A message and a bottle

After 57 years on the market, Coca-Cola announced its original diet drink, Tab, is being discontinued.

While it enjoyed fairly strong sales at one time, it was dethroned by the introduction of a new king of diet drinks, Diet Coke, back in 1982.

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Of course even with the strong sales numbers of Diet Coke today, it doesn’t rival the granddaddy, the original Coca-Cola, which accounts for 26 per cent of the company's overall soda revenue.

The sales are global — in fact there are only two countries where you can't officially buy Coca Cola (North Korea and Cuba, although third party sales take place), making it a product that people know the world over.

For more than 120 years, people have been drinking Coke but not in the amounts seen in the last few decades. Pop was something people drank infrequently. It was a treat. So imagine how exciting it must have been to receive a bottle of Coke while serving on the frontlines of war.

We've seen the documentaries, read books or heard firsthand accounts of life as a soldier: the reality of combat, life in the trenches, the sleeping conditions and the food. Canadian soldiers had to adjust to the type of food they were being given. Some refused to eat initially while others became ill dealing with the new diet. In time, Canadian cooks were able to work with what was available.

Efforts were made to keep troops supplied with fresh rations in the field, but when that was not possible they had Composite Ration Packs containing tins of already cooked food that needed heating up. George Blackburn, decorated Canadian veteran of the Second World War, author and playwright wrote in The Guns of Normandy: “A great deal of time is spent reading directions and experimenting with methods of heating the contents of cans of “M & V” (meat and vegetable stew), “Steak and Kidney Pudding” (a can lined with thick dough and filled with a solidified concoction posing as chopped beef and kidney), small slabs of very hard and remarkably tasteless chocolate (one per man per day).”

Blackburn is charitable in comparison to other accounts of “unidentifiable scraps of fat and gristle mushed up with equally unidentifiable vegetables” or “turnip jam laughingly labelled strawberry or raspberry.”

I can only imagine how it must have felt to receive a parcel from home. Maybe there were pictures, news clippings, letters and even something special from the kitchen of a spouse or mother. A container of cookies. A box of baking. And maybe, just maybe, Coke bottle bread.

Wives or mothers would bake a big loaf of bread, create a hole and then tuck a bottle of Coke inside for the soldier to find. The bread cushioned the bottle—the best packing material around. Consider the emotions that must have been swirling at the sight of these familiar treats sent so lovingly by those who had no idea where they might end up or what their loved ones would be experiencing when it arrived.

Picture the joy in hearing from home, and the recipient pouring over each and every word contained within every letter. Running their fingers over the handwriting—writing that served as a placeholder for the loved one they were missing. The piece of paper was as close as they could get to grasping a hand or holding them in their arms.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are serving all around the world today. We don’t need to know them personally to send a touch of love and appreciation from home. A simple card means more than we can probably understand and we are heading into a great time of year to do this. The website www.canada.ca under the section Write to the Troops has all the details.

A message from a fellow Canadian would be a sweet and refreshing treat — one to be cherished — just like that sweet and refreshing bottle of Coke most assuredly would have been.

On Nov. 11 we promise to never forget. In the weeks that follow we can demonstrate our commitment to always remember as we put action behind those words. That's my outlook.

 

© Copyright Carlyle Observer

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