See Rock City

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Bottle, AL

A 1924 picture of "The Bottle".

The Bottle, Alabama is a community located in the northern corporate limits of Auburn, Alabama. The Bottle is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and Alabama Highway 147, five miles (8 km) north of downtown Auburn, and adjacent to the Auburn University North Fisheries Research Complex.

The Bottle is located at 32°40'34"N 85°29'11"W; its elevation is 760 feet (230 m).

A 1924 picture of "The Bottle" from another angle.

The Bottle (sometimes referred to as The "Nehi Inn") was built by John F. Williams owner of the Nehi Bottling Company in Opelika, Alabama in 1924. The ground floor was the grocery store and service station, 2nd and 3rd floors were living quarters and storage. The neck of the Bottle had windows so it could be used as an observation tower where you could see miles and miles of countryside. The "bottle cap" was the roof. Inside there was a spiral oak stairway. Unfortunately fire consumed the Bottle in 1936 (most likely started from the furnace or gas lamp) ending the largest bottle in the world and ending an era of a gathering place for tourists and local men to swap yarns around a potbellied wood stove, BBQs and a party every Friday night on the balcony above the service station. Even though the Bottle no longer exists the name does, and is still on Alabama maps listing the area as "The Bottle."

"The Bottle" today.

The Bottle is named for the bright orange wooden replica of a Nehi soda bottle which stood in the location for nine years during the 1920s and 1930s.

Built in 1924, and billed as "the world's largest bottle", The Bottle stood 64-feet (19.5 m) tall, and measured forty-nine feet (14.94 m)in diameter at the base, and 16 feet (4.88 m) at the cap. The structure contained a gas station, grocery store, and residence. Observation windows built into the neck of the bottle provided a view of miles of countryside.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stopped briefly at The Bottle after visiting Auburn as did Minnie Pearl.

The Bottle itself burned down in 1933, most-likely due to faulty electrical wiring.

Despite the loss, the name for the area stuck, and the community officially became "The Bottle, Alabama".

Currently, in The Bottle's former location stands only an empty lot. The property was put on sale in 2005 by First Realty of Auburn. The land was purchased in early 2006 by The Hayley Redd Development Company.


An advertisement for Nehi soda on a Match Cover


The Chero-Cola company added Nehi Cola to its line of sodas in 1924 in order to offer more variety of soda flavors. It offered orange, grape, root beer, peach, and other flavors of soda. Nehi was instantly successful and outsold Chero-Cola entirely. The company changed its name to Nehi Corporation in 1928. The Nehi Corp. was listed on the New York Curb Exchange. Business went well until 1930, when a major crisis occurred. Reflecting the Great Depression, which followed with the stock market crash of October 1929, sales of Nehi Corp. dropped one million dollars in 1930 from a high of $3.7 million in the previous year. Sales continued downward until the bottom was reached in 1932, the only year in which the company had ever lost money. Almost every Nehi bottling plant in the organization was in the red during the years 1931 and 1932.

By 1933, the low point had been passed and the business was just beginning to stabilize when another tragedy struck. Claude Hatcher, the company's president and guiding light from its formation, died suddenly December 31, 1933. Hatcher was soon replaced by H. R. Mott. Mott was faced with the grim depression as he took office in 1934. Mr. Mott had been vice president of the Nehi Corporation for several years, and had been associated with the company since 1920. As new president he was greeted with a great amount of debt, and his consuming ambition was to make the company free of debt as quickly as possible and keep it that way. He updated operations, obtained extensions of credit, cut expenses and within a year had reached his goal. The Nehi Corporation was debt-free and ready to move ahead once more.

In the early 20th century, the advertising logo of Nehi was a picture of a seated woman's legs, in which the skirt was high enough to show the stockings up to the knee, suggesting the phrase "knee-high". This was referenced in Jean Shepherd's story "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art" in the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, as well as in the film A Christmas Story, which was adapted from the book.

Robert Ripley helped the Nehi Corporation, when he advertised for them on his radio show "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" By 1940, Nehi products were available in forty-seven of the forty-eight states. In 1946, the pace for the Corporation accelerated tremendously. The company began to enhance its advertising by using entertainment celebrities. Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford (before inheriting Pepsi), Bob Hope and many others joined in selling the products of Nehi Corporation. When World War II was over, the company and its bottlers joined whole-heartedly in a progressive program of expansion and improvement that made 1947 one of the great years in the history of the enterprise. In that year, glamorous Hedy Lamarr was pictured in point of purchase advertising signs. At that time, Nehi Corporation offered over ten flavors. Those included Dr. Nehi, Nehi Chocolate, Nehi Root Beer, Nehi Lemonade, Nehi Wild Red, Nehi Blue Cream, and of course the classics Nehi Orange, Nehi Grape, and Nehi Peach. Many of these flavors were later dropped as their novelty and popularity waned.

The fame of Nehi Cola lived on until Nehi Corp reformulated Chero-Cola, naming it Royal Crown Cola. RC sold extremely well, so the company changed its name to Royal Crown Cola Co.