Salisbury NC 60, 70 years ago

Today’s Zippy takes us to the middle South (the middle of North Carolina, in fact) and to the 1940s and 1950s:


Griffy and Zippy are focused on the building and on the Cheerwine advertised on one side of it (the other side advertises the ubiquitous Coca Cola). Shmoo toys and Rinso detergent come into it, evoking the late 1940s and the early 1950s. Along the way, notes on names: Cheerwine, Rinso, Solium. And then a final note on the location of Salisbury NC.

W.A. Roseman Groceries, Grain & Feed Store, Salisbury NC.  Three views of the building: from the front, from the Coca-Cola side, from the Cheerwine side (the first two carefully composed dramatic professional b&w shots, the third a more straightforward color photo:




Cheerwine. From Wikipedia:

(#5) Retro bottles; now Cheerwine mostly comes in cans and plastic bottles

Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soft drink produced by Carolina Beverage Corporation of Salisbury, North Carolina. It has been produced since 1917, claiming to be “the oldest continuing soft drink company still run by the same family”.

When the Maysville Syrup Company of Maysville, Kentucky went bankrupt in 1917, L.D. Peeler and other invested businessmen moved the company to North Carolina and renamed it the Carolina Beverage Corporation. That same year, Peeler purchased a recipe for a cherry flavored soda from a Saint Louis flavor salesman, which eventually became Cheerwine. Though it has been around since 1917, Cheerwine first became a registered trademark in 1926.

… Cheerwine has a mildly sweet flavor with strong cherry notes, most notably black cherry; is burgundy-colored; and has an unusually high degree of carbonation compared to other soft drinks. The product was named for its color and taste; the company website states that “it made sense to name a burgundy-red, bubbly, cherry concoction — Cheerwine.

The name plays on cherry / cheery and is especially good for speakers with a raised variant of /ɛ/ (as in cherry) before /r/ — to [ɪ] or close to [i] (the range of the accented vowel in cheery).

Shmoos (aka Shmoon). Discussion on this blog on 9/3/15, in “Flintstone days”, in a section on shmoos (which first appeared in Al Capp’s Lil Abner strip in 1948). More thorough discussion on the Denis Kitchen website, in “The Shmoo from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner” (2004), with a lot on Shmoo mania from 1948 through the 1950s. From that time:

(#6) Shmoobilia, or Shmooiana

Rinso white. From Wikipedia:

(#7) An assortment of vintage Rinsos

Rinso is the brand name of a laundry soap marketed by Unilever. It is used in Australia, Indonesia, Chile, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The brand was created by Robert S Hudson and originally branded Hudson’s Soap, which was sold to Lever Brothers of Port Sunlight, England, in 1908. It was also manufactured by the Lever Brothers Company (later known as Unilever) in the United States, starting in 1918.

Rinso was one of the first mass-marketed soap powders. It was advertised widely on United States radio, being the sponsor of many radio programs such as the popular daytime soap opera Big Sister from 1936 to 1946, the dramatic anthology Grand Central Station from 1940 to 1942, the night-time programs Big Town from 1937 to 1942, Mayor of the Town from 1942 to 1943, and most notably The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show from 1943 to 1950. During this time the product’s advertisements happily chanted the slogan “Rinso white, Rinso bright” and boasted that Rinso contained “Solium, the sunlight ingredient”. In 1936 the sponsored show Rinso Music Hall was recorded in London and broadcast on Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandie, followed from 1937 to 1939 by the popular Rinso Radio Revue.

The product’s claim to better rinsing was due to its incorporation of sodium silicate as a builder rather than, or in addition to, the more commonly used sodium carbonate. The precipitate formed by metasilicate and calcium tends to be finer and hence less likely to be trapped in cloth than the chalky calcium carbonate.

In the 1950s, sales plummeted when a new detergent, Tide, manufactured by rival Procter & Gamble, proved to be much more popular.

Rinso is rinse + the -o of commerce (Brillo, Crisco, Sterno, etc.). And the name of its magic ingredient Solium is Sol + scientific (or at least scientificating) –ium, calling up the sun and the whitening and purifying properties of sunlight.

My family did indeed use Rinso for many years, until (like millions of others, apparently) we shifted to Tide sometime in the 1950s.

Salisbury NC. To the map:

(#7) Salisbury, in the middle of the middle South

Shown here is a slice of a 6-state area: KY and VA at top, TN and NC in middle, GA and SC at bottom. The map is pretty much bounded by the cities with the flagship state universities of the states:

upper left corner: Lexington KY, home of the Univ. of Kentucky

mid left: Knoxville TN, home of the Univ. of Tennessee

lower left: Athens GA, home of the Univ. of Georgia

upper right: Charlottesville VA, home of the Univ. of Virginia

mid center right, not far from Salisbury: Chapel Hill NC, home of the Univ. of North Carolina (in the NC Research Triangle with Raleigh and Durham)

lower center, just below the edge of the map: Columbia SC, home of the Univ. of South Carolina

The area has some personal significance for me: Lexington KY is where my wife grew up (back in the 1940s), so I have in-laws, more distant kin and connections, and friends there still. Greensboro NC is the locale of my NC kin: uncle Fred, aunt Lucille, and cousins Fred, Eleanor, and Henry (of whom only Henry survives). And I taught at UNC in Chapel Hill at the 1972 Linguistic Institute (now, of course, most of my students, not to mention my teaching colleagues, from that time have died — most notably, Ivan Sag, who eventually was my colleague here at Stanford).

2 Responses to “Salisbury NC 60, 70 years ago”

  1. Stephen R. Anderson Says:

    Cheerwine (as well as some other Cheerwine-flavored delicacies) is readily obtainable here in Asheville.

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