The Springfield Herald reported on May 21, 1915, that a modern new bottling plant had opened and the chief product of the new plant was Chero-Cola among other soda flavors and the owner is Mr. H. N. Ramsey of Springfield. This was a modern plant and accessible to the rail lines for distribution. The plant was machine driven throughout with power being furnished by a gasoline engine. The same article notes that Mr. Q. L. Claxton, proprietor of Springfield Bottling Works is now the county agent for a new beverage, Cola-Nip. Both Ramsey and Claxton are having all they can do to fill the orders for the popular drinks.
The Nov. 28, 1919 issue of the Springfield Herald reports that the Chero-Cola plant has been out of business due to a “stubborn gasoline engine”.
A City Marshall’s Sale was advertised for the first Tuesday in February 1920, according to the Springfield Herald dated Jan. 9, 1920. This advertised the sale of the lot on Laurel Street known as the Chero-Cola bottling plant to satisfy a tax debt by the Clerk and Tax Collector of the City of Springfield. It was located where the current Mars Theatre was built.
A deed to secure debt, from the Chero-Cola Bottling Company to The Exchange Bank of Springfield dated Feb. 3, 1921, showed Mr. J. H. Durden with a lien again the equipment in the plant. The loan was canceled by the bank on Nov. 22, 1922 upon receipt of money from the bottling plant.
According to the Herald, the plant changed hands to Mr. H. L. Lancaster, purchaser. Mr. H. J. Durden was listed again as manager of the plant. Although Durden ran it, his mother, Mrs. Ora T. Durden, had trouble meeting her payments. In June 1921 it was again auctioned to secure debt.
According to the Herald the plant went to sale under mortgage foreclosure on May 26, 1922, by the Exchange Bank of Springfield. Notes in the Herald in January 1923 advertise the Chero-Cola business for sale.
The April 13, 1923, edition of the Herald reports that fire destroyed the Chero-Cola plant and the adjacent small post office building built by Mr. J. A. Hodges. Although most items were salvaged at the post office, nothing was saved at the bottling plant. The owner was listed as Mr. L. W. Moore, editor and publisher of The Springfield Herald. His granddaughter, Betty Elmore, lives at Clyo.
It appears, according to Norman Turner’s research, that the Chero-Cola Bottling Company was to have been replaced according to the Springfield Herald, but no evidence was found that it was ever rebuilt.
The next bottling company that operated in Springfield was The Limerick Beverage Company during the early 1950s. J. Lamar Limerick ran it until it was purchased by LeGrand “Preacher” Hodges on Oct. 10, 1953. He purchased it for $10 and assumed the loan. On Oct. 6, 1954, Hodges sold the business to J. P. Burns for $10 and Burns acquired the loan. No advertisement appeared after that date so the date that the plant stopped producing the sodas is unknown.
The following is an interesting interview done by Norman Turner on May 6, 2006, with his cousin, retired Magistrate Judge Preston Exley, who was employed by Limerick Beverage Company by Limerick and later Preacher Hodges. The interview follows:
Norman Turner: “Preston, how were these drinks made?”
Preston Exley: “George Cooler, now deceased, was employed to produce the drinks at the drink plant. The old drink plant was a building with an upstairs room. The upstairs room had a big tank or vat, which was used to mix up the liquids to produce the drinks. George was in charge of making the drinks. Mr. Limerick would buy the several different flavors and George would mix several gallons of syrup (or concentrated fruit or syrup flavors) with many gallons of water and then add the right amount of sugar into the big vat to produce the desired soda. George would then stir it with a paddle until it was well mixed. Downstairs on the first floor was a drink bottle filling machine and the bottle washing machine.” (Note: This may be the Dixie Filling and Crowning machine in conjunction with the liquid carbonator and the Miller Hydro Soaker which are listed in the bill of sales when it was sold to Preacher Hodges and later to J. P. Burns.)
Preston Exley: “After George mixed up a batch of liquid in the big vat, he would then go downstairs to the drink bottle filling machine. This machine was connected to the vat upstairs. The machine had a circular wheel that held two bottles side by side and a total of six to eight bottles to the wheel. The wheel rotated under the drink filling machine. George would stand at the machine with a bunch of clean bottles behind him and he would stand over an empty drink bottle flat between his feet. George would put the first two bottles in the holding slots on the wheel. The wheel slowly went into the machine, which during the process the drink filling machine began to fill two drink bottles at a time. After the required amount of liquid had poured into the empty bottles, the machine then capped the two filled drink bottles and continued to rotate, bringing the filled bottles out of the machine. As the two filled bottles came out of the filling machine, George would reach over and pick them up and put them into the empty drink carton or crate at his feet. Then he would reach behind him and get two more clean bottles to put back into the empty slots on the wheel. The process continued until he ran out of clean bottles or soda to fill the bottles.
Norman Turner: “Preston, what kind of flavors did Kona-Kola (or the Limerick Bottling Company) produce?”
Preston Exley: “The Limerick Bottling Company produced a drink called Kona-Kola, which was a product similar to Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola, an orange flavored drink, a grape flavored drink, a strawberry flavored drink, a lime flavored drink, a ginger ale drink and sometimes a chocolate flavored drink.”
Norman Turner: “Did George Cooler have to cook or heat the ingredients that made up these drinks?”
Preston Exley: “The chocolate drink was the only drink that required heating to prepare it.”
Norman Turner: “How did these flavored ingredients or syrups come in, in glass jars or barrels?”
Preston Exley: They all came in either one or two gallon glass jars.”
Norman Turner: “If all the old Kona-Kola bottles had the word Kona-Kola on the front of the bottle, did you put a grape drink in a bottle that said Kona-Kola?”
Preston Exley: “All the bottles had printed on the front ‘Kona-Kola’ and each different flavor had a different cap on it with the type of drink printed on the top of the cap.”
Norman Turner: “Preston, how were the returned empty bottles washed or cleaned?’
Preston Exley: “They (Limerick Bottling Company) had a bottle washing machine. Each bottle was turned upside down and put in a rack. The rack was designed where it sprayed hot water up into the empty bottles to clean them. I cannot remember who ran this machine, when I worked there. The person who ran this machine also was the bottle inspector. After the washing process, each bottle had to be inspected to make sure that all the foreign matter was no longer in the empty bottle. Sometimes a bottle had to have some additional help to get it clean before it could be used for refilling. After the bottles were washed and cleaned, they were put in empty wooden cartons or crates to be refilled in the next process of the drink business.”
Norman Turner: “Preston, where did Mr. Limerick deliver his drinks to?”
Preston Exley: “We had a weekly route. Each day the delivery truck would deliver the drinks to the grocery stores and filling stations. One day we went to all the stores and gas stations in Effingham County, another day you finished the customers in the lower part of the county and went into Chatham County. One day you would go into Bryan and Bulloch counties. Another day you would ride up into Burke County and the last day up to Screven County. The driver would sell the drinks to the grocery stores and filling stations and pick up returned bottles to bring them back to the plant to be refilled.”
Little is known of the Atlantic Bottling Works of Guyton. Mr. W.L. Cubbedge purchased the equipment in 1906 for his company. The purchase was to pay so much a month for 24 months. No advertisements were located by Norman in his research. He did get a photo of an Atlantic Bottling Works bottle from a bottle dealer he met who had the bottle in his collection. It is unknown as to how long the company operated.
In 1927, there was a second bottling company in Guyton known as Guyton Bottling Works according to the Springfield Herald. It was located in the Powers Building and was under management of Levy Evans of Savannah. Production was mentioned in the Springfield Herald, but it is unclear as to how long it operated.
It is hard to believe that six bottling companies operated in Effingham County from 1906 through the 1950s but Norman Turner’s research proves that even with their ups and downs, the businesses were lucrative.
This article was written from information in “Effingham County, Georgia’s Soft Drink Bottling Companies” by Norman V. Turner, a local historian. Susan Exley compiled this weekly column for Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org