By Mary T. McCarthy
It’s always fun to find a green bottle bottom, but once on a live beachcombing feed I found one that said “MILITARY” and couldn’t imagine its origin. Someone watching said “It’s a National Park Sprite!” and, happy as always to learn something from the beachcombing community, I couldn’t wait to get back to my “green” bin of glass, pull out other bottle bottoms and do some Googling.
It turns out The Coca-Cola Company has a long history with the National Park Service. In the 1930s, national parks were the settings for Coca-Cola advertisements, like a 1931 Yellowstone National Park ad depicting actual bears drinking Cokes. In the 1960s, Coca-Cola ran a bottle cap sweepstakes with the National Park Service encouraging Americans to “See America” with a grand prize worth $33,000.
As part of the 1960s promotion, and to further encourage Americans to visit parks, Coca-Cola released limited edition green Sprite bottles embossed on the bottoms with the names of 36 National Parks. The 1966 issue of Coca-Cola’s “Refresher” magazine published the list of the 36 National Parks that would be featured on the bottoms of the Sprite bottles.
Over time, Coca-Cola’s partnership with the parks has continued, with Coca-Cola pitching in $5 million for the Statue of Liberty restoration, $1 million at Yellowstone and Gettysburg National Military Parks for Visitor Education Centers, and millions to support trails programs and recycling at U.S. national parks.
I was delighted to find in my green bin that I had inadvertently collected a few of these limited edition bottle bottoms, and, while on the phone one day, I picked up my only whole Sprite bottle and discovered it was a National Park bottle! Soon after on a winter negative low tide, I found two more of them, and suddenly the list published in 1966 has become a checklist for me.
List of National Park bottles from “The Refresher,” May/June 1966, The Coca-Cola Company
So back to the beach I go. Come on, Statue of Liberty and Yellowstone, I know you’re out there!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2019 issue.