Coca Cola Bottling company on Lester.2 & 2A & 2B 2A is the repair area where they would repair Coke machines, 2B is area for repair trucks, but also had thousands of empty bottle stored. I could walk as a 8-12 year old into this place with impunity, as I knew most of the workers, and sold them tons of Worlds Finest chocolates from Cathedral. They in turn gave me Coca Cola stuff like pencils and pads. From the north side dock, I would go buy 10 cent Cokes inside, there was a hot peanut machine with light bulb in it also for 5 cents. And a free salt table machine, those sucked. Best of all you go to watch thousands of Cokes, Sprites, Fantas, Frescas on conveyor belt getting filled up and topped! The metal tops we used on our skateboards, nail to them and kept shoes on it firm. Coca Cola Bottling Company Lester @ Leopard & Antelope. This was our neighbor. Literally. In the 1960s the Bates were both still alive. And their property separated us from Coca Cola. A lot of old scrap iron, bricks, junk wood, high weeds, chinaberry and wild trees, and a number of little kitchenettes. Will get to Mister & Missus Bates later.
# 1 & #1 A is our properties 2009 Antelope & 723 Doss. # 3 is Mister Bates house. # 2 is the sprawling Coca Cola Company building. # 2A is the repair area where they would repair Coke machines, # 2B is area for repair trucks, but also had thousands of empty bottle stored. And # 2C is after Coke bought "PART" but not "ALL" of Mister Bates property, this paved down for delivery trucks! This are of 2C is where bleachers brought in for Coke employees & families to watch up close & personal Buccaneer Days Parade!
Coca Cola had obviously outgrown this location which was bounded by the front on Lester, south by Leopard, west by Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks & north by Antelope & I-37. This will span some time here, but as a KID in 1960s like Lew Williams Chevrolet, Cages Hardware, Knights of Columbus, Mobil, Noes Café, all these great places 'in my zone' I had run of. Well, some, like Hasty Tasty & Sheffields, had to have some coins in pocket to buy toast for 10 cents. The Coca Cola company I would just hold onto the pole, climb up steps on loading dock at North corner of building. And was IN. If anyone here has ever been inside a building where soda waters are being filled, it is awesome, especially to a kid. There are machines that are filling bottles, other machines stamping on caps, yet other machines pickup up bottles and placing them in wooden cases to ship out. Inside I would stuff my 7-9 year old butt over to the small Coke machine next to offices, it had a level on it and open little door with vertical glass on it so could see the bottles horizontally facing you before buying.
Once you put in your 10 cents, magically could pull out a Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Fresca, or whatever, 12 oz bottle. Next to the little cute 1950s vintage Coke machine was some gumball machines, one of them had a small light inside with advertising HOT NUTS, should have said hot stale nuts, but for 5 cents why not. Behind this little wall was the offices, greenish tint windows with venusian blinds. How the hell did these people get any work done I will never know inside there as outside was maddening, deafening with all the bottles clanking, machines rattling. I found out one day when going inside offices (thru FRONT door & up steps on Lester street!) that each office they were listening to music, KEYS & KRIS (I think it was KRIS!) or KZFM if they had fancy FM radio. Back on other side of wall next to Coke machine was a salt tablet dispenser. It was free! So turn knob and little round salt pink table come out. So one day I decided I was going to take one, and put in pocket. Walked outside onto Antelope street, smelled it, and put in mouth, BLEAAAHH this takes like crap and spit it out. Never have had another in 50 years ha ha. A side note, there were two guys who walked past house in nice suits daily, one I called Bubby who looked identical to singer on TV Glen Campbell. Same hair, everything! Other was tall fellow about 6-5 to 6-9, thin, named Phillip. My momma said 'he is a tall drink of water'.
When it was time to sell Worlds Finest Chocolates for Cathedral, I would walk into Coca Cola & unload boxes of the stuff. In the offices, red Coca Cola logoed pencils were Holy Grail items, and I would end up with a number of them, I kept several for my own work at Cathedral, but sell others for nickel each.
Since Mister Bates property and ours, were in the way, Coca Cola one day offered my dad $28,000 to buy BOTH 2009 Antelope & 723 Doss properties. I would guess Mister Bates got a similar offer but he had probably turned them down too. So Coca Cola bought the field in front of our 723 Doss address & fenced it in, big 12 foot hurricane fence with barbed wire on top, for employees to park. But this was not big enough and employees continued to park along Antelope street in front of our house, the early birds working early shifts got best spots! As a kid I also would ask them if they wanted a car wash for 50 cents. So writing was on the wall with Coca Cola intentions in 1960s. I am not sure here if my dad COULD have sold the property since it was in my grandmother Maria D Alcala name still.
After Mister Bates died, Coca Cola swooped in, and leveled all the trees, kitchenettes, EVERYTHING except Missus Bates old shoddy house. She was now in 80s, sat out front hot or cold on beat up rocking chair facing Coca Cola, everything around her had changed in instant, was now paved, more big 12 foot hurricane fence with barbed wire on top, and delivery trucks by dozens around her coming & going thru sliding fence. The Coca Cola employees used to take her food, and medical and see if she needed anything too. Until one day, she was gone. Her old house before torn down was identical to the movie "UP" where old man stubbornly will not move, and they simply built around him, same thing.
The fence they put up next to OUR property infuriated my momma. The barbed wire actually hung over our roof \\ at angle like this. But we sort of lived with it. After we moved back to this hellhole property from a few years of cheap rent after hurricane Celia at 642 Naples, I used to sleep outside on front porch. Was cooler than inside & good breeze. Got used to employees walking past me on sidewalk though. As a teen now...Coca Cola came out with 32 oz BOTTLES.
And I found out it was $4 a case to return them to stores. So one night the Rabago brothers junior & Mondo, we lifted up the Coca Cola fence that was 4 feet from our house, shoved two wooden cases in there to create a tunnel, gave the fierce doberman pincher 'guard dogs' some treats (aw these guys were pussies, if they had tail would wag them, knew them by names) but we emptied 1/2 of a Coke truck, sliding cases thru hole in fence, opening bottles, pouring out everything as a river of Coke, Fanta red, orange, grape, Sprite, quietly gurgled down curb to gutter. Then we would take the bottles, not all at once, to Skagg Albertson's on corner of Everhart & South Padre Island Drive and redeem them. So 10 cases brought $40 in 1970s money.
We covered out tracks at fence line also with brush, dirt, ha ha.
At the Buccaneer Parade which originated on Leopard street near Miller high school, Coke had bleachers inside the fence facing Leopard. And of course, they always invited my late brother Tommy & me. This is back in 1960s pre-Celia. Free cold sodas, there was food too, and I would ask if I could take some to my mother and dad, who never went to parade it seemed, even though it was at OUR corner on Doss.. passing by! This area was packed with Coca Cola employees & families, was nice of them to invite us...NO other kids in neighborhood were invited, just me & Tommy!
So you will have to pay attention to some photos here to make sense of it all in 2 timelines. Photo #1 shows my dad admiring his 'new' 1970 Javelin.
Right behind him this is Coca Cola on Lester, dad standing on Antelope St. You can see the huge barbed wire fence looming Coke built after Bates died. If you look to right of photo down street, the piece that juts out was loading dock, the 18 wheelers that loaded up here had to turn cab sideways so cars could get thru but rest of Antelope blocked. The sign on fence to left of his head is in Photo #2.
Photo # 3 is the lot Coke bought when we would not sell, & all those cars in there, and outside are Coca Cola employees. That is me in front yard washing my 68 AMX, look close, Driscoll Hotel, 600 building & partially obscured Wilson tower in background.
Photo #4 intense as it was, the workers at Coke did this 5 days, sometimes, 6-7 days a week, 8am to 5pm. Line changed depending on demand, but Coke ruled.
Photo #5 self sufficient high volume bottling machine, didn't need much "human" help in 1960s ha ha. Humans. P
Photo # 6 capped off ready to be dropped in cases. Going back to #2 on my map, which is the MAIN Coke building, you see two large garage doors to right, these were for forklifts to carry empties into area near # 2B. Inside #2 facing Lester however Coke cases were piled up to the 15-18 foot ceiling! Every now and then you hear CRASH!! from our house and know a forklift tipped over or someone dropped a huge stack!
Photo #7 shows Coca Cola on Lester in 2018. The door on the left is where ALL office workers would enter. The door on the right was sealed off in 1970s. As a kid I used to play with my Hot Wheels cars in the dirt under steps, was soft, fine dirt!
Photo #8 if you compare Photo #1 with my dad, to this one, basically taken in same spot. But 30 years apart.
2A. & 2B Coca Cola Bottling Company Revisited (2018 update)
So a recent July 2018 road trip from Houston, had to go by my old crappy neighborhood. This area is not what you will see on the flashy 'Visit Corpus Christi' chamber of commerce ads, nor brochures. This area was sort of given up on by city when everything exploded out west along and past South Padre Island Drive. Like grass seeds you plant in drought, sometimes a few of them take and you have HOPE. And with that I saw a few HOPES. Ok, not whole lot had to look for it along Leopard, past the homeless shelters, the dozens of people near courthouse who just got out of jail, the Detroit looking run down and shuttered buildings that long for another day when customers breezed thru their doors to spend money or tires, food items like Beils, Hameweis, Sears, Chat & Chew, even the gas stations that littered Leopard.
So. Coca Cola, also know as American Bottling Company on Lester Street is indeed alive. Sure it looks like a jail with no windows, steel bars for reinforcements across those forlornwindows and even has barbed wire on it! Aw, some gang member somehow got into building and tagged 2nd floor near window. What is up with all the gang graffiti in Corpus Christi? Do like Houston, if you catch these thugs, make them go out as Trustys & CLEAN up gang graffiti as part of being in jail, it will reduce time. Ok, until you get out to go tag more stuff. Wait, what did I just say?!?
So here are 5 photos from July 2018 of the old Cola Cola Company on Lester, bounded by Antelope on open side, Leopard on the other, and Missouri Pacific train track, now gone, on west side. For you locals, do drive by this old place, it is worth checking out, even if you don't get out of car, it IS a wonderful part of Corpus Christi history!
Photo #1, this is angle shot from in street Antelope & Lester of building, you have two small stairways, the left one near blackout windows was all the suits, so all office workers in there. The other one I played with lots of Hot wheels under, it was never used so far as I know for anything, I honestly do not ever remember seeing it open as had machinery behind it like soda fillers and machines that put caps on bottles. So lots of fun happened under the stairs by me as a kid in 1960s.
Photo #2: The garage door on right in white is where big 18 wheelers backed up to load palates upon palates of Cokes, Fantas, Sprites, Tab & Fresca not that anyone drinks Fresca, even Tito's Vodka can't help the taste of that crap. This is facing I-37, so Antepole side. Funny thing is these 18 wheelers stuck out onto Antelope so the cab had to turn sideways so cars could pass. I don't know what green door is, appears to be another loading dock but do not remember it being used. The small stairwell 3 steps... I used to go up in here, and you had to squeeze behind the 18 wheeler that had backed in.. to get inside, if no 18 wheelers just go in like you owned it, walk past the whirring machines, go to small Coke machine, 10 cents for cold Coke, and nickle for hot nuts, M&Ms and something else. Stay away from free salt tablets, man, those were nasty. I could not believe this little steps still there & memories of when I was 6 to about 10 years old came back in a flood just looking at it.
Photo #3: just to the right of photo #2 this also faces north, so towards I-37 & Antelope. Workers used to have a big trash bin, maybe 10-15 feet long, and break bottles in it. Recycling. But not all bottles would break. So on Sundays, I would go over as they were closed, as was this door, and crawl inside with more broken glass legally allowed by law.. and pick out unbroken ones to take to Beils to get deposits from. A truck would come by, pick up this big bin and drive off, then more bottles thrown away. This is door on right, the door on left also opened but workers just stood there and smoked a lot of Marlboros or whatever. Not shown is small angled cement curb where trucks back in. I fell off that one day, was about 8, hit face on ground, yup, lots of shredded glass in my cheek, ran home crying like LeBron James losing another NBA game. Momma picked out most of it, and used rubbing alcohol to clean me up. Next Sunday was back in trash bin, didn't learn ANYTHING. Just watch step!
Photo #4. If you stand on Antelope look south, this used to be the old
Missouri Pacific railroad. Wrote about that too as I followed the damned trains all over
place on my bike, with dog Bootsy in tow, you could do that in 1960s. To see the train
tracks and rail yard. See #5 on the map that is all the wonderful Missouri Pacific rails I