SMITH COLUMN: Contour Coke bottle

Published 10:30 am Thursday, January 20, 2022

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Owing to the generosity of one Fred Butler, the Coca-Cola impresario in my neighborhood, I got to enjoy the six and one-half ounce Coke in the traditional contour bottle at Christmas. It made my holidays.

I drank the “contour” Coke for lunch and supper with whatever was on the Home front menu. However, as much as I enjoy Coca-Cola, it is not the best drink accompaniment for eggs and bacon.

If you have experienced enough birthdays to have earned senior citizen status, you likely remember the days of the contour Coke bottle in ice boxes at every corner grocery store in your town.

I remember the pretty models with million-dollar smiles posing with the contour bottle. I remember a robust and rosy cheeked Santa Claus swigging from the contour bottle. I remember, too, saving enough pennies to purchase a nickel’s worth of Coke in the contour bottle.

My favorite time during the recent holidays were the evenings when I grilled a Bubba Burger, then raked mayonnaise across a soft bun, added ketchup, lettuce and tomato and took my burger and my six and one-half ounce bottle of Coke to my favorite chair by a full bodied and agile wood burning fire — the best meal(s) of the holidays. 

It made me wonder about the possibilities of making a deal with my friend, Fred Butler. If I cut his grass each week, would he pay me in 6 and one-half ounce, contour-bottled Cokes?

You may have brushed up against the story of a long-time friend by the name of Earl Leonard, who was an executive with Coco-Cola. He was attending a reception at the White House and was summoned to the Oval Office by President Ronald Reagan who was an avid fan of the world’s most popular soft drink.

The former President wanted to know why the six and one-half ounce bottle of Coke tasted so much better than in a larger container. Earl explained that “Coca-Cola” was designed to be consumed ice cold. “In a larger container, it takes longer to consume a Coke, and it begins to warm up in your hands or while sitting idle on a table or desk top,” Earl told our 40th President. This led to the UGA-educated Earl Truman Leonard arranging for a routine shipment of Cokes to the White House. 

After much frustration at the outset, the contour Coke bottle became iconic. 

In its early days, Coca-Cola had to fight off intrusion from knock-off and outlaw operators whose bent was to confuse consumers.  It took years to bring about control.