The Coffee Shop is an open thread-style discussion forum for human interest news of the day.
The Coca Cola company had a special carillon built especially for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The instrument has a staggering 762 bells. However, the bells are not the usual “bell shape.” They are tubular bells, which to me is reminiscent of the theme music, Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield composed for The Exorcist.
This is probably the largest and certainly the heaviest musical instrument in this country. After the World’s Fair, Coca Cola donated the carillon to the state of Georgia. After all, Coke is a Georgia based company, having started there. John Pemberton, a Confederate Colonel, was wounded in the civil war. Due to his wounds, he became addicted to morphine, and was looking for a medication to help him get off the morphine. Pemberton was the proprietor of Pemberton’s Eagle Drug and Chemical House, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia. He came up with what he called at first, French Wine Coca. However strong prohibition laws were in place at the time, so he created a non-alcoholic version. He believed that carbonated soda was a healthful drink, so his first drinks were carbonated instead of alcoholic. On May 8, 1886, it was sold for the first time at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. The first bottling of Coca-Cola occurred five years later, in 1891, at the Biedenharn Candy Company in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
I should note that I have had a drink of original Coca Cola at Biedenharn’s original plant in Vicksburg. It was made by the same machine used back then. They give you a tiny paper cup of the drink. It tastes like Coke, more or less, but is flatter and has almost no fizz compared to modern Coke.
Years ago, someone gave me a very rare Sample & Lake original Coke bottle from the Sample & Lake Bottling Company in Jackson, MS. It does not look anything like the curvy bottle that came later. It is a thick greenish glass with straight sides. And it still has part of the original lead stopper inside. You read that right. The stopper was lead. When it was pulled, the lower part breaks off when the seal is broken, the bottom plug part falling into the bottle.
I am rather fond of that old bottle. Seems that Mr. Sample and Mr. Lake were only in business together for six months, and very few bottles bearing both names were made. When Sample went on alone after the partnership broke up, he made a lot of bottles, so while rare, they are not as rare as a Sample & Lake bottle.
Back to the Coca Cola carillon. Georgia and Coke officials had to decide on where to put the carillon so it could be enjoyed by as many people as possible. They also wanted it to be in a location conducive to peace and quiet, free of city and traffic noises. They settled on Stone Mountain State Park. Near Atlanta, visited by thousands of tourists, but still a charming and quiet place. There is a lake some distance from the Stone Mountain granite monolith with its excursion train circling the base.
The landscape architects placed the carillon on a spit of land projecting into the lake, so it can be seen and heard easily from almost anywhere around the lake. It is not only one of the world’s great musical instruments, it is also a beautiful sculpture standing 13 stories tall, totally unlike the usual bell tower we think of when thinking of a carillon.
The carillon has been played by Ms. Mabel Sharp since the instrument’s premier concert in 1974. There are frequent performances, and a schedule is posted. One can purchase recordings of her carillon concerts at the gift shop. Her best selling album is probably the one of Christmas carols.
Ms. Sharp plays daily. On her rare days off, the concerts are done electronically by songs she has pre-programmed. She says the secret of her unbroken record is that if she feels sick, she takes about five aspirin and goes to the console.
It is 380 feet from her console to the amplifying tower. They are connected by underground wiring. She points out that it is not only a complex instrument, it is a potentially dangerous one. The notes of the brass tubular “bells” are created when electric hammers strike them. However, in order to be heard a mile away, the soft chime of the bells must be amplified by a massive array of high fidelity speakers. As she likes to point out, “I am pushing more than 8,000 watts.”
All the kids with their boom box cars and trucks driving past my house should slink off in a thick cloud of fail.
This video shows scenes around the lake as Ms. Mabel Sharp plays the biggest, baddest, and most dangerous musical instrument in the country.
Here she plays Unchained Melody:
This is an open thread. There are several hosts, each host being responsible for picking a “theme of the day” and starting the discussion. However, there is no hard and fast rule about staying on topic, especially if you have a personal story burning a hole in your pocket trying to escape.
This is an Open Thread. Grab your cup, pull up a chair, sit a spell and share what’s on your mind today.