The Herald Bulletin

June 8, 2013

Jim Bailey: You can call it soda, or you can call it pop, or Coke, or …

The Herald Bulletin

---- — There’s been quite a Facebook discussion of late on what people used to call carbonated beverages during their younger years. It seems as though it varies considerably according to where in this country you are.

Most respondents say they have always called it pop. Others went with soda. Sometimes it was both, as in soda pop. In many cases, soft drinks were always Cokes, even if they were Pepsi.

I’ve always called it pop, dating from my boyhood years in Minnesota. We often got specific, as in orange pop. I liked orange back in those days, and my parents fully approved since they discouraged me from drinking Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola or any other drink that might have caffeine in it, which they didn’t feel was good for a growing boy.

Mom, on the other hand, followed her German heritage by going with a cup of coffee in her hand most of the time. Dad had a nervous stomach and opted for Postum with his breakfast; sometimes with other meals he would have weak tea.

Mission Orange or Nesbitt’s Orange were my brands of choice back then. I also liked O-So Grape (although Mom was suspicious it might have caffeine in it). I loved root beer; in the years before A&W was available in bottles or cans I liked Hires as well as any.

I did drink Coke or Pepsi occasionally, and I took a liking to Royal Crown Cola (now known simply as RC). It was the first cola drink to come out in 16-ounce bottles.

It seems, though, as if when traveling you find different lingo applied to things such as pop, or soda if you prefer. My wife recalls her father, who spent most of his life in West Virginia, going into a store in Pennsylvania or somewhere in that vicinity to purchase soft drinks. He asked the store clerk if he could have a poke to put his pop in. The clerk looked at him is if he were crazy. He must have thought Bonnie’s dad was threatening bodily harm to his father or something of the sort instead of paper or plastic to carry his soda.

Speaking of soda, the term meant something entirely different during my growing-up years. A soda fountain was a place you could order, say, a chocolate soda and the “soda jerk” would scoop some ice cream into a tall glass, add chocolate flavoring and finish it off with carbonated water under pressure, perhaps topping it off with whipped cream and a cherry. I have no idea if you can even find one these days.

A variation was a root beer (or some other flavor) float, which my dad called a “black cow.”

Soft drinks are still the drink of choice for millions. But we don’t always know what to call them.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at