduces their own answer to Mountain Dew, Mello Yello. In typical Coke fashion there is very little interesting about this brand’s bottles, but it is one of the only imitators of the early days that has survived till today. Of course this brings us to modern day where since the late 1980’s every generic brand has their own Mountain Dew imitator. Whether it be Kroger’s Dew Drop (now known as Citrus Drop), or Save-A-Lot store’s Mountain Holler (one of my favorite names), Food Lion’s Mountain Lion, etc. Pretty much any generic brand you can think of has a Mountain Dew imitator these days, but none of them are as fun as those early hillbilly inspired ones.

Charles Lazier's answer to all of these imitators of his product.

An early White Light-nin' ad
White Light-nin' and White Light-ning variation bottles
A later style White Light-nin' bottle
White Light-nin' in can form
Stone Mountain Mist apparently came in both green and amber bottles
Advertising items from the roll out of Kickapoo Joy Juice.
The earliest Kickapoo bottles featured Lil' Abner and Daisy Mae on the shoulder of the bottle.
These are the two most common Kickapoo Joy Juice bottles, there is also a 12oz variation of both.
Moonshine after Faygo sold the name.


16oz Moon Shine styrofoam label bottle
Hillbilly Brew bottle
Kintucky Hootch label
16oz Kintucky Hootch bottle from Holly Beverages.
Kick from Royal Crown cola

Two different Hill Billy Joose cans produced by Cotton Club
Home Brew from the Royal Crown Bottling Company of Winchester, VA
From Bowling Green Ky comes Tennessee Toddy
A relative new comer from Louisa Kentucky is Corn Squeezin'