My earliest memories of soda sipping revolved around a community rink. After spending some time on the ice, I remember my parents going to a machine with coins in hand. The sequence even stands out to me. One coin, then two at the same time for some reason. Brother would get a Pepsi while I coloured my face with Orange Crush.
Thus began a long love-hate unhealthy relationship with sodas. Many positive memories of my youth are tied to drinking the addictive stuff. Those data bytes of memory are refreshed whenever I see old logos, old signs and old photos. There was a building in my hometown which had the entire brick side painted in a perfect Pepsi logo. There was some sort of convenience store in the building before it became a framing place gallery. That logo remained on the building until sometime in the late 1990’s.
Throughout my travels, I’ve ran across old signs, old cans, old bottles representing various soda brands. It is amazing how many impressive collections exist out there for things representing treasured beverage brands. A cursory google search reveals thousands upon thousands of items for sale and on display for almost any classic beverage brand you can think of.
In grade school I remember peeking into the teacher’s lounge where they had a Pepsi machine. We thought it was annoying that they were allowed to have them but we were not. We looked forward to junior high because there were several soda machines in strategic locations throughout the place. The water was actually never safe to drink due to high levels of e-coli contamination. We never found this out until several years later when they finally did proper sampling and were forced to carry out proper repairs.
A Coke machine almost identical to the one in the photo was in the junior high building. The main cafeteria had two or three Pepsi machines. There was ample opportunity for drinks if you had enough change on you for the day.
The summer between seventh and eighth grade I spent a week at an in-town basketball camp. hopefully my improved skills could get me on to the team when school returned in the fall. My parents were probably happy to be rid of me for a day. They would leave me with enough change to run to any of the nearby convenience stores to get lunch and snacks for the day. During this period, Pepsi was at the beginning of an endorsement deal with CFL player Rocket Ismail. A commercial has him suddenly stopping at a Pepsi machine, taking a long drink then looking into the camera, saying “Rocket Fuel”.
So from that point onward, I referred to colas as “Rocket Fuel”.
I was so sick at the end of that week after basketball camp. A steady diet of sodas, chips and jolly rancher candies was not a way to function properly.
Come my final years of high school I managed a routine of heavy caffeine early in the morning. For a while I stopped for coffee with my Mom sometimes first before heading to the bus stop. Half of the days during the week or whenever I had enough change, I would board the bus with a 1.5 liter bottle of Pepsi and have it gone between the bus ride and arrival at school. If I had more change, I would load up at the cafeteria machines before heading into class. In my final year of school, this irritated the chemistry teacher who spent early mornings herding all of us into classes. Because I was on the last bus to come in I would take extra time to load up on more morning sodas before heading into the homeroom class. It was fun to drive Mrs. Lockhart crazy……
In my late teens I spent many lunch-hours at my Dad’s parents place. That time increased before striking out west for work. I was attending a private career-college program in order to boost my employment prospects. Those lunch times were some of my favourites. Cold sandwiches and endless amounts of Pepsi. Gran and Gramps even told me they looked forward to those visits every day. We would chat for a while before I left for home well fed and well informed with interesting discussion.
At some point I finally realized that sodas are not healthy. A television program put things into perspective one day for me.
A can of cola contains the equivalent of 6 tablespoons of sugar…
Well that was it. I moved over to diet sodas where I occasionally still have the odd one today. Diet sodas are no better in the grand scale of things. The safety of aspartame has long been called into question. If I want it enough for mixing with whisky, I will buy locally produced products from Sobeys/Empire subsidiary Big 8 Beverages. Most of their drinks contain no animal products.
If you are trying to curb soda drinking, I offer this thought inspired by Dr. Michael Greger.
Anytime you drink soda is a missed opportunity to drink something healthier like water or tea.