Wednesday, April 6, 2011

thirsty just whistle, vess - guest post by Michael Lober

I grew up in southern Illinois in a family of soda drinkers right when aluminum cans were replacing glass bottles in grocery stores. When I was a child, my mother used to store glass bottles of soda on a shelf in the laundry room of our house, and then return them to the local store (this was pre-Wal Mart in my town) when enough had accumulated. We largely stuck to the standard varieties of Coke, Sprite, and A&W Root Beer, but occasionally we'd spring for a fruit flavor from Vess, the soda company headquartered in nearby St. Louis. Vess was cheaper than the more well-known brands of Coke and Pepsi and, in my mind, much tastier. You could buy a can for a quarter from a vending machine just off the town's main square, and, even though I understand that this is no longer standard practice in our health-conscious world, parents used to bring coolers full of Vess to youth soccer and baseball games. When play concluded, we'd sprint for the coolers on the sidelines, digging deep into the ice for the good flavors -- black cherry, grape, or orange -- while steering clear of the lemon lime and root beer knock offs. The cans had blocky Helvetica type and took on the color of the fruit they represented (red for black cherry, green for lemon lime, etc.). Nothing to write home about and, judging by the bottle cap Lauren found, the crown design wasn't exciting either. But, man, was that soda sweet after an hour of chasing a ball up and down a field.
Several times per year, my family would journey farther south in Illinois to my grandparents' house. In the basement they kept a boxy refrigerator invariably stacked with a variety of odd snacks: push-pops, hickory nuts, and glass bottles of Thirsty? Just Whistle! I loved this soda, not because it was good -- it tasted sort of like an orange popsicle -- but because of its strange name. What did whistling have to do with being thirsty? I didn't have a clue, but I made up a story about a soda vendor at the turn of the century who would deliver bottles of carbonated orange drink to whistling children. I found out later that the soda is actually made by Vess and its name is simply "Whistle," which I found odd because the Vess orange sodas that I drank after youth games weren't called Whistle. Hmmmm. Either way, when Lauren started her blog, I begged her to find a Thirsty? Just Whistle! bottle cap. Vess discontinued bottles a while back, and with them went my childhood. It's good to have these caps as reminders.

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