The following post appears on the Tazewell-Orange.com site, run by Joseph T. Lee III. “This site is my contribution to the preservation of the local history of Southwest Virginia and the Tri-Cities area,” Lee says. “I’ve researched a mostly overlooked industry that affects our lives every day—the soda bottling industry, which I was surprised to find was quite prevalent in the Southwest Virginia area.” This profile of the Was-Cott / Tazewell Manufacturing Company is reprinted here with permission.
In the town of North Tazewell, VA sits a large white building with bricked up windows. This vacant building was once home of one of the largest carbonated beverage bottling plants in Virginia. This company was a North Tazewell landmark from 1910 until 1960.
The company’s name changed at least three times during its life, starting out as The Tazewell Manufacturing Company (1910-1922), The Was-Cott Corporation (1922-1931), and finally The Sun Rise Bottling Company from 1931 until its closing in 1960.
A Lynchburg firm known as Duguid Brothers established the original operation as a wholesale grocery store in the 1890’s, with W. A. Scott as a partner. Scott soon bought out his partners’ interest in the company.
Sometime during 1910 Scott, along with the Tazewell Manufacturing Company, created his most famous soda, Was-Cott Ginger Ale. They placed the first ad for the drink in the September 8, 1911 Clinch Valley News.
Scott continued operation of the store until a fire destroyed the grocery and its subsidiary the Tazewell Manufacturing Company on January 18, 1920.
After the fire, W. A. Scott constructed a new two story brick and concrete plant with a basement, and restarted bottling operations by April 8, 1921, with S. L. Drake returning as superintendent of the Tazewell Manufacturing Company.
Scott equipped the new plant with the most modern machinery at the time. The Was-Cott Corporation was incorporated on April, 23, 1921, with W. A. Scott as President and Treasurer, George W. St. Clair as first Vice President (both of Tazewell, VA), Hiram T. Gates, of Richmond, VA, as Second Vice President, F. H. Forbes, of North Tazewell, VA, as Secretary. Jameson George Buston is listed as a director of the company (he would become very important to the company later on).
For a long time Was-Cott Ginger Ale was distributed to the rest of the nation by train. W. A. Scott had been wise enough to site his buildings right next to the Norfolk and Western railway line. He engaged in a huge advertising campaign in 1923, which ran ads from New York City to Jacksonville, FL. Was-Cott was even distributed to a few foreign countries.
What really helped the brand attain its fame was the A&P grocery store chain distributing the brand in their franchises. I have seen A&P ads from various different eastern states where Was-Cott Ginger Ale holds a prominent place in their roster of ginger ales.
Was-Cott Ginger ale came in three sizes of amber paper-labeled bottles, the 7 ½ oz for five cents, the 12oz for ten cents, and the 16oz for twenty cents.
By 1928 the Was-Cott Corporation was bottling all three types of Was-Cott Ginger Ale (regular, club, and Extra Dry), Orange Crush, Lime Crush, Cherry Crush, Strawberry Crush, Mandalay Punch, Hires Root Beer, and Apple and Peach products. They were also manufacturing/distributing fountain syrups for all of these flavors.
The Was-Cott Corporation was still in operation as of 1928; however, like many businesses Was-Cott was hit hard by the Great Depression, and wound up having to liquidate. W. A. Scott started selling life and automobile insurance by June 6, 1930.
According to the trademark registration of the name ‘Sun Rise’ by the Sun Rise Bottling Company, the first date of the name’s use in commerce was September 1, 1931, with James G. Buston as proprietor. Buston succeeded in keeping the company operating, and broadened the product line to several different products.
The first was a brand known as Giant Chro-Mo Ginger Beer, which was touted in advertising as “the drink that everybody likes.” Apparently everybody didn’t like it, as the brand was gone by the 1940’s; unfortunately there isn’t much left to give us an idea of what flavor this brand was.
By the 1940’s new brands joined the homegrown ranks under J. G. Buston, one of which is Tazewell Orange, “A Delicious Drink,” which may have very well been inspired by Orange Crush, and is obviously a Tazewell exclusive brand.
The Sun Rise Beverages line, which most likely had been with the company from the start, was created as the flavor line for the company. The first bottles were clear with a black and orange painted-label that would later be redesigned with a rooster crowing at the sunrise.
Then there is 2 TO 1, “Two to one you’ll like, because it’s two to one in your favor,” which was another Tazewell exclusive, most likely a lemon lime type drink much like 7-UP or a grapefruit type drink like Squirt.
Lucky Giant, “A drink that tastes different because it’s made different,” was a cola that was created by the company to market as a franchise drink. I doubt it went too far, as the brand isn’t advertised after World War II.
The last of the Tazewell exclusive brands can be quite possibly described as the most promoted brand of the company aside from Was-Cott Ginger Ale itself, that being Rhythm Punch with the inspiring tagline “Tastes like grapes.” I suspect the flavor and even the name were modified from Mandalay Punch, which the company bottled in the late 1920’s.
Of course the company was still bottling Was-Cott Ginger Ale, which was now in a green painted-label bottle similar to a certain Canadian oriented ginger ale. They picked up other nationally franchised brands like Red Rock Cola, which most likely replaced Lucky Giant; Squirt, which most likely replaced 2 TO 1; and Hires Root Beer, which they had been bottling since the late 1920’s.
The Sun Rise Bottling Company was registered as a partnership on March 24, 1947 between Jameson George Buston, Earl Stanley Wallace, and John Wharton Gillespie. By October 1948 Buston had sold his interest in the company to Wallace and Gillespie.
Was-Cott Ginger Ale died off after it could no longer compete with Canada Dry, which the company picked up to replace the home brand.
It appears that Wallace and Gillespie sold the ‘Sun Rise’ trademark to Sun Rise Inc. of Marshall, MN, which would take the brand national. Eventually the brand would be bottled by Coca-Cola bottlers into the 1970’s.
Sun Rise Bottling Company itself continued to bottle Tazewell Orange, Rhythm Punch, and the other national brands till their closing sometime in 1960, when the company sold the plant to the Deskins Supermarket chain, who converted it into a warehouse.