'A nickel drink worth a dime' was Pepsi's claim
Photograph from a negative in the Leland Score Collection, Dunn County Historical Society.

"Pepsi-Cola hits the spot,

Twelve full ounces, that's a lot.

Twice as much for a nickel, too.

Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you,

Nickel, nickel, nickel, nickel,

Trickle, trickle, trickle, trickle…"

Those were the words that songwriter Alan Kent wrote to fit the tune of the old English hunting song "O'ye Ken John Peel," a ditty that was to become one of the earliest and most popular singing commercials in America.

It was Pepsi-Cola!s challenge to the veteran cola drink, Coca-Cola, that had been around since 1887.

Coca-Cola's advertising slogan in the 1930s for its six once bottle was "The drink that makes a pause refreshing," a bottle half the size of the Pepsi brand.

Competing brands

That boast was repeated on the broad side of the delivery truck of Rudolph Rassbach, the Menomonie distributor of Pepsi-Cola, with the words "A Nickel Drink Worth A Dime."

That was an attractive alternative to Coca-Cola's six once size bottle, and the Pepsi brand, with its "twice as much for a nickel too" promotion, began to make inroads on its major competitor's territory.

Of course that road was not entirely clear because John Greeley's Menomonie Bottling Works was busy promoting its twelve ounce bottle of Royal Crown Cola along with the NeHi (knee-high, Get it?) brand of several flavors of soda.

This photograph was snapped in 1937 by the Dunn County Pictorial Messenger photographer, Lee Score, for an advertisement in the paper.

This is Rudolph Rassbach, distributor, posing for the camera at the front of the truck with his order book hammed into the pocket of his apron.

Leinie's & Prohibition

It is a bit curious to see the Leinenkugel ad for spring water and pop on the side of the truck. Leinenkugel and other brewers in the nation were forced to stop making beer during Prohibition, a period of time that ran from 1920 until the law was repealed in 1933. It appears that Leinenkugel continued to produce, spring water and sodas after the company resumed making beer.

Evidently Rassbach did not distribute beer at this time. Howel's Root Beer was the closest thing to the real thing in Rudolph's eyes.

Rassbach worked a variety of jobs during his life. I have been unable to learn how long he worked as a distributor. He looks well established in his job in this photograph!

Prior to this time he had worked for the Dunn County Highway Department, and then spent some years with the Menomonie-based 0 & N Lumber Company before taking on this business.

When the World War broke out he signed on to work on the Alcan Highway, a high priority for the United States and a job that paid well for Rassbach. After the war he worked for the post office in Eau Claire.

Special promotions

During World War II, the Pepsi-Cola company maintained service centers in some of the larger cities where military personnel could purchase a hamburger or hot dog with a small bag of potato chips for fifteen cents and get a free cup of Pepsi. Refills at no charge.

The company also had little recording booths at each site where a homesick sailor, marine or soldier could record greetings to his loved ones on a small, four-inch wax disk emblazoned with the Pepsi-Cola logo. Postage to send it was paid by Pepsi.

All of this was to imbed the Pepsi-Cola brand into the mind of the serviceman or woman.

Not to be outdone, the Coca-Cola people established a bottling works on a small island in the south Pacific during the war. So on land Pepsi-Cola was establishing its presence but it was "Coke" in the war zones.

Note: I erred in last week's column by stating that the Yellowstone Trail (future U.S. 12) originally traced today's Tainter Street to Elm St. I knew better but didn't catch the error until it was too late to change.

Yellowstone Trail turned westward at the comer of Tainter and Pine Street. Sorry about that!

John Russell, a local photographer and rural Dunn County resident, writes a weekly column for The Dunn County News.

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