Greeson: Happy anniversary Coca-Cola Chattanooga, and thanks - for everything

Greeson: Happy anniversary Coca-Cola Chattanooga, and thanks - for everything

July 23rd, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Coca-Cola bottles sit in boxes on an old Ford Model T truck outside Coca-Cola during the 120th anniversary event for anniversary event of Chattanooga Coca-Cola bottling company Monday, July 22, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Photo by Erin O. Smith /Times Free Press.

So what did I miss?

Some of you might have noticed — some might have celebrated — that I was gone last week. Did some SEC football things in the heart of SEC football-landia in Birmingham.

So I'll ask again, what did I miss?

Apparently quite a bit.

The president tweeted some things, and the word racism got tossed around more than salad.

The ripples were felt almost everywhere, include ESPN, which now has a dust-up with one of its most talented on-air personalities after writer and radio and TV personality Dan LeBatard spoke against President Trump's remarks, violating the newly implemented company policy of not commenting on politics.

There were of course the other race-related stories — from Miss Michigan being banned from the Miss World America contest for social media posts to some media outlets pointing out that NASA's race to space was dominated by whites and men to San Francisco schools painting over a George Washington mural because of slavery.

Actually, I don't think I missed those stories all that much, you know.

But I will tell what I did miss, what we all miss.

Not sure if you are aware but Coca-Cola Chattanooga celebrated 120 years in our town Monday.

Yes, 120 years. It's a connection that is under-celebrated because of Coca-Cola's deep history here.

"Chattanooga Coca-Cola, its employees and this community have an indelible and enviable place in history as the first bottler of one of the world's most iconic brands," said John Sherman, president and CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, the Birmingham-based company that purchased the Chattanooga franchise back in 1924, in a release. "Inside every bottle of Coca-Cola throughout the world, there's a little bit of Chattanooga."

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Sure, we like to look around and point to the progress our city has made.

Understandably so.

Well, Monday was the perfect day to reflect on the impact that Coca-Cola Bottling and the Lupton family in particular have had on our city's renaissance and reinvention.

The anchor to the downtown rebound was the Tennessee Aquarium. It has been the linchpin and, as we try to figure out the next cool spot — Hi, Southside, love ya — we take the Aquarium for granted too often.

But as a whole bunch of folks speed to their next Ironman event or some craft beer carnival, those fish begat downtown, which begat the waves that became the North Shore and the Southside and the wistful looks so many folks cast at the Old Foundry property.

And Jack Lupton was the man behind the fish, friends. The stories about how the local- and state-government funding stopped and Lupton made sure the project got finished and the tanks were full are well-known and often repeated.

Of course, that was not all. With that Co-Cola coin, Lupton created The Honors, a world-class golf course that is routinely ranked among the top 20 golf courses on the planet and certainly the best anywhere that is nestled behind an AutoZone auto parts store.

His benevolence to his city — and that of those benefactors like him such as Scotty Probasco, among others — can't be overstated.

And whether you are drawn to the connection of a sports drink on the Tennessee Riverwalk or a cocktail downtown, remember that 120 years ago Monday a lot of of our redirection came as a result of our city's connection to Coca-Cola.

Contact Jay Greeson at

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