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Posts Tagged ‘signs & memories’

Less Than 1 Calorie Per Bottle, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Less Than 1 Calorie Per Bottle, outside the Birchwood Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I had planned a post on writing for this sunny Friday afternoon. But the day felt like Summer, and I ran out of steam. So with fans blazing across the studio, and windows still open at 9pm, I’ve opted for something simpler.

I was running back through the photographic archives when this little gem of a bench caught my attention. It reminds me of days gone by, times when we ran slip sliding through the sprinkler, guzzled soft drinks, drank gallons of Kool-Aid, and even flavored garden hose water — anything to keep the sweltering Southern heat at bay.

Drink Clicquot Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, all photos © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Did you have a favorite childhood soft drink? You can’t be from Georgia and not love Coca-Cola (I’m a big Coke Zero fan). My other favorite was RC Cola (Royal Crown). In 1905, Claude Hatcher, a young graduate pharmacist from Columbus, Georgia, began creating soft drinks in the basement of his family’s wholesale grocery business. RC Cola was born (I used to love their jingles).

Diet Rite (an RC product) came along in 1958 and was the first diet soda ever to be sold (in limited quantities). In 1962, Diet Rite Cola was introduced nationwide and rose to #4 in 18 months. Thus began America’s love affair with the diet soft drink.

Izzys At The Birchwod, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The weathered bench in the photograph that boasts “Diet-Rite — Less Than 1 Calorie Per Bottle” is outside the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis. Remember cyclamate and saccharin (my grandmother used to sweeten her coffee with it)? Well, all that’s changed; Diet Rite is now sweetened with 21st Century low-cal Splenda.


Diet-Rite and RC Cola, along with Coca-Cola, remind me of my childhood in Georgia. We used to drop Planters Peanuts into a frosty blue-green bottle of Co-Cola (Southern dialect shortens the word) from the metal vending machine at my Granddaddy’s shop. Forget the can; you haven’t tasted cola until you’ve taken a long cold swig from a glass bottle. I still buy them once in a while during seasonal appearances on the grocery store shelf.

Orange Crush, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


So what’s your favorite summer soft drink memory? Shasta, Bubba Cola, RC, Pepsi, Cherry Coke, Clicquot Club, Schweppe’s, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Orange Crush? Or maybe your parents didn’t let you drink soda. What was their replacement (or their “no sugar” bribe)?


Oh, by the way, (here comes the healthy part of this post) you won’t want to miss the food at the Birchwood, a cool cafe with great ice cream and a wide range of natural and organic foods. The Birchwood was established in 1926 by the Bursch family; the cafe was originally a dairy. It’s not quite Summer yet, but I bet the tables outside the Birchwood were hopping with Good Real Food (and a few natural colas) on this shiny April day!


Good Real Food, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Good Real Food, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Good Real Food, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Good Real Food, Izzy’s At The Birchwood, Orange Crush, Drink Clicquot Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, all photos © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, April 3rd, 2008

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What I loved about sharpening dental tools was the pay. What I hated about sharpening dental tools was the pay. The jobs that paid well in a sleepy Western town weren’t necessarily jobs that you could sink a growing brain into. I loved the precision of it. There were certain tools that I was good at sharpening – I can’t even remember their names now.

There was one tool with a scoop neck that was just too hard. I couldn’t get the curve to the grinding wheel at the right angle. I’d grind a little, neck down, eyes penetrating and alert, stop, pull up to the micrometer. Measure. Too little off. Too much off. I blame it on my lack of spatial awareness.

What I loved about picking cherries was the view. What I hated about picking cherries was the pay. Just didn’t pay all the much for the blood, sweat, and tears. We wore these belted buckets around our waists and chatted it up while we stood atop tall ladders between gnarled branches and plucked cherry after cherry after cherry.

Most of my friends smoked back then. We probably spent more time on smoke breaks than we did picking cherries. Not to worry, the owner of the topside grove stood puffing away with us. The view was stunning. Flathead Lake. The drive from Missoula to Flathead through the reservation was peaceful and still. I loved the country there. I ached for the mountains after I moved to the Midwest. Ached.

I settle for the Great Lakes now. And prairie grass. And colder, windier winters. What I loved about pumping diesel for semi’s was the people. The truckers were friendly and well-versed in the gift of gab. The waitresses were hot. The food was cold and greasy. Truck driving food. The lights were bright. And I used to like the smell of gas. Plus at that time I was proud to be able to do physically demanding jobs. They kept me fit and trim and made me feel solid. Grounded.

That’s what I can say about jobs like cherrypicking and pumping diesel and checking oil on big Peterbilt or Mack trucks. Grounded. Step up, pull up the latches on the right side of the hood, or was it the left?

The office I worked in was about 12 x 12 and smelled like Granddaddy’s shop used to smell. A mixture of male sweat, girlie calendars, oil, gas, grit, and grime. That’s exactly what it smelled like. I used to like that smell. And the times we would visit him on Reynolds Street.

About 7 or 8 years ago, I headed Down South with my mother and sister. We went to the old haunts. My granddaddy’s shop was closed up tight. And it looked almost exactly the same as it did in the late 50’s, early 60’s. The Bear alignment sign was still hanging out from a rusty pole. And the auto service sign, we nabbed that one for my brother.

When we got back to the North, I gave the sign to him. And asked him to hold on to mine for me. I don’t know what happened to them. I need to ask. For a long time they were hanging in his barn. They tore the shop building down a few weeks after we left the South and widened the highway. All that remain are my photographs. I think that’s why I love photography.

I have an affinity for signs. I don’t know why. I shoot them all the time with my camera. Maybe it goes back to those hot humid days we’d visit my granddaddy at his shop. And drop salted Planter’s into the frosty, dripping tops of Coke bottles. We’d pull them out from between those machine pinchers hooked to a red metal cooler that went clink and suck down the caramel acid sugar between bits of swollen saltless peanuts.

Maybe that’s why I liked the smell of gas. And working at gas stations. Maybe it’s in my blood.



Thursday, May 24th, 2007

-from Topic post, Job! What Job?

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