What Did That Building Used to Be - Chero-Cola/Nehi/RC

Sunday, November 20, 2005 - by Harmon Jolley
509 Main Street - home of Chero-Cola, Nehi, and Royal Crown from 1916 to 1970.  Click to enlarge.
509 Main Street - home of Chero-Cola, Nehi, and Royal Crown from 1916 to 1970. Click to enlarge.
- photo by Harmon Jolley

Main Street once had two types of businesses. There were retailers who were supported by the surrounding neighborhoods including Jefferson Heights and others in South Chattanooga. There were also manufacturers who utilized the Belt Line rail connections to receive raw materials and to ship finished goods. Still standing at 509 Main Street today is the former home of a manufacturer whose bottled concoctions were shipped throughout the region.

The prelude to the 509 Main structure actually began in 1905 way down in Columbus, Georgia where Claude Hatcher began making soft drinks to sell at his grocery. The enterprise was originally called the Union Bottling Works, but soon changed to Chero-Cola in honor of their flagship product.

According to “Tennessee: The Volunteer State 1769-1923 Vol. II” by John T. Moore, Charles Little took over the Chero-Cola plant in Rome Georgia in 1914. Then, in 1916, Mr. Little erected a two-story 60 by 137 foot building at 509 Main Street in Chattanooga to serve as home of Chero-Cola in that city. The bottler benefited from the proximity to the Belt Line rail connection to the main line in and out of town.

The Moore history further described Charles Little’s new Chattanooga operation as follows. “It is equipped with the latest low-pressure bottling machinery, each machine being driven by electric motors and they are entirely automatic.” The equipment could fill up to 750 bottles per minute. Mr. Little was also reported as having bottling plants in Huntsville, Memphis, and Shreveport.

In 1922, Charles Little sold the local Chero-Cola operation to Monterey, Tennessee-native Shirley A. Christian. Mr. Little pursued a new venture with his own soft drink company, Good Grape, which he co-founded with Joe S. Foster. Good Grape evolved into the Seminole Flavor Company, which introduced Double Cola in 1933.

Meanwhile, the Chero-Cola Company was undergoing changes of its own in the 1920’s. A new fruity flavor, Nehi, was introduced and soon outsold Chero-Cola. The parent company was renamed Nehi in 1928.

The company decided to rework its formula for Chero-Cola, and introduced its replacement, Royal Crown, in 1933. Royal Crown Cola, or “RC” to aficionados, was nationally advertised and endorsed by Hollywood celebrities. The low cost of an RC and a Moon Pie (another Chattanooga-made product) was thought by many to be the right price for an economical snack. The two were even celebrated in song.

Both the franchiser and the Chattanooga operation were renamed as Royal Crown in 1957. In 1970, RC left its previous home at 509 Main Street for 201 Broad Street, which Coca-Cola was vacating for new facilities on Amnicola Highway. The Lookout Plating Company took over the former RC building on Main.

In 1979, Royal Crown sold its downtown address to the Hamilton County Department of Education, and established a distribution plant on Polymer Drive. RC closed the plant two years later.

Charles D. Little died in 1978 at age 90, and Shirley Christian passed away in 1977 at age 89.

The building was later in use by County Commissioner Curtis Adams and his sons as Adams Tire Center. It was sold in 2004 to well-known sculptor and painter Rey Alfonso, who has his studio there.

Today, both RC and Double Cola can still be found on Chattanooga’s grocery store shelves. I have been unable to locate a Nehi, however, in any flavor – orange, grape, or peach –though they appear to be available via the Internet.

If you know where a Nehi can be found locally, or if you have memories of Chero-Cola, Nehi, or Royal Crown Cola, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

201 Broad Street saw the coming and going of two brands of soft drinks.  Click to enlarge.
201 Broad Street saw the coming and going of two brands of soft drinks. Click to enlarge.
- Photo2 by courtesy of Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library

Chester Martin Remembers Dr. Hal McAlister, Astronomer

Several years ago Southern California was all ablaze - again. This latest forest fire episode only got my attention because the famed Mt. Wilson Observatory was directly in the flames' path! As a one-time amateur astronomer I was immediately caught up in the significance of this story and followed it closely. It was only on the very edge of my memory that I recalled that Dr. Harold ... (click for more)

Looking For Robert Springer, Former Chattanooga Printer

I am looking to locate my grandfather who once worked for the Chattanooga News or the Chattanooga Times as a printer before WWII and after returning from the war.   His father was Charles Clinton Springer. His first wife was Barbara Nolan, both of Hamilton County. I am trying to locate family members from both sides.   Robert Springer later moved to Florida ... (click for more)

Customer At East Ridge Gas Station Shoots And Kills Robber; He Had Been Trying To Take Female Clerk With Him

East Ridge Police said a customer at an East Ridge gas station early Thursday morning shot a robber, who was then found by police lying outside the station and was arrested.  The robber has died.  His name is being withheld pending the notification of next of kin. At 1:47 a.m., East Ridge Police responded to 4011 Ringgold Road, the Marathon Service Station, on ... (click for more)

Bridge Repair Over 12th Street To Cause Temporary Lane Closure On US 27

While investigating a pothole in the bridge on U.S. 27 North over 12 th Street in the construction zone, crews discovered a potential weak spot in the bridge deck that could over time result in more damage to the bridge deck.  For the safety of the traveling public, the outside lane in this area was closed until the contractor made necessary repairs, TDOT officials said.  ... (click for more)

A Disturbing Trend At Exit 11 - And Response (4)

So, am I the first to notice a trend?   How many wrecks does exit 11 need before anyone asks "whats up with that?"  I have lost count of the wrecks that continue to happen, even after last year's awful loss of life (which I believe 51 percent of the blame should fall on the THP officer on duty).  The problem with this section of interstate are sight lines ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Story You Won’t See

In a puzzling time when the big daily newspapers have veered strongly away from “all the news that is fit to print,” allow me to share a story that you very likely will not see on CNN, ABC News, or in the big media conglomerates that influence the way you think, the way you react and – as a result – easily warp our common senses. This story is very true. Late last Sunday afternoon, ... (click for more)