Some pieces of 20th century Americana are simply timeless. Take, for instance, the entire sphere of the soft drink world. Yes I’m talking soda-pop, and yep, it’s still largely consumed today. Yet, its heyday was very much in the past century, and is relived with antique posters, metal signs, vending machines and so on-most of which were fun and flashy marketing ploys. Of course, topping the list, at least in the collector’s market, would be Coca-Cola memorabilia. But there are other soda beverages, fairly obscure, that, at the mention, would bring a gigantic smile to most adults my age. One particular company, a brand that has been swallowed by corporate conglomerates, still retaining its place in today’s crammed market, is a beverage known as Sun-Drop. In Shawano, Wisconsin, a bottling plant started in the early ’50s retains the Sun-Drop company aura, doubling as a museum and craft soda bottler.
Before I started writing this, I did a little research on Soda. There is a ton I did not know about this common place beverage. While the soda fountain was invented in the early 19th century, as the drink was hailed as a healthy alternative to alcohol, widespread distribution boomed during the roaring twenties. So, needless to say, if you lived in the early to mid portion of the last century, and could find a company to bottle for, considering the enormous popularity of soft drinks, you’d probably have a fairly lucrative income.
And that’s what Floyd Twigg did. He found a company, one that was already well established, and was given a bottling contract. The soda company was known as Sun-Drop. Today, the Sun-Drop company is no longer, yet the flavor remains as part of the Keurig-Dr. Pepper palate.
Sun Drop is still a Twigg product. However, the Twigg’s, sustaining Floyd’s business, started their own soda company. Currently, they make craft sodas, and also bottle for other local craft soda makers. I should also mention, as it’s definitely noteworthy, they’re beverages come in glass bottles.
Not only do they operate a bottling company, they also welcome guests to their plant with a fun museum. And topping your visit off right, there’s a fashionable tasting bar that features Twigg’s soda-pop concoctions.
So on with my visit to a bottling Museum
It’s around noon on a Thursday in late February, and I’m searching for a craft soda bar. Really, before I set foot in this place, that is all I know. The fact that it’s a craft soda company with a tasting bar is just enough allure.
So, when I find the place, and set foot inside their museum, I’m pleasantly surprised. The first relics that greet my eyes, amongst the Sun-Drop memorabilia, is an old-time gas pump and a fifties pick up truck. I like this, and, although I don’t know it quite yet, these pieces suggest the time period of this bottling plant’s inception.
I saunter around, take a few photos and imagine an era just before my birth, and subsequently my first memories. As I cruise further into the museum, I see things that are recognizable. And don’t you know it, I feel a tinge of nostalgia come over me. Apparently, I have some positive Sun-Drop episodes locked deep within my memory banks. Childhood emotions hit me, kind of like a swig of a fizzy citrus flavored soda euphorically dancing on my taste buds. That’s cool.
After I saunter around a bit, I figure I should reward these people for their fine Sun-Drop display. I mean, I found posters, wood crates, Sun-Drop bottles galore, metal signs-heck, I even saw a retro Sun-Drop juke box. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a small section dedicated to Dale Earnhardt. I guess the company sponsored the legendary NASCAR driver once upon a time. So, I’m going to buy a soda from their gift shop. I figure it’s a simple nod to a free museum, one that is worth a small admission fee.
As I’m making my purchase and complimenting this quirky hall of retro, the woman behind the counter asks, “Did you see the bottling portion?”
I believe I’m wearing a blank face, as I recall everything I’ve just witnessed.
“It’s tucked in a corner, C’mon I’ll show you.”
I’m curiously following this woman, and, when I make a turn as she slips past a wall, I’m stunned when my eyes see the final portion. I might be embellishing a tad. It’s not one of those rays from heaven moments, but it’s pretty cool. Along the wall on my left, some very archaic machinery stands proudly. And on my right, visible through plate glass windows, I see a super modern bottling machine. It literally gleams in its small rectangular room. I’m told that the older machines are some Floyd would have used…some may be older.
She leaves me while I gawk at the manmade contraptions. I appreciate the visible progression of technology on display. Also, tidbits are posted on the wall. My favorite bit of information is about the bottle itself. According to this mundane sheet of paper, bottles have been with us since ancient times. Instead of glass, they would use animal hides. I prefer glass.
I’m getting ready to leave, but a thought dawns on me, “I haven’t even tried the tasting bar, and that’s what I came for.”
So I find this cool segment of the museum, sit down and a lady offers me samples of Twigg sodas. I try three or four, ask a few questions and politely compliment the woman and her place of employment.
As I walk out the door, I realize this world, with its rapid progressions in technology, is sometimes unpredictable and hard to adapt to. I think Twigg’s has done fairly well, being a glass bottler. One thing about people, although we crave change and want to make things easier, we love to revisit the past. And the past survives in so many shapes and forms. At Twigg’s, uniquely flavored soda in an old fashioned bottle speaks of their heritage, as much as ours.