Monday, June 15, 2015

Stone Fizz for the Prosecution

In July 1925 one of the most famous “trials of the century” took place in the small mining town of Dayton, Tennessee situated several miles north of Chattanooga. I am referring to the “Scopes Monkey Trial” where a teacher was brought up on charges for teaching Evolution in that town in direct violation of a law that had been passed in January of the same year. Appearing for the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan, Ex-Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, former Congressman, and three time presidential candidate. His opposition was a famous lawyer by the name of Clarence Darrow. The Monkey Trial was a purposely created media extravaganza incorporating all of the most modern methods of communication which helped promote the little mountain town.

Every circus wouldn’t be complete without soft drinks, and after refusing a case of grape juice which was sent via airplane, Bryan tried a soft drink out of Chattanooga going by the name Stone Fizz. The famous prosecutor was so taken by Stone Fizz that he had the company’s representative, who was in the town taking advantage of the attention around the trial, to make him up a special case of the soft drink. He received his case express from Chattanooga the very next day along with several cases offered to his opponent and his associates by the company. The Stone Fizz Company of America was incorporated in late 1919 as a corporation of Delaware even though they were actually located in the Volunteer State Life Building in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

It appears that Stone Fizz was an import from Australia having been bottled there along with its sister drink Stone Shandy for many years prior to its introduction in America. A traditional Shandy is beer mixed with carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, or ginger ale. The non-alcoholic version is called a Rock Shandy, which doesn’t roll off the tongue very well, so they obviously changed the name to Stone Shandy. In reality the Shandy is consumed in many different countries; however, with many different names. The Club soft drink brand of Ireland actually produces a Rock Shandy, which is a mix of Orange and Lemon flavors, today.

The First Vice President of the company was a man named Arthur J. Knowles, an Australian citizen living in Chattanooga, who also designed Stone Fizz’s “frozen bottle” in September 1920. The president of the corporation was Jacob Walter Bishop, and in the office of Second Vice President was the much better known Charles Reif. Charles Reif was well known in Chattanooga business circles having owned the Chattanooga Bottle & Glass Company from its founding until 1920. He is much better known to beer bottle collectors for being the owner of the Chattanooga Brewing Company prior to prohibition, after which changing its name to the Purity Extract & Tonic Company.

In the late teens Purity Extract was distributing a soft drink known as Grape Fizz along with a non-alcoholic cereal beverage known as Reif’s Special. The soft drinks offered by the company were Shandy which was to be priced as five cents, Stone Fizz for ten cents, and Clover Fizz which was to be sold for the whopping price of fifty cents. All of these drinks were to be produced on new machinery that was installed in the plant of the Purity Extract & Tonic Company. Reif also had plans to introduce a chocolate milk drink known as Chocolac after the formula was modified to allow for the product to be preserved after bottling. The trademark for Stone Fizz was filed in December 1920 with a first use in commerce date of July 21, 1920. The flavor is described on the labels as “A wonderful combination of Lime, Ginger, Lemon, and other flavors” and appears to have been green in color. Aside from the 6oz glass paper labeled “Frozen bottle” there are also 10oz stoneware bottles which may have been used to distribute concentrated Stone Fizz syrup. 

The Stone Fizz Company underwent reorganization in August of 1921 in anticipation of franchising Stone Fizz nationwide. They already had contracts with two hundred bottling plants, mostly in the south, eastern, and central states, and a national advertising campaign arranged. Part of the increase of stock that was included in the reorganization would allow them to establish sales agencies in an effort to start working on the western part of the county. By 1925 the brand is no longer being produced out of the Purity Extract & Tonic Company plant, but by its own bottling company being operated by the partnership of Murkin & Miller at 1107 Chestnut Street in Chattanooga. This would have been the bottling plant that produced Bryan’s special case of Stone Fizz for the Monkey Trial.

The attention that Bryan’s endorsement brought to Stone Fizz paid off during that hot week of July 1925. Many visiting newspaper men attending the Monkey Trial were able to try Stone Fizz at not only the Robinson Drug Store in Dayton, where the plan for the show trial was hammered out by local officials, but at every place where soft drinks were sold. A very nice piece of promotion all around; however, Scopes was found guilty and charged with a fine of one hundred dollars which he appealed finally winning on a technicality in the Tennessee Supreme Court. Bryan died just five days after the trial as a result of diabetes and fatigue. Maybe he should have avoided the Stone Fizz after all. The Monkey Trial has lived on in the public conciseness inspiring the play and eventual movie named “Inherit the Wind” in 1960; however, Stone Fizz didn’t survive the 1920’s. That is the story of “The Champagne of Soft Drinks” Stone Fizz.

June 1921 ad

The "frozen" bottle

"Frozen" bottle patent

Stone Fizz bottle label

10oz Stone Fizz stoneware bottle

Stone Fizz sign

The Story of Bikini Cola

It is April 23, 1985, and Coca-Cola had just made the worst mistake in its history, New Coke. The other cola companies were smelling the blood in the water after the undaunted giant of cola had stabbed themselves directly in the heart. This included one upstart which had just incorporated on February 4, 1985 as the Bikini Beverage Corporation in Gardena, California. This new cola truly had only one advantage against the big three through incorporating the age old adage of sex sells to grab attention with a bikini clad model on every can. This brand bore the rather obvious name of Bikini Cola.

Bikini Cola was the brainchild of Merle Stanfield, former manager of Royal Crown Beverage in Los Angeles, listed as President of the company, and Richard Sheen, who had owned a bottling company in South Korea, as General Manager. After seeing how Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola shared a monopoly on the cola market in his home country Sheen had decided to come to the “land of consumption” to try to carve out his own slice of the cola pie. Entering a market with seventeen national, and three hundred private label, colas meant that Bikini Cola was swimming upstream before it even got off the ground.

Richard Sheen didn’t decide to create his cola on a whim; he studied the beverage market of the United States for five years before deciding to create Bikini Cola. With a population of two hundred and forty million in the US as compared to the forty million in South Korea at the time, added to the fact that the US economy was forty times larger than South Korea, helped fuel Mr. Sheen’s determination to take a chance at trying to grab a piece of the cola market for himself from the big dogs. Of course everything in the sales market depends upon giving the customer what they want thus Mr. Sheen decided to set himself apart by appealing to the baser instincts of the cola buying public. He was aiming for the fifteen to twenty five, obviously male, age demographic, which is only natural.

Unfortunately there was a technological issue with his idea of producing photo realistic images of bikini clad women onto beverage cans at the time. The current process of printed aluminum cans just couldn’t reproduce the effect he wanted to produce so he turned to American Fuji Seal Inc. in Anaheim, California who had recently developed a process to apply plastic labels to bottles and cans. The artwork was printed on flat plastic film which was then rolled into a cylinder and slipped over the can after which were processed through a heat tunnel to shrink the plastic label to the can. It was the same technology they were using for the protective seals on medicine bottles.

Today this is a common type of labeling; however, in 1985 Bikini Cola was the first to use this technology on a mass market canned soda. I admit, these were so well done that without knowing that this process was used you really don’t notice at first glance that these are using plastic labels, unlike today when they are quite obvious. There was only one important drawback to using this process, and it may have been one that led to the demise of this brand. This new process cost the company more money per can to produce, and they passed this expense on to the customers. It’s not exactly a smart move to charge customers more money for your fledgling cola right out of the gate no matter how much of an interesting novelty you have created.

Then there is the obvious issue, with this being the "enlightened" eighties, of sexism represented by using an objectified woman as the main selling point of your new soft drink. Believe it or not the creators were actually thinking about the implications that would arise concerning the selling subject of their soda; however, when test marketing produced the statistic of forty percent of Bikini Cola was being purchased by women, and the stated reason being the artwork, their fears were soothed enough to take the obvious gamble. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a backlash from the Women’s Movements. In July 1985 Richard Sheen was asked about the response by a Philadelphia reporter, and his response was that all of the negative letters he received concerning the product were from the East Coast while he hadn’t received any letters from the West Coast. This he just wrote this off as being a product of the differences between the culture and attitudes between the two.

This brings us to the main selling point of Bikini Cola, the model, who is listed on the can as Ginger. In fact her full name is Ginger Miller, a model who was convinced by her friends to take the gig in order to get some exposure. Apparently it worked as she became Pet of the Month in the September 1986 issue of Penthouse magazine, and Pet of the year in 1989. She is also known for being an amateur wrestler both in the ring and in mud. She also appeared in a TV movie called “A Bunny’s Tale”, a Penthouse video, and a few smaller soft core porn films. Obviously having only one model on your can would eventually get boring so the company was holding Bikini Cola sponsored bikini contests in order to sign up other models. Their goal was to rotate models on the cans every three months in order to keep their customers coming back for more Bikini Cola. The fact that there is only one model known on these cans speaks volumes about its longevity.

Bikini Cola was being produced on contract by Royal Crown Beverage of Los Angeles, and being distributed in Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii. The company had hopes of going national in the middle of 1986. The company also wasn’t planning on stopping with a cola; there were plans to create Diet Bikini Cola to be introduced in early 1986 along with Bikini Root Beer, Bikini Lemon-Lime, and Bikini Orange after that. Whether it was the higher cost of producing the cans, the backlash from the Women’s Movement, or just the fact that they were an upstart in a world dominated by the big three cola giants consisting of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and Royal Crown Cola the brand doesn’t seem to have actually made it out of 1985.

A quote from Jessee Meyers, editor of the Beverage Digest newsletter, given at the time may sum up everything that went wrong for Bikini Cola, “On the long list of things the world is waiting for, the product Bikini Cola would probably be found at the end of the list, or on the page that is crossed out. Soda can’t compete with Playboy.” The legacy of this short lived brand’s selling point still leads these cans to bring more money on eBay than the cans from its rivals at the time, proving yet again that sex sells. So drink Bikini Cola to “Get that Bikini Feeling”, and, to steal a line from the old Betty Pages fanzine, good night Ginger Miller wherever you are.

A Bikini Cola can

The Road To Lime Cola

While being interviewed for their final “road to” movie, 1962’s British production of The Road to Hong Kong, Crosby and Hope recounted how they had gotten “conned” into investing in a company which produced a “Coca-Cola killing” soda by the name of Lime Cola, which shortly went bankrupt. From all of the references to Lime Cola as it pertains to Hope and Crosby’s involvement in it, you would think that it was a totally brand new drink that had just come on the market then quickly tanked. In truth the Lime Cola brand was already decades old by the time that the road weary duo came along to “lose their shirts” investing in it.

While soda shops were adding lime to cola drinks as far back as the late 1800’s, the brand itself is first mentioned as being among those tested by President Teddy Roosevelt’s Homes Commission in 1908 where it is listed as being produced by the Alabama Grocery Company of Birmingham, Ala. This company was operated by Sid Lee, and they bottled brands such as Imported French Cola, Lime Cola, and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. The popularity of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale had grown so much since its introduction in 1906 that the company decided to focus just on it when they trademarked it in 1917. Eventually they would change the name of the company to the Buffalo Rock Company. 

It would appear that wanting to focus on Buffalo Rock the Alabama Grocery Company sold the Lime Cola trademark. This makes sense when you know that Lime Cola became a Montgomery, Alabama product when the Lime Cola Company was incorporated there on July 31st, 1915, and soon started offering franchises. The Lime Cola Company was a closed corporation with no stock for sale outside the officers of the company. These officers were J. A. Adair as President, Mr. William M. Chapman as Vice President, and Mr. D. C. Knox as Secretary and Treasurer, and their syrup producing factory was located at One Hundred and Seven South Court Street.

The company started franchising the brand in January of 1916, and in one year boasted having fifty seven franchises located in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. They even had to open one per the request of the five thousand troops of the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Alabama Volunteer Infantry regiments who were mustered to Nogales, Arizona during their five month deployment to guard the border against Pancho Villa. Villa’s Mexican Revolutionary forces had raided a town in New Mexico in 1916. As of January 1917 there were twelve new franchises under construction, and the franchise requests were still coming.

Originally the brand was bottled in a straight side crown top bottle with the typical diamond shaped paper label applied to it which they had trademarked in November 1915; however, by 1920 they had modified the label to resemble the shape of a lime. Things were about to change when on May 24, 1921 Chandler King was granted a patent for a deco bottle for Lime Cola. Chandler King would figure heavily in the story of another cola brand known as Pop Kola, but that is another story. The new bottle was a simple design with what appeared to be petals encircling the shoulder and heel with the Lime Cola trademark diagonally placed in the center.

Things appear to still be going well for the brand as they enter the Depression and they even have a new ACL (applied color label) bottle in 7oz or 12oz sizes by 1939. They featured a mascot in their ads to solicit franchise holders named Sir Limey, who of course featured a monocle as we all know all British people do, it was 1939 when stereotypes were commonplace in advertising.  In October 1945 the company was taken over by new owners with J. W. Wells as President of the new company. By June 1946 the new owners were boasting franchises in twenty seven states and the Republic of Mexico.

In late 1946 I. Berman replaced J. W. Wells after he resigned to focus on his lumber holdings. In February 1947 it was announced that Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had acquired substantial interests in the Lime Cola Company, and the company was building a new home office building. The two actors were quite active in the promotion of the “new” drink. Bing let no grass grow under his feet when he started plugging the drink on his radio show. By this point the logo had been changed to a large LC with Lime Cola written under it.

The pair decided that they also had to include Lime Cola in their fifth movie in the “Road to..” series of movies. In a carnival scene in the early part of the movie they had decided to have the entire screen filled with Lime Colas, Y. Frank Freeman then head of Paramount Studios, and also a director of the Coca-Cola Company, heard about it. Freeman rushed out on the set ordering the director to remove the Lime Cola related items. The thing was Bing and Bob owned two thirds of the production to his one third, the Lime Cola advertising remained. The movie was released in December 1947; however, the Lime Cola Company filed for bankruptcy reorganization in March of 1948, and Bob and Bing were left singing a different tune.

The company was reorganized as the Lime Cola Company of Tennessee, and the offices were moved to Chattanooga. They did try to re-invent the brand with a new label design, but things were winding down for the company so a new approach had to be taken. They had tried to get a boost from star power; however, ultimately that had fallen through. They decided to negotiate with Walt Disney to license Donald Duck for their new line of beverages, which they had already been working on developing when they changed their name to General Beverages, Inc. in 1952.

The Donald Duck line of course included a Lime Cola along with several flavors, which you can read about in issue 66 of this very magazine; however, General Beverages’ charter was revoked in February 1957. This spelled the end for a brand that had lasted half a century, and that deserves more than a footnote in the history of Hope and Crosby. Now you know the story of Lime Cola the “Happy Snappy Combination of Cola and Lime” which was “Not twice as much but twice as good”.

June 1916 ad for Lime Cola

August 1921 ad for Lime Cola

Early Lime Cola cap
1945 Lime Cola bottler ad
1940's bottle cap

early 1940's Lime Cola bottle
late 1940's bottle cap

Late 1940's Lime Cola bottler ad

1947 Lime Cola bottle
One of the last advertising pieces for Lime Cola before it was incorporated into the Donald Duck brand.