MOULTRIE -- So how many times have you heard the expression "An R.C. Cola and a moon pie?"
Obviously, that's a rhetorical question but one involving a phrase that's become Americana in the annals of soft drinks.
But long before Royal Crown Cola made it's mark on this country, it's forerunner was making its mark on the sides of buildings and the roofs of barns across the nation. One such mural can be seen on Moultrie's North Main Street on the south side of an old brick building. That depiction is that of Chero-Cola.
The following is just a snippet of the Royal Crown story available on-line:
Royal Crown has its roots in Columbus, Ga., In 1905, a graduate pharmacist, Claud A. Hatcher, began creating his own soft drinks in the basement of his family's wholesale grocery business. Hatcher initially got miffed when a soft drink bottler who refused to pay his company a commission for handling this company's products. He set out to be his own bottler.
The first line of beverages was named Royal Crown, and the first cola-style drink was named Chero-Cola.
Shortly after the Hatcher Grocery Co. decided to manufacture soft drinks, its officials organized the wholly owned Union Bottling Works. The manufacture and bottling of soft drink syrups continued within the framework of the Union Bottling Works until 1912 when the newly-organized Chero-Cola took over the business and vastly expanded it. Among the early products were Royal Crown Ginger Ale, Royal crown Strawberry, Royal Crown Root Beer and Chero-Cola.
The company first applied for a patent for Chero-Cola in 1914. This brought a lawsuit from Coca-Cola. This lawsuit ran for nine years and portions of it continued on into 1944 when Royal Crown won the right to once and for all use the word "cola."
Chero-Cola faced a crisis during World War I when in 1918 the Food Administration imposed a severe limitation on the use of sugar by what it determined to be "less essential" food products. This limitation failed to ease the sugar crisis and in the latter part of 1918, a meeting was held by government officials for the purpose of closing the soft drink industry, but that threat failed to materialize.
After this issue, Chero-Cola established and operated its own sugar refinery but the price dropped to eight cents a pound in 1920 and then came the depression era.
In the 1920s, Chero-Cola Co. began to ship its products to bottlers in the form of concentrates instead of syrup. This required the bottler to add pure cane sugar and water to the concentrate. This cut down on freight costs and added to the freshness of the drink.
By 1925, Chero-Cola had 315 plants located in 14 Southern states. It was during this time that Chero-Cola started bottling fruit drinks that were sold under the name Nehi.
The trademark Nehi supposedly came about when Hatcher heard one of his salesmen say that a competitor had a drink that was in a tall bottle "knee high."
The trademark was so famous that in 1928 the company changed its name from Chero-Cola to Nehi Corp.
In 1934, following the death of Hatcher, H.R. Mott took over the company. He had served as vice president of Nehi. Faced with continued financial crises, he streamlined the company and decided it needed a new product. The company's chemist came up with the drink that would become known as RC Cola, which came from Hatcher's original ginger ale Royal Crown. A Nehi bottler named Grubb from Dothan, Ala., was the first to bottle RC Cola.
In the middle of the depression when money was tight, RC was selling in a big 12 ounce bottle for five cents.
As RC became famous, the expression "first by taste test" was originated by its promoters. Among the celebrities helping sell RC were Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Heddy Lamar, Elizabeth Scott and others.
The company's leadership changed from time to time and so did the soft drink challenges.
In 1961 came Diet Rite cola as the company moved into the dietary soft drink business. And in 1969 came the ban of cyclamates used in diet drinks and the company had to expand into other ventures to provide the capital to reformulate Diet Rite.
In 1975 came the "Me and My R.C" slogan. And in 1980 Royal Crown introduced the first caffeine free cola, RC 100.
Just how long the Chero-Cola mural has been posted on North Main Street -- well, maybe someone out there was just a little boy when the artist was doing his work. Since the first Chero-Cola charter was granted in Muscogee County, Ga., in 1912, that might serve as a starting place.