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June 14, 2012 9:56 am

AMEND CORNER: Make that a small

Written by Don Amend

There seems to be a big controversy these days about the size of soft-drink servings.

At the center of the controversy is Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, who wants to ban servings larger than 16 ounces from being sold in the city.

Now, I think this is a pretty dumb idea, myself. While it’s quite true that drinking the stuff poses a threat to your teeth, your waistline and your pancreas, it’s not the only item on the usual restaurant menu—or on the home-cooked menu, for that matter—that might be detrimental to your health, especially when your response to “Super-size that?” is always “yes.”

The mayor would have to shut down all the eating establishments in the city to make an impact on public health, leaving a lot of wait staff and dishwashers out of work and seriously depressing the tourist trade as well.

Even if the mayor does remain focused on this one health threat, it would be pretty hard to enforce. After all, if a guy wanted more than 16 ounces of his favorite fizzy fixings, all he has to do is order two 16-ounce drinks or head for one of those places that offers free refills.

All that aside, though, the mayor’s effort got me to thinking about my life as a pop addict, before I gave it up around the turn of the century in favor of drinking more coffee. Specifically, I became intrigued about that 16-ounce figure, and how it became the benchmark for pop overdose.

You see, back when I was a kid, somewhere in the mid-1950s, I could find a nickel on the sidewalk, go downtown and buy a nickel Coke at the drug store. For that nickel, I got an 8-ounce glass with a lot of ice in it and, I would guess, maybe 4 or 5 ounces of pop. If I found a dime, I could visit the pop machine at one of the filling stations and purchase a bottle that really did hold 8 ounces.

Later on, I got a job in one of those drug stores, and one of my duties was to serve as what used to be called a soda jerk. By that time, the price of that 8-ounce glass of liquid was a dime, at least in Worland. When people from outlying districts, like Greybull and Thermopolis, dropped by the soda fountain, they complained that the price at home was still a nickel.

When I was in college, a bottle of Coke from the machine in the dorm was a dime, and it was still in an 8-ounce bottle. Since the pop machine was conveniently located in the proximity of both the laundry and the TV lounge, laundry evening became an excuse to watch some junk on TV and avoid studying economic laws, reading Joseph Conrad or reviewing for a test. It often meant the consumption of two or three 8-ounce bottles of pop, which would definitely earn the disapproval of Mayor Bloomberg

Pop was a bit pricier at UW football and basketball games, where they charged 15 cents for an 8-ounce cup. When comedian Bob Hope came to town for a performance, they even tried to raise that, leading sports caster Larry Birleffi, the emcee for the evening, to a remark that you could tell it was a big night at UW because the field house concession stands had “raised the price of a nickel Coke from 15 to 20 cents.” It got as big a laugh as any of Hope’s jokes.

Well, the 10-cent Coke — not to mention the 20-cent Coke — long ago passed into history, along with the 8-ounce serving. The 12-ounce can became the “small” pop advertised on the sign at the drive-up window, and competition among the fast-food places and convenience stores has expanded sizes in response to Americans’ continual pursuit of bigger, if not necessarily better, lunches. I guess that’s OK that 16 ounces is rapidly becoming the new “small,” but I do have a complaint.

On occasion, I still want a taste of pop, something along the lines of that old 8-ounce bottle, and such a serving is pretty hard to find. Walk into a convenience store, a truck stop or even a supermarket in search of a cold pop, and you’re likely to be faced with row upon row of 16-ounce, or even 20-ounce bottles. By the time I get half-way through the bottle, it has gone flat and I end up throwing it away. Even the 12-ounce can is disappearing from the cooler full of cold beverages.

Fortunately, my favorite soda is available in 7.5-ounce cans at some stores, so when I get a chance, I pick up a six-pack or two. Then, when I want a pop, it’s just like the old days.

At least it would be if the pop was in a glass bottle that cost a dime.

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