Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fond Memory: Water Bath "Slider" Coke Machines

Driving down Route 1 in Stonington, CT with my daughter, I saw an old Coke machine being used as a planter in front of a store and was blessed with a memory unrecalled for decades.

I am old enough to remember a kind of soda machine that was in the shape of a tall cooler. Lifting the lid revealed glass soda bottles submerged in chilled water, their necks protruding from horizontal slots in a metal plate. Buying a coke involved depositing coins and sliding the chosen bottle to the left and into a little bay where the bottle could be pulled up through tipping doors unlocked by the money in the slot.

As you can imagine, old Coke machines are a booming collectors’ preoccupation, and you can find every kind ever invented on eBay and websites devoted to Coke memorabilia. The kind of “slider” machine I was remembering was made by companies called Glasco and Ideal. The photo below shows the lid and innards of a typical machine.

I remember two wonderful features of buying soda from a machine like this. First, the soda came out very cold and wet. On a hot day, it was great to hold the bottle in your hand or press it to your forehead or cheek. Second, buying a soda from this kind of machine had a game-like quality. Often different kinds of soda were mixed together in the slots of the machine: Coke, Hires Root Beer, Orange Crush. To get the soda you wanted, you sometimes had to play a little Rubic’s cube game of sliding unwanted bottles out of the slot and into another row so that you had a clear path to the exit bay. This was a much more participatory form of soda purchase than today.


Phil Mooney said...

Stuart - I found your post on the old Coke machines and had to comment. I'm the archivist for The Coca-Cola Company and started my own blog, Coca-Cola Conversations, in January. I focus on Coke's heritage and the brand's role in pop culture, but I also collect stories on the role Coca-Cola has played in people's lives. A lot of people fondly remember the cooler you show -- and dipping their hands into the ice-cold water to find a bottle of Coke. And aside from the fond memories associated with this sort of "dunk" into the cold water, your point about multiple kinds of beverages in the coolers is exactly why we created the contour bottle -- so that people could recognize the feel of a Coke bottle even when they couldn't see it. You've described one version of a perfect serving of Coca-Cola. On my blog I recently talked about the proper way to serve it from the soda fountain and some experiments we are doing with a local restaurant. I hope you'll check out my blog and let me know what you think. Thanks -- Phil Mooney

Anonymous said...

Loved this story! One of my best childhood memories is going to the Feed Store with my Dad and him always buying us a pop from one of these machines. You give a perfect description of the process and the feeling! I often got Strawberry or sometimes Rootbeer. I do miss Coke in bottles. I don't care what anyone says, Coke tastes best in bottles! Thanks for bringing back the good old days!-Sage

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