Dr Pepper , Good for Life
The trouble with chili or Tex-Mex is that it can be hotter than a firecracker on your tongue. Maybe that's why Texas ended up as the birthplace of one of the most refreshing drinks on the planet.
This story begins in Waco, a place that started out as a rough and tumble cattle town in 1856. In 1871, when the railroad came through, the town became a center of commerce, supporting a local cotton industry. Transportation also made Waco a travel hub. As a result, several universities settled in Waco including Baylor (the oldest university, chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845, started in Independence and moved to Waco in 1887), Texas Christian University (TCU, from 1896 to 1910 - moved to Ft Worth), and Paul Quinn College (from 1881 to 1990 - moved to Dallas.)
The thriving early Waco downtown included all the usual emporiums including one store in particular named Wade Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store. In the 1880s, a young pharmacist who worked in the store, Charles Alderton, took an interest in the sodas served at the store. At that time, sodas mostly consisted of carbonated water with some fruit flavor added to them. They were popular, but Alderton sensed that the customers wanted something new.
In 1885, by mixing several fruit flavors, Alderton came up with a combination that hit the spot. Customers drank it up by the glassful and the demand for the pleasing elixir grew rapidly. "Shoot me a Waco" was the way to ask for Alderton's new drink.
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There are two major historic Dr Pepper sites that you can visit in Texas. The oldest continuous bottling company in Texas (and the only one to still bottle returnable bottles) is in Dublin. Sam Houston Prim started this company in 1891. Its other claim to fame is that when most other soft drinks began using corn sweeteners instead of cane sugar to sweeten drinks, the feisty owner at the time (Grace Prim Lyon) refused to switch over, so the Dr Pepper bottled there still contains real cane sugar. (It does give the drink a slightly sweeter flavor.)
Dr Pepper Museum, Waco. (Photo by author.)
When Mrs. Lyon died in 1991, the plant was passed on to her long-time faithful employee Bill Kloster.
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The Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute operates this museum. It contains a recreated version of Old Morrison's Drug Store, complete with a soda fountain where you can order all kinds of Dr Pepper goodies. (If it's cold outside, be sure to order a cup of hot (real sugar) Dr Pepper with a slice of orange or lemon in it. Mmmm.)
An old fashioned Dr Pepper delivery truck in front of Doc's Soda Shop in Dublin. (Courtesy Amanda Raspberry, Dublin Dr Pepper.)
The museum contains an extensive collection of Dr Pepper memorabilia, clips from old Dr Pepper commercials, and a shop where you can buy all kinds of Dr Pepper curios.
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Texas Tidbit: According to Goldie Friede in The Beatles A to Z, when the Beatles were developing a new album in 1966, Paul McCartney originally titled it "Dr. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band." The name was changed to "Sgt. Pepper" once he found out that the name "Dr Pepper" was copyrighted. Nevertheless, bottles of Dr Pepper can be seen strewn around in the background in their 1970 movie Let it Be.
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Texas Tidbit: Another beverage created in Waco is Big Red. Created by Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roarkin 1937, it was originally known as Sun Tang Red Cream Soda. Although it remained a strictly Texas treat for many years, Big Red is now marketed (and popular) all over the United States - and is currently based in Waco and Austin.
A cap from an original Big Red (Sun Tang Red Cream Soda)
(Courtesy Big Red, Inc.)
The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...