If you’re thirsty after that long drive from Kingman to Barstow that takes you through the Mojave Desert, you might be searching for the familiar red and white cooler emblazoned with these words: “Drink Coca-Cola.”
When inventor John S. Pemberton invented Coca-Cola in 1886, it was only available at drug store soda fountains. Based on the French drink called coca wine, it indeed included cocaine as a major ingredient. In developing his recipe, he substituted the wine with a kola nut extract and the popular result wasn’t modified until 1903. Traces of cocaine remained until the recipe was modified again in 1929.
Coca-Cola became portable in 1915, when the contoured-glass bottle was developed. Consumers could purchase bottles for home consumption, picnics, and other occasions, but chilled bottles didn’t become readily available until the company had Glascock Brothers, a sheet metal manufacturer, design a four-legged cabinet that held ice in 1929. This design had its drawbacks, namely, that the ice had to be replaced as it melted, and cashiers had to keep an eye on who was taking bottles and if they were paying their nickel.
By 1934, Westinghouse had developed an electric cooling system which circulated cold water to chill glass bottles to “ice cold.” The new design could hold 3 to 6 cases of soda without being refilled constantly or replenishing ice, but cashiers still had to collect the money. The same chest design was modified two years later so that the cooling system did not require water. Any business owner, whether it was a gas station, grocery, or motel, that had floor space and an electric outlet could offer cold drinks.
The cooler also had a bottle opener, cap catcher, and usually a wooden crate to hold empty bottles. Since bottles only held 6 or 10 ounces, you could pay for your Coke, drink it down, and get back on the road.