Armchair Peregrinations

March 19, 2006

I had a can of orange soda at work not long ago, but it's been years since I have tried one. I just don't drink orange and grape sodas like I did when I was a kid. What's the reason? Artificial flavorings and colors? Lack of interest in sugary drinks like that? Yes, but when it comes to evoking memories, those orange and grape sodas such as Orange Crush, as well as a brand known as Nehi, really take me back to my childhood.

Specifically, on long drives in our 1956 Chevy from New Orleans to Sumter for summer vacations, we'd stop at "filling stations", now known as self-service, pump-your-own gas convenience marts. I would love to head to the vending machines and get a package of Lance Nekot peanut butter crackers and reach into the big soft drink box with the heavy lid, deposit my 15 cents and later a quarter, and pull out an ice-cold Orange Crush. Nothing seemed to satisfy the thirst on those long trips like that much-anticipated stop at an Amoco filling station where we could stretch and have our snack. This was no leisurely road trip. My father drove straight through -- 840 miles -- with about five stops for food and gas, if that.

I didn't realize until I did a little research that Orange Crush has been around a long time. The Orange Crush Company was incorporated in 1916 by Carlton J. Howell -- also the president and founder of the company -- and California chemist Neil C. Ward. It debuted as "Ward's Orange Crush/". Ward was a beverage and extract chemist who "perfected the exclusive formula that yielded the zesty, all-natural flavor of orange crush." Hmm. Does that sound familiar? Secret formula, distinctive product? Of course it does. Coca Cola had been around for several decades and America's tastes for carbonated fizzy drinks was expanding exponentially in the 20th century.

By 1924, Orange Crush had 1,200 bottlers and had expanded internationally.

Norman Rockwell was commissioned to paint print advertisements for the drink in national magazines. The distinctive Crush 7-ounce "Krinkly glass bottle was used until 1955, after which the 10-ounce "Mae West" bottle was debuted. This was the one I recall.

Here are some pictures of Orange Crush bottles. I like this 1960s Orange Crush ad. Did you know that there were also Orange Crush Domed Double Bubble Clocks, made from the 1940s through the 1960s? Amazing.

Thanks to the Internet we are now able to instantly trip down memory lane to revisit long ago times when life was simpler and soft drinks were mostly the real sugar (not corn syrup), non-diet variety, although Tab and Fresca and then Diet Coke were becoming well-known at the end of the 60s.

Orange Crush -- what memories a simple soft drink can bring back.

March 5, 2006

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration

But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody

Stardust: words by Mitchell Parish and music by Hoagy Carmichael; originally written as Star dust in 1929.

For the music, click here

I think this must be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Not just the words, of course, but the music which flows among the words like a softly meandering stream. How many times have I listened to the version sung by Nat King Cole, or, more often, Willie Nelson's immortal recording on the album of the same title more than 25 years ago. It's a song for the ages. I know I never tire of listening to it.

Now, reading the lyrics I am taken back years ago to the time I first heard the song as sung by Willie, and what potent emotions and recollections it brings back.

To me, it's a song about love found and lost, one that was not meant to be or that could not last. I think of what that means in quiet contemplative times alone with my thoughts, wondering what the years would have brought had such a love come my way, and what would have happened when it was gone.

"Stardust memories" -- isn't that where so much of our past resides? Living on forever in the far reaches of time.

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