Stories

February 17, 2014

Behind the Scenes With 'Mean' Joe Greene

We recently told you about baseball legend Willie Mays' visit to Coca-Cola to share stories with us. We almost forgot to share this great video that the Coca-Cola Journey team produced when the star of one of the most famous Coca-Cola commercials of all time, 'Mean' Joe Greene, came to talk about the making of his 1979 commercial. Enjoy:

February 05, 2014

Willie Mays Hits a Coca-Cola Home Run!

Willie Mays at Coca-Cola standing

Although Willie Mays retired with 660 home runs, I think I witnessed him hit a 661st home run yesterday at Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta as he fascinated employees with stories of his life, career, and Coca-Cola (of course). Mays, a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, was in town to speak about his time growing up with Coca-Cola in his native Fairfield, Alabama on through his professional career, when he was featured in Coca-Cola advertising beginning with this carton insert in 1952. Mays spoke about his famous plays on the field with baseball historian and announcer Marty Laurie, who served as moderator for the conversation. Mays also mentioned the fact that he was a huge fan of Coke and peanuts.

Before games he often played bunting games with his manager Leo Durocher and teammates Monte Irvin (who also appeared in a Coke ad) and Hank Thompson, wagering bottles of Coca-Cola. When one of them missed a bunted ball, they owed a Coke. And every few minutes they took stock. One day, Durocher yelled, "How do we stand?" One of the players shot back jokingly, "Durocher two, Irvin two, Thompson one and Mays eight." Mays asked surprisingly, "Why man? I only missed once!" The next time Mays made a nice stop, he'd say, "Now I'm all even. That was the redeemer!"

The New Yorker magazine once quoted Durocher as saying, "By the end of spring training I figured Willie owed me about one million three hundred thousand bottles of Coke."

An article in the 1954 issue of The Refresher magazine included the story of these games and mentioned that all of Mays’ New York Giants teammates kid him about his thirst for Coke. In fact, the cover story of the July 26, 1954 issue of Time magazine said Mays drank Coca-Cola by the case!

Willie Mays at Coca-Cola on stage

(L-R) Ted Ryan, Coca-Cola Company Director of Heritage Communications, Former AT&T and MediaLink Executive Eric Fernandez, Willie Mays and Baseball Historian and Announcer Marty Laurie. 

October 24, 2013

World Polio Awareness Day - A Personal Story

Polio Vaccine Distribution

Delivering Polio Vaccine in Argentina, 1964

October 24th is World Polio Awareness day.  Last year, I wrote a blog post for The Company's official blog, Unbottled, highlighting how polio had impacted my family and giving details on the efforts of The Coca-Cola Company to distribute the polio vaccine in Latin America.  On Polio Awareness Day, I wanted to re-share that blog. ^TR

June 12, 2013

The Pause that Refreshes Amid the Debris

1936 Relief Workers served on makeshift counter tops made of metal Coca-Cola signs in the aftermath of the tornado

Tornado relief workers served meals on counter tops made of metal Coca-Cola signs

One of the worst tornadoes in US history ripped through the city of Gainesville, Georgia some 77 years ago and I recently found in the Archives a photo album that documented the situation. The Red Cross  and The Salvation Army both used the Gainesville Coca-Cola bottling plant as headquarters for relief efforts in the storm’s aftermath. I reached out to Michael Nagy, Director and Archivist at The Salvation Army Southern Historical Center, who shared some great detailed images and stories from inside the plant that I had never seen nor heard. My favorite picture is the one which shows relief workers being served refreshments on makeshift serving counters comprised of Coca-Cola cooler crates on the bottom and metal Coca-Cola signs as the counter tops! Many Salvation Army volunteers are seen inside the Coke plant in the photos, and Michael shared some information with me from the 1936 issue of the War Cry, a magazine issued by the Salvation Army in Atlanta. 

1936 Salvation Army Relief Workers at Gainesville, GA Coca-Cola plant after tornado

The Salvation Army relief workers at the Gainesville Coca-Cola plant after tornado

Mr. H. Earl Terrell, the manager of the Gainesville Coca-Cola Bottling Company, turned over his building to be used for the relief effort in any way fit. Food was sorted and a makeshift kitchen was set up to feed hundreds of storm sufferers and workers. The kitchen, which was operated by The Salvation Army workers just hours after the storm and all through the initial nights, was one of the most popular places in town. According to the War Cry, as soon as they were relieved, National Guardsmen, firemen, W.P.A. employees, and all other workers made their way to the kitchen in the Coca-Cola plant. The Salvation Army workers also carried refreshments to those working outside among the ruins of buildings, and “anyone and everyone was fed for the first day and night”. A caption on one of the photos in the magazine put it best: “The pause that refreshes amid the debris”.

1936 Feeding Relief Workers and National Guardsmen at Gainesville, GA Coca-Cola plant after tornado
All images courtesy of The Salvation Army Southern Historical Center

Relief workers and National Guardsmen gather at the Gainesville Coca-Cola plant

June 05, 2013

Link Love for Buy the World a Coke!

Hilltop

For years we have had the restored version of "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" ad on our companion YouTube Channel.  As you would expect with one of the greatest ads ever made, it has always been one of the top performing videos on our channel.  I recently noticed a spike in comments and views of the ad and I was curious to see where the traffic was coming from. 

Today I found it!  msn.com featured a story on the 12 greatest advertising jingles. The story was written by Bruce Kennedy.  "Buy the World a Coke" was included in the list along with a few of the stories about the creation of the ad.  I have to admit that Bruce picked a pretty solid list.  I have been humming "You Deserve a Break Today" and "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz" since I saw visited the site.  What do you think of the ranking?  ^TR


May 02, 2013

Coca-Cola on "The Rock"

Alcatraz

One of my co-workers was traveling in San Francisco this week and visited Alcatraz, the famous island prison in the middle of San Francisco bay.  She took a moment to snap the photo here with this quick note.  "Visiting Alcatraz and what do I see?  It was in the supervisor's/officer's room and not only had the cooler but glass bottles to the left hand side of it in a wooden crate."

I always love to run into elements of Coca-Cola heritage when I travel!  Now I need to plan a trip to San Francisco to see it myself ^TR 


April 12, 2013

A Pair of Pioneers: How Coca-Cola Introduced Mary Alexander to Jackie Robinson

Some 57 years ago, two historic African American figures met in the city of Atlanta at a sports event co-sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. The event was the Annual Sports Jamboree of the “100% Wrong Club”, a unit of the sports department of the Atlanta Daily World newspaper. The historic figures? Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, and Mrs. Mary Alexander, the first African American model to appear in Coca-Cola advertising. “That was the highlight of my life”, Mrs. Alexander shared with me a few weeks ago when recounting the experience. “I was modeling for Coke and they asked me if I would come to the [sports program] and I said, ‘Yes! What do I do?’ and they replied, ‘You just go there and meet the people and talk and drink Coke.’ I said ‘fine!’” In addition to meeting Jackie Robinson, she also met Branch Rickey, the general manager who signed Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

“I was so excited and so happy to meet both of them. And, I got their autographs!”, she told me while flipping through the program from that night and showing off each signature and the two Coca-Cola ads which appeared in its pages. “I talked to everybody I saw there and I told them I worked for Coca-Cola and we just had a good time!”, she added. In the photo in our Archives released from the event, Wilbur Kurtz, the first Archivist for Coca-Cola, and Coca-Cola special representative Moss Kendrix are pictured with Robinson, Rickey and others. Kurtz delivered a welcome for the occasion, on which Rickey won “The Pioneer Award” and Robinson and teammate Pee Wee Reese took home “The Two Friends Award.” Robinson received the award on behalf of himself and Reese, who was unable to be in Atlanta for the event which was also co-sponsored by the Atlanta Daily World newspaper and Atlanta Life Insurance Company. 

Since the movie about Jackie Robinson, “42”, opens in theaters today starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, I thought it was appropriate also to share the following video about the lady I affectionately call “Miss Mary”, who is one of my personal heroes!

April 09, 2013

Salute to a Coke Fan in Chattanooga!

Yesterday, I got to take a bus trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee to give a presentation on the history of Coca-Cola. While I have given this presentation many times in the past, never have I done it while riding on a bus, standing backwards (to face the audience). As I told them, I considered it a successful presentation simply because I did not lose my balance and fall down the steps! When it comes to Coca-Cola in bottles, all roads stem from Chattanooga, site of the first Coca-Cola Bottling Company which was started when Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead acquired the rights to bottle Coke in 1899. In fact, there is a local saying that I learned: "Inside every bottle of Coca-Cola, there's a little bit of Chattanooga."

The highlight of my day came when I met Robert, who is pictured below with me at a great shop called The Ice Cream Show in Chattanooga. Robert told me that he had a Coke every afternoon between 3-4 PM, and loves ice cream at night. He is an 80 year-old Alabama native, and even has a case of the Coca-Cola Bear Bryant commemorative bottles, a favorite among Coca-Cola Collectors. Please join me in giving Robert a Coca-Cola salute!

Jamal Booker and Coca-Cola Fan Robert in Chattanooga

February 29, 2012

What did Coke fans do before Facebook?

Ever think about how a Coca-Cola fan would have "shared" his love for Coke in the 1890s? What about in the 1940s? Chances are that you would have written a letter or made a postcard with your Coca-Cola picture and sent it (by snail mail) to The Coca-Cola Company.

We've gone through the Archives and pulled out our "fan history" over time. The letters, pictures, stories and videos sent by Coca-Cola fans over 125 years are showcased on the Coca-Cola Page timeline. What you'll see represents the history of the brand through the lens of fans.

A friend of the Archives, Lynn Watson-Powers, went through her own photo collection and sent this early 1980s photo to us, along with the following quote: “Life didn't get any better than riding in the back of Mike's pick-up truck with my best friends, Andy, Beth and Paul, in the Washington, DC suburbs in 1984.” (Lynn is second from the left in the picture).

Lynn Watson-Powers Coca-Cola picture
January 26, 2010

Coca-Cola Conversations 2nd Birthday and Coke By The Numbers

W6121-lo The monitors in the loft portion of the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta display a feature we call "Coke by the Numbers," which have a dizzying array of numerical facts about our Company.  For example, did you know that in the first year of operation, we only averaged sales of nine drinks per day?

We were recently discussing some of the numbers associated with our blog and other social media outlets and we were amazed at the outreach.  Part of this was spurred on by the fact that this blog just celebrated its second birthday on Saturday, January, 23rd.  In those two years, we have written over 450 posts and fielded over 3,700 comments.  While we are still not able to answer questions about the value of individual collectibles, we have created a section of the blog which gives you broad guidelines on values.

In addition to the blog, we have started our own YouTube Channel where we have posted 45 videos which have been viewed nearly 500,000 times.  We are really excited about the addition of videos to the YouTube Channel and embedding them on the blog and are proud of some of the content like the Cooking with Coke series featuring James Beard nominated Chef Linton Hopkins and the oral history interview with Mean Joe Greene.

We have also launched a facebook page where you can join the more that 600 fans of the Coke Archives and you can also follow us now on Twitter where we are approaching 500 followers.  While you will generally see all of our blog post on these two sites, we try to offer some different or expanded stories and photos via facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on the site these last two years and I hope that we will continue to provide a blog that entertains and educates.