May 8 is Have a Coke Day

have a coke day

John S. Pemberton

Today is Have a Coke Day. The first glass was sold for five cents at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, GA, on May 8, 1886. The story of one of the most popular beverages on Earth began at the end of the American Civil War.

Confederate officer and Freemason John Stith Pemberton was slashed across the chest by a Union soldier’s saber and treated with morphine, to which he became addicted. When he returned after the war to his job as a druggist, he became obsessed with finding a substitute.

In 1885, he formulated French Coca Wine, using coca leaves and caffeine-rich kola nuts. When the mixture of cocaine and alcohol was ingested, it created a third substance called cocaethylene which heightened the euphoria experienced from the use of cocaine alone.

Pemberton didn’t invent the drink himself; he used the two-year-old formula of a Parisian chemist named Angelo Mariani, whose Vin Mariani was so beloved that he was awarded a gold medal by Pope Leo XIII.

Pemberton marketed his version as a nerve tonic ideal for “scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion” as well as “a most wonderful invigorator of  the sexual organs” and a cure for morphine addiction.

When early prohibition laws were passed in Atlanta, he removed the alcohol and developed Coca-Cola as a patent medicine to be mixed at pharmacy soda fountains, which were popular because of the belief that carbonated water was good for health.

Not long after Coca-Cola’s debut, Pemberton became ill. Ironically, he was nearly bankrupt due to the high cost of his ongoing morphine addiction; as a result, he began to sell the rights to his formula but tried to retain a share of ownership to pass on to his son, Charles. But his son wanted the money instead so they sold what was left to business partner Asa Candler.

John Pemberton died of stomach cancer on August 16, 1888, at age 57. Charles attempted to sell and popularize an alternative to his father’s formula but died six years later, an opium addict himself.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 5 is the Barbed Wire Festival

barbed wire festival

The 50th Annual Barbed Wire Festival kicks off this evening in La Crosse, Kansas. The first convention for collectors of barbed wire was hosted there in 1967. According to the festival’s website, 2,000 people attended, earning La Crosse, described by Wikipedia as a “city” of 1,342, the title of  “Barbed Wire Capital of the World™.”

The site is a bit sparing with details about today’s festivities, stating only, “The ceremony will begin at 5:00 pm with an olympic-style opening ceremony for the 50th Annual Festival.”  (We’re guessing that in this case, the eternal flame will be represented by two books of matches and a can of Sterno.)

Next, a monument to departed supporters will be unveiled at its location by the sidewalk in front of the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum. The dedication will be followed by a meeting of the Antique Barbed Wire Society, the only international organization devoted to the collection, preservation, exhibition and cultural appreciation of barbed wire.

Friday’s program features an exhibition of vintage military garb; displays of wire fence and collectibles will be judged. (Note to newbies: Don’t collect wire under 18 inches long. Anything shorter is worthless.) The evening will be capped off with the “Kansas Barbed Wire Museum Casino Night and Mexican & More Buffet.” Proceeds will benefit the Museum Operating Fund.

Saturday’s main event is the 50th annual “World Champion Barbed Wire Splicing Contest™. ” Contestants begin with double strand, two-point galvanized barbed wire and must splice in a third strand, twisting it using only their hands. (Gloves are allowed.) Finished wires must be able to support a 75-pound weight. There’s a Powder Puff version for women. All the requirements are the same but the gender bias is thrown in for free.

Attendees who are plumb tuckered out can look forward to the Golden Memories Candlelight Banquet, a gourmet meal “featuring the finest cuts of beef, fabulous trimmings, salad, and dessert.” (In this context, “trimmings” sounds suspiciously like “fixins.”) Following the meal, there will be a short awards ceremony. The site promises, “This will be our finest banquet yet. Black tie optional.” A sigh of relief goes up from those who forgot to pack their tuxedos. Or their special Sunday-go-to-meeting shorts.

Five more shows are scheduled this year in California, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. In the autumn, La Crosse will host the “Miss Barbed Wire Capital Pageant & Variety Show.” The first Barbed Wire Collector magazine was issued in 1983. It is published six times a year by the Antique Barbed Wire Society to inform and entertain barbed wire aficionados between functions.

Happy 50th annual Barbed Wire Festival!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays