Joseph Lee, a History of Soda Bottles of the Region
Sept. 27, 2015

provided by Linda Burchette
 
Holston River Heritage Center in downtown Marion welcomed Joseph T. Lee III on Sunday, Sep. 27, to talk about his research into the history of soda bottling in the area, including the feud over Mountain Dew’s origins and his collection of vintage bottles.

A native of Maryland who grew up in Virginia and now resides in Abingdon, Lee’s passion was sparked by the purchase of his first soda bottle in Bluefield, W.Va., while hunting for collectible records in 2006.

“It was a clear embossed ‘clock dial’ Dr. Pepper bottle with 10, 2, and 4 on it,” Lee said of his first bottle. “These of course were the times of the day that Dr Pepper suggested consumers drank their product for an energy boost. I was inspired to pick it up based on a song by the Psychobilly band The Cramps who mentioned the 10, 2, 4 slogan in one of their songs. I then sought out a hillbilly Mountain Dew, which was from Johnson City, Tenn., and it kicked off from there.”

“The more bottles I collected the more interested in their history I became,” he said. “When I discovered that the town of Tazewell, which was the nearest neighbor to my hometown, at the time, of Richlands had had a bottler I started looking into the history of that plant. This is where I found Tazewell Orange, the bottles for which I became an instant fan.”

“Inspired by a collecting friend from Bristol, who had built a website devoted to bottles from that town, I decided to do the same for the areas of Southwest Virginia where I had spent my life. Nearly all of these were out of business by the time I was living there, so I never even knew they had existed, and guessed that many others didn't know about them either.

Lee is a member of the State of Franklin Bottle Club in Johnson City, Tenn., a contributor to Blair Matthew’s Soda Spectrum magazine, and the creator of the Vintage Soda Group on Facebook. His website, Tazewell-Orange.com, “is my contribution to the preservation of the local history of the Southwest Virginia and Tri-Cities area by researching on a particular mostly overlooked industry that affects our lives every day.”

Marion has a lot of soda bottling history for such a small town, Lee said. Marion was home to a Pepsi bottler, a Dr Pepper bottler, and the Tip Corporation (1944-1964) which would figure heavily in the story of Mountain Dew.

“I often joke that I was weaned on Mountain Dew,” said Lee, “and that hillbilly bottle I mentioned turned into a fairly large Mountain Dew collection, along with inspiring my research into the brand's history. As a soda, Mountain Dew's history isn't really that interesting. It's the feud between all of those, and their decedents, trying to lay claim to creating it that makes it interesting. I am just a fan of the brand, and I'm fascinated by the search for the real history of what actually happened.”
 
 

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