Coke Bottle Blues

By Natalie Schriefer

entire unbroken coca cola sea glass bottle

By the time my office clock hit 1:30, I’d already changed into my sneakers. It was time for lunch, and that meant two things: one, eating my peanut butter sandwich; and two, walking a block to Seaside Park, Connecticut, where I’d spend the better part of my lunch hour combing the beach for shells and sea glass.

It didn’t feel like a particularly special day at first. The summer sun was warm, the sea breeze refreshing. The park—full of walkers, joggers, fishermen, and picnickers—bustled. The Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry sailed out of the harbor and into the Sound. Even the tide didn’t seem unusual—but as I reached the sidewalk and then hit the sand, I realized the tide was particularly low, the water receding farther than I’d ever seen. The beach, normally a dozen yards across, had more than doubled in width. It was a spring tide, which occurs when the sun, moon, and earth form a line, resulting in higher high tides and lower low tides.  I didn’t know anything about spring tides that day, but I did know that I had to explore the shallows, this new land ripe for beach combing.

One hand on the brim of my hat, I abandoned my sneakers and socks and waded into the Sound, the sand soft and the water cool—and no more than a few inches deep even once I’d walked ten yards out. Near the drop-off, where the water deepened into a channel large enough for the ferry, a teal nub stuck out of the sand.

Another bottleneck, I figured. I’d found a number of beautiful pieces here in the past, teals and purples and whole green bottle necks—likely thanks, in part, to the landfill adjacent to Seaside Park. I’d never found a teal bottleneck before, though. My mom, who collected sea glass, would love it.

When I reached the nub, I crouched in the shallows and dug into the sand. Each time I tried to tug the bottleneck out, though, it stayed stuck. Like it was bigger, maybe more like half a bottle—which likely meant the glass would be fresh, the edges still sharp. I dug deeper anyway. Sand gritting under my nails, I excavated around the glass, careful not to cut myself on any unseen edges, until out popped an entire Coke bottle. Teal and unbroken, its entire surface was frosted and opaque.

How had it survived?

I rinsed my new find in the shallows, and then again at the university when I returned to my office. Research on Coke bottles suggested it was minted in 1958, based on the date code which read “58-72.” Had it been buried all that time? It was amazing that something so fragile had survived for so long—a personal reminder, right on my work desk, of the beauty and strength in perseverance.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2021 issue.

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