Dr. Pepper, RC Cola, and Nehi soda. When I think about it, those three items always pop up as the first memories. They aren't actually my first memories, but they are, or were, a very important part of my youth. I still remember the old soda machine with the glass bottles of soda, colorful metal caps that you had to use a bottle opener to pry off, and the ice that would form as the cap came off and the outside air hit the cold contents... And the soda - it was the most wonderful taste you could ever imagine, if you were 8 or 9 years old, and it was a hot summer day.
It was, by far, the best investment you could make with your nickel. But if you wanted to take the bottle away from the area around the gas station soda machine, you had to give the station owner (or his assistant) 2 cents for the deposit. Usually you would just go over to the curb and sit down and drink your soda, then return the bottle to one of the three wooden cases that were always there on an inclined rack, right next to the soda machine.
I used to think that it was a truly wonderous thing, that the soda machine was right there, up against the wall of the garage, out in the open, where I could go and get a cold soda whenever I wanted one, no matter the time of day or night, as long as I had my nickel.
What is neat to remember is that if the gas station was closed (On a Sunday, for instance, or a holiday - they had what were called "Blue Laws" back then, meaning no retail business was allowed on a Sunday or on certain holidays - you couldn't even get a prescription filled!)... anyway, if there was no one around to make sure you paid your 2 cents deposit, if you did walk off the station property with your bottle of soda, you always remembered to bring the empty back and put it in the rack. It was sort of an unwritten rule of childhood in the Fifties, that you didn't take advantage of the station owner.
And it seems, now, quite amazing that no one ever stole the empty bottles that were in the wooden cases, either. The honor system was pretty strong then, where soda bottles were concerned. I think we all knew that if we violated this trust, then the machine might be locked away inside, or worse, removed entirely. If that happened, then we would have to look around for a new machine to patronize, and what if the other machines were likewise locked away or removed, because we violated the trust of our local machine, and the word had spread?
No, we would not dare that - we never violated the trust of the soda bottle deposit, or the racks of empties that reposed in quiet grace, next to the soda machine. To a kid of 8 or 9, in the Fifties, the soda machine at the gas station was as sacred as the badge was to the local cop on the corner, or the reversed collar was to the local minister (ministers wore reversed white collars then; the collar was not just for Catholic priests).
Even if one of our buddies were to "double-dog dare" us to steal a soda bottle, we would not do it. We might snitch a candy bar from the local 5 & 10, if we dared, but we would not violate The Great Trust.
It was just unthinkable.