Mama’s Coke Bottle


58 Coke Bottle

It Wasn’t Plastic

The year was 1958. On a cutting board beside a white enamel sink, Mom pounded fresh red cube steak with a green Coca Cola bottle, tenderizing a tough cut of meat. On other days she used that bottle capped with a perforated top to sprinkle water across white cotton shirts. As she ironed, the crisp fragrance of steaming cotton filled the kitchen. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Coke bottle wasn’t going to end up in a stream, lake, or the sea.

I am weary of plastic. It has been a good thing in many ways. Today’s plastic-lightened cars get better gas mileage, but plastic, the double-edged sword, cuts two ways. I am weary of plastic grocery bags, plastic water bottles, and plastic soft drink bottles. Enough is enough.

I would love to see glass resurgent. Those colleagues of Mom’s Coke bottle? They carried a deposit. Seems it ran from 2¢ a bottle to a nickel. We boys would scour the roadsides picking up bottles. Entrepreneurs we were. You didn’t see soft drink bottles along the roads when I was a boy. That would have been like seeing money out by the highways.

Back then we drank from thick, strong glass bottles that we found uses for. I hammered a nail into a board with a Coke bottle once.

Back before steam irons and plastic bottles, Coca Cola bottles had a place in the laundry room. You could even buy an aluminum sprinkler with a cork that fit snugly in the bottle. Those days are gone with the wind, the winds of change.

I am plain worn out by plastic. I go into swamps and even there I can’t escape it. In blackwater swamps I see plastic water bottles floating along. The only wild places where I escape plastic bags and bottles are Carolina bays.

I was about to photograph a whitewater river a few years back. Looking through the viewfinder there it was: one of those bright orange water cooler jugs lodged against a rock.

How many times do you see a red gas can along the road where it flew out of a pickup. If they were made of heavy gauge metal like they once were that would not happen. Bring back metal, too. I see plastic grocery bags up in trees all the time. Enough is enough.

You probably recycle. I faithfully recycle plastic, aluminum, too, anything I can, but as my friend, Lee Brockington of Hobcaw Barony, observed. “Recycling is no longer enough.”

We need to get rid of the stuff, but until that happens just quit buying the junk. I keep a permanent water bottle handy. I fill it up whenever I go afield or do yard work.

I don’t care what the plastic association folks and lobbyists say, our own two eyes tell us plastic is a menace. Seaturtles swathed in plastic netting … pelicans ensnared in plastic bags … all that has created the need to police beaches and waterways. All roads led to Rome and all waterways lead to the sea and that’s where plastic ends up.

The year is 2018. Sixty years later we’re encased in plastic. I am fine with plastic in phones, computers, and car interiors. But when you give people plastic forks, spoons, and plastic drink straws, too many people toss them away. Man has yet to develop a pesticide that kills litterbugs.

We got rid of pop-tops on aluminum beverage cans. Now we need to severely lessen our use of plastic. Use a water bottle that is uniquely yours. Buy the permanent grocery bags and use tem. (I miss the heavy-duty paper bags … found a lot of uses for them.)

One more thing. Stand a classic Coca Cola bottle beside one of today’s flimsy plastic water bottles. The difference you see carries a name: art. Art that you, nature, and I will appreciate.

3 thoughts on “Mama’s Coke Bottle

  1. Great Story Tom, What will we do when you run out of things to say or take photos of; we will keep on keeping on….
    Take Care and keep on writing these beautiful pieces of literature, yes I agree too, way too much plastic in this day in time; if only, we could go back to the way things use to be!
    Seems like these days, times are changing, people are changing but just keep holding on to those glass coke bottles, the glass marbles from your boyhood days, they will come back one day, as Mom or grandma use to say – if you keep it long enough it will be back in style!
    The best things we have from these days are the beautiful memories, thanks for always sharing yours, it brings so much to your stories and we all love reading them.
    I’m sure I am not the first; nor will I be the last, what would we do without words of wisdom and stories by Tom Poland? Your stories are like a good book, it doesn’t matter how many times you read it you can always find something new to love.

  2. Hey Mr.Tom,
    Hope this finds you doing well and happy …..Been out of the loop and haven’t been able to get on lately ..On your Mom’s Coke Bottle …I took a coke bottle to kindergarten and we put paper machete on them and painted them with designs and colors for our Mothers for Mother’s Day …My Mom used hers for many ,many years and I guess her’s still has it up under the sink or somewhere ,but haven’t seen it for years … Always love hearing your stories and thoughts …Fully agree with the old glass bottles and steel gas cans …I have my old metal gas cans and my Dad’s and Grandfathers …and use them…Still use those old small steel galvanized kerosene cans to fill the ol lanterns when I want to used them at night around here …anyone remember those ? ….Back on the Coke and Pepsi bottles ..Me and my Sisters did the same growing up …we would collect them up from the house and from neighbors who would give them to us ,plus the ones we found in the ditches …Then we would head other to Granddaddy and Grandmother’s house to top off our load before heading to the A&P store …We have the back trunk of the ol Buick Wildcat loaded down…Smile … Then get the grocery carts and load our treasure and take them inside for the count and get our CASH in hand …Then we usually headed to Mr.Candy’s Store and get a small brown paper bag full of penny candy , 3 Musketeers candy bar and a Chocolate Soldier drink ….and still had money left over …Those WERE the days …Glass bottles were way better in taste and turning them back in for money …We still have an old Coca-Cola Bottle opener just under the sink that I have had since I grew up and has travel with me through the years ..Who remembers when you would pop the top off an soda bottle and then wipe you palm of your hand over it to make should the glass top was smooth so as not to cut you ,before you took your 1st sip of it ?? Remember the Palmetto Tree stamp on top of the bottle caps to show that the state tax had been paid by the bottler’s ? Yes, ol Kenny fully agrees with y’all on these ol days and times we grew up in ….miss them very much and all my Kinfolk who were still there then …I miss the rides with my Dad as a kid,teenager , and young man …not a day goes by I don’t think of my Dad and miss him….Big Wave & Smile Mr. Tom …God Bless y’all and hope you and your Family are well & Happy …
    ” Take It Easy ” ,
    Kenny Love – A True Southerner …

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