New Bedford Remembers Drinking Coffee Soda
The recent talk about the rebirth of New Bedford's landmark Silmo Coffee Syrup disturbed some dormant cells tucked away in brain matter far in the dark reaches of my mind, rekindling thoughts of something long forgotten from my childhood.
It may sound frightening, but these things happen with greater frequency when you pass 60.
No, it's nothing dirty, and you don't need a counselor, a cry space, or a blanky to deal with it.
What I remembered was coffee soda.
I don't mean coffee milk, coffee-flavored syrup, a coffee milkshake, or coffee frappe. I'm talking coffee soda.
When I was about seven or eight years old in the 1960s, my nana used to be driven to Dorothy Cox Candies in Fairhaven each week to get her "diabetic candy." The candy was sugar-free but may have had saccharine in it. Saccharine was big in those days.
Nana loved her diabetic candy, and she also loved coffee soda.
I asked my Aunt Shirley if she remembered Nana's coffee soda, and she didn't. So I put out an appeal on the radio.
What came back was surprising – and reassuring. There was such a thing as carbonated coffee soda. People remembered it.
Not only was it available in New Bedford, but it was made in New Bedford by Manhattan Beverages, which at the time was on Shawmut Avenue and Durfee Street.
I had forgotten how many other soda and beer bottling companies there were in New Bedford back in the day. Coca-Cola had a bottling plant on Route 6 in Dartmouth, Virginia Dare was on Nash Road, and White Rock was in the New Bedford Industrial Park, among others.
Nemasket Spring bottled Tom Collins Mix and other beverages in Middleboro for years.
Barry Sylvia said his family operated Manhattan Beverage and "absolutely" made coffee soda. Sylvia has promised to hunt down photos and perhaps even some vintage bottles. If he does, I will share them with you.
My Uncle Bob Antil, who operated Bob & Eileen's Super Variety at County and Weld Streets for decades, said he sold Manhattan Beverage Coffee Soda in his store.
From what I understand, there are some newer versions of coffee soda and some knock-offs available online these days, but for my money, nothing can replace Manhattan Beverage's Coffee Soda.
Does anyone else remember drinking coffee soda? If so, did you like it, and would you like to see a revival?
If you have any photos of coffee soda or local bottling plants, feel free to share them with us.