Dr Pepper Museum #2
Dr Pepper was first called "Waco" because it could not be found outside of that city's limits. Waco is now the home of the Dr Pepper Museum, housed Dr Pepper's first bottling plant. It includes the original drug store where Dr Pepper was first served as a brain tonic, and opened as a museum in May 1991.
The museum starts with facade of an early 20th century "corner drug store," an important fixture in any romp through soft drink history. There's also a vintage soda fountain and replica bottling assembly line. We hurry along to the good stuff.
Dr Pepper memorabilia is everywhere -- a virtual graveyard of retired vending machines, bottle designs, packaging, and advertising. Visitors learn that the copywriter who came up with the slogan "Drink a bite to eat at 1024" -- which propelled Dr Pepper to big sales in the 1920s -- was given a bonus of $25. And Dr Pepper is officially trademarked and labeled without the "Dr." period because the typeface on its bottles made it look funny.
The "Cooking With Dr Pepper" display imaginatively promotes DP as an ingredient in recipes such as Patio Beans and Salisbury Steak Deluxe. The "Diet Sodas And The Fitness Craze" exhibit includes little signs mentioning, without mentioning, the "health concerns" of artificial sweeteners such as Saccharin (cancer), Cyclamates (cancer), and Aspartame (cancer, blindness, coma, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, lupus, birth defects). It ends with a cheery reassurance that this has "led to continued testing on all of these sweeteners."
Perhaps the most popular exhibit in the museum is a continuous loop of old Dr Pepper commercials running on a TV monitor, interspersed with one touting the soft drink industry as an example of the free enterprise system and of social betterment. "Because the industry has grown and developed with America," says a voice, supposedly of the same guy who narrates all of the Dairy Queen commercials in Texas, "it will continue to reflect and support forward thrusts of national progress."
The theme of soda as the lubricant of capitalism is continued on the third floor in the "Foots" Clements Free Enterprise Institute and The Beverage World Soft Drink Hall of Fame. Woodrow "Foots" Wilson was CEO of Dr Pepper during the 1970s -- its golden "Be A Pepper" decade -- and was honored with his own "Foots" brand soda. The Beverage World Soft Drink Hall of Fame has many enshrined members, but all of them are executives, none are women, and only two are from small brands -- one from Crush, the other from Squirt.
Nearly lost among all of the gray plaques is the "Not Worth Two Cents" exhibit, which illuminates various aspects of free enterprise. Bottles of special "Vice President of the United States" soda were made, to be presented to home-state favorite Lyndon Johnson when he gave a speech before the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages in December, 1963. But by the time that the meeting came around, JFK had been assassinated, Johnson was president, and he was too busy to give speeches to bottlers of carbonated beverages. The ABCB dumped the soda and tried to return the bottles for their two cent deposit, but they were told that the bottles were "not worth two cents."
After ingesting all of this information, you might understandably be in the mood for a refreshing Dr Pepper. Unfortunately there are no free samples available at the museum, but the old timey soda fountain will satisfy if it's not closed.
You can buy old-fashioned six-packs of bottled Dublin Dr Pepper in the gift shop, but they don't sell any hand-held pry-off bottle openers to get into them.