Local diner featured in book about Coca-Cola history
Carlie Wilson | Staff Writer
Coca-Cola first greeted the world nearly 125 years ago in a soda fountain in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Larry Jorgensen, a freelance writer and Coca-Cola enthusiast, recently released a book describing the path that led to the drink’s popularity over the last 125 years, and a Grayling diner is mentioned in the closing chapter.
In the book “The Coca-Cola Trail,” Jorgensen discusses the story of an Atlanta pharmacist’s desire to create a soft drink with a distinct taste. Although Jorgensen’s book does not directly discuss the Atlanta company’s upbringing, in chapter one, “Vicksburg, MS,” and chapter three, “Chattanooga, TN,” Jorgensen discusses key parts of the story after the Atlanta creation. These chapters discuss what led to the bottling of Coca-Cola, and many other facts.
Dawson & Stevens Classic 50’s Diner is mentioned in the closing chapter of the book, titled “Along the Trail.” Dawson & Stevens Classic 50’s Diner is mentioned at the end of the novel because “the diner is a loose end, but the diner is a loose end I want people to know about,” said Jorgenson.
Dawson & Stevens Classic 50’s Diner currently has an extensive collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia on display.
Jorgenson tells the story of the diner from its upbringing in 1983, to the year 2003 when Bill Gannon purchased the diner.
According to the book: “In 2003 radio station owner and local businessman Bill Gannon was looking for a new challenge, and bought the downtown diner. For over a year Bill closely observed how things were being done, before closing the diner for an 18-month major remodeling project to create the Dawson & Stevens Classic 50’s Diner & Soda Fountain.”
Jorgenson describes the Dawson & Stevens story and the way that around 20,000 pieces of Coca-Cola memorabilia came into Gannon’s possession. Jorgenson says that “Bill made his first visit to the Bottle Cap Museum to purchase some old Coca-Cola bottles for his restaurant. Hicks (the owner of the Bottle Cap Museum in Sparr, Michigan) responded by offering to sell his entire collection of 8,000 items, saying he wanted to retire and his desire was to sell everything to one person who would put it all on display.”
Hicks’s offer came with a steep price, and on Gannon’s way home that day, Gannon began to imagine his own 50’s diner, accompanied by Coca-Cola memorabilia and found the idea too incredible to pass on, according to the book. After purchasing the 8,000-piece collection from Hicks, Gannon went on to collect over 20,000 total pieces of memorabilia.
The book lists off a few one-of-a-kind items inside the diner, including “a Coca-Cola Indy style go-kart. The niece of the previous bottle cap museum owner had won the kart many years ago with a one dollar raffle ticket. Coca-Cola representatives have said they have never seen another one.”
“Another museum ‘treasure’ is a restored 1950’s Coca-Cola delivery truck,” Jorgenson said in an excerpt from his book. In further detail, Jorgensen explains that “Bill had located the truck which was abandoned in the woods in Minnesota, and had it shipped across Lake Michigan to become a museum attraction.”
As a whole, Jorgensen said that his book is not a “tell all” and was designed to be a book that discusses the trail that led to the popularity of the drink and what paths it took to get there. The project took Jorgensen nearly three years to complete. The book was inspired by stories Jorgensen heard growing up, leading him to do more research during his days as a freelance writer. Jorgensen himself is not a Coca-Cola collector, and titles himself as a researcher instead.
“The Coca-Cola Trail” is available for purchase online and in stores.