Thursday, September 11, 2008

“Ale-8-One Memorial”


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(9-08)





It was a late night in Thompson.

Liz, my wife, was slumbering as we rolled into the driveway. With temperatures still hovering in the seventies, her Taurus pinged and popped from heat fatigue. We had been on the road since seven o’clock in the morning. Comic squawks of Phil Hendrie echoed from the radio. In the living-room window, a cat yowled through grogginess.
I was glad to finally let go of the steering wheel.

“We’re home at last,” I said with satisfaction.

There was a noisy pause as my spouse emerged from her blanket. “Ohhh… did I fall asleep?” Her brown curls flew wildly as she exited the car.

“Right after we left Columbus,” I replied, while gathering a handful of grocery bags, and a suitcase.

Moonlight streaked our deck with luminescent gray. Liz yawned while pulling another bag from the trunk. “Sorry I wasn’t better company on the ride home.”

I smiled. “You were fantastic. My family couldn’t stop crowing about you…”

She seemed to be embarrassed. “Oh, Rodney!”

“Give yourself some credit, honey,” I exclaimed. “You began yesterday at two a.m. and then we left for southern Indiana at nine o’clock… today we were up at six in the morning and kept rocking until now, from Scottsburg to Cincinnati, to Columbus and Cleveland… I’d say that deserves a gold star for effort!”

My wife rubbed her eyes. She dropped her bag on the couch. “Instead of a gold star, how about coffee?”

I nodded. “Coffee it is! But I want an Ale-8.”

She wrinkled her nose. “A… what??”

I pulled a six-pack of soda from our Meijer grocery bag. “Ale-8, the pride of Kentucky!”

Liz narrowed her tired eyes. “I saw you put that in the cart, while we were shopping in Westerville. But… what is it?”

“Part of my childhood,” I answered.

My wife curled up on the sofa. She was spent from our fast-paced, memorial adventure. “Rodney! No riddles tonight, please…”

“Okay,” I agreed. “My family lived in eastern Kentucky for a year, while I was growing up. That’s where we discovered Ale-8-One. It tasted like a fruity ginger ale. After moving away in the summer of 1970, I never saw it again… until today!”

She raised an eyebrow. “So… it’s another item for your collection?”

“Yeah,” I said with a grin.

After starting a pot of coffee, I sat down at the computer. A search for the beverage quickly yielded its company website. I read out loud as Liz waited for her own refreshment:

“Ale-8-One, the soft drink unique to Kentucky, has been bottled in Winchester since 1926. Still a closely guarded family secret, the Ale-8-One formula was developed by G. L. Wainscott in the 1920’s after experimentation with ginger-blended recipes he acquired during extensive travels in Northern Europe. He sponsored one of America’s first ‘name the product’ contests, and ‘A Late One’ was the winning entry. The drink’s logo, Ale-8-One, was adopted as a pun of its description as the latest thing in soft drinks.”

“Isn’t that amazing?” I asked. “It’s a regional beverage that has managed to survive amid corporate takeovers and industry consolidation.”

My wife bit her lip. “That is quite unusual…”

I continued to read from the company history:

“Wainscott had been in the soft drink business in Winchester since 1902, bottling soda water and several flavored drinks in a plant on North Main Street. In 1906, he introduced Roxa-Kola, a popular rival to the cola drinks then available. By 1935, Wainscott had converted a livery stable on West Broadway and moved his growing bottling operation. Jane Rogers Wainscott inherited half of her husband’s bottling stock at his death in 1944. The other half was divided among the company’s employees. At her death in 1954, Mrs. Wainscott left her interest to her brother, Frank A. Rogers, Sr. Mr. Rogers bought out his partners in 1962, and incorporated the Ale-8-One Bottling Company. Frank A. Rogers, Jr., became manager, was later named president, and the phenomenal growth of the new corporation began.”

“We first saw the stuff at a gas station in Owingsville, Kentucky,” I said. We had just moved there from southern Ohio.”

Liz sighed. She took a first sip of coffee. “So, when was this?”

“1969,” I observed. “That service station was near the end of our street, Wells Avenue. I rode my bicycle there every day.”

She blinked while pondering my story. “A chubby little kid on two-wheels…”

I snorted, and began to read again:

“The 80th Anniversary year of 2006 re-introduced Ale-8-One Suckers and pioneered Ale-8-One Salsa. After an 18- year lapse, Ale-8-One and Ruth Hunt Candies in Mt. Sterling joined forces once again to supply the Ale-8-One Sucker to fans of the Kentucky soft drink. Working with the Kentucky Proud program through the Department of Agriculture, the bottling company commissioned Ale-8-One Salsa. Unique as the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Ale-8-One, the salsa is made with Kentucky-grown products, Ale-8-One concentrate and flavors. Available in two varieties, sweet and spicy, Ale-8-One Salsa is available wherever Ale-8-One soft drinks are found. Ale-8-One Apple Butter was formulated in the fall of 2007. A second product line directly impacting Kentucky agriculture, Ale-8-One Apple Butter has been created using the pulp remaining when apple cider is pressed and the juice extracted.”

“Ale-8 salsa?” she said with wonder. “And apple butter?”

“Never heard of those products,” I admitted. “But maybe we’ll find them on our next tour through the area.”

“I’m surprised they don’t offer Ale-8 hot dog chili,” she said.

I slapped the kitchen counter with amusement. “That’s the spirit! Let’s write them a letter!”

Suddenly, Liz sat upright. “Rodney, you need to come back down to Earth. This trip was for a funeral, after all. Can’t you be serious for even a minute?”

Silence took hold. I bowed my head without a word.

She covered her mouth. “Rodney, I’m sorry…”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Saying goodbye to Grandma was a very sad experience. But she was happy. And at the age of ninety-seven, she had enjoyed a full ration of life experiences. I mourn her passing, but celebrate her ascension to glory.”

“Yes,” Liz agreed. She pulled me away from the computer.

We embraced while green bottles floated around the monitor screen.

“Beyond that, I am thankful for you, and our daughters,” I said. “And for the miracle of our family…”

She took an Ale-8 from the carrier. It bubbled in the moonlight that peeked through our window. “And… for a distraction to ease the hurt?”

“Right,” I sighed.

The day ended with a cool taste of Kentucky pride, and a whispered prayer:

“God, please take Grandma home to be with you. Amen.”

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