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Getting “pop” in New Braunfels

Photo Caption: Robert Posey, right, looks over damage to St. John’s Bottling Works after severe freeze on Feb 13, 1905.

Photo Caption: Robert Posey, right, looks over damage to St. John’s Bottling Works after severe freeze on Feb 13, 1905.

Keva Hoffmann Boardman –

Soda pop? Soft drink? Soda water? My family just says “soda.” Whatever you call it, the soft drink industry is huge. When did New Braunfelsers first get a taste for the sugary yet satisfying beverage?

As early as 1872, Otto and Theo. Simon were bottling ice cold soda at their home. They bought a new ice machine in 1875 and, with partner L. Paggi, they opened and ran an ice cream/soda water parlour until 1881. Imagine how amazing an ice cold soda was back in the days of no air conditioning and dusty streets.

Others soon jumped into the increasingly popular drink business. Dr. Grube teamed up with Bruno Voelcker to start their own soda water factory in 1881 but it was short-lived.

Eduard Naegelin Sr. (Naegelin’s Bakery opened in 1868) added soda water, candies, cigars and ice to his bakery enterprise in 1883. According to his grandson, C. F. “Buddy” Naegelin, Eduard also had a license to produce wine. He used 50-gallon barrels and sold one gallon bottles for 25 cents to 50 cents. Now we’re talking!

Naegelin bottled “Squeeze” brand soda waters and IronBrew. IronBrew tasted a bit like a full-bodied cream soda and sported a label of a man with his arm raised showing off his bicep. Several New Braunfels doctors are said to have prescribed IronBrew to their anemic patients. I can’t verify its efficacy.

“Squeeze” brand syrups, used in Naegelin’s soda water, were mainly citrus and fruit flavors like lemon, lemon-lime and orange. A case of bottled soda sold for 40 cents. Naegelin made his own ginger flavor to bottle ginger ale. In those days, ginger ale was a seasonal drink for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Naegelin handed the bakery/bottling business over to his son, Edward Jr., in 1924. The bottling business was kept until the building was remodeled in 1937.

Back in 1886, John Sippel opened St. John’s Bottling Works. No one remembers why, but people called John Sippel, St. John, and so the company got that name. Sippel bottled soft drinks of all flavors and a seltzer (sparkling water) called Sippel’s Water. St John’s Bottling Works was first located on the property where the old Main Fire Station stands. Sippel also acquired the Anheuser-Busch beer franchise for the area.

In 1894, St John’s Bottling was put up for sale. Robert Posey bought it at auction in 1903. He sold the business to the Neuse brothers in 1906 who moved it to the corner of Castell and Church (Coll) streets. At this time, there were three bottling works in New Braunfels: St John’s, Naegelin’s and Feltner’s Comal Crown.

Albert Staats bought St. John’s from the Neuse’s and turned around and sold it to his brothers Edwin and Walter in 1914. The Staats’ sold soda and seltzer water. (Seltzer water could be bought and taken home to make your own flavored soda or ice cream sodas.) Trade was brisk. They were selling to 20 local saloons. Their top flavors were “Cherry Blossoms” and “Orange Julep”. Naegelin’s was selling “Orange Squeeze”. Feltner had sold Comal Crown to Hugo Weidner who had franchised “Orange Crush.” Apparently, orange was popular.

The Staats brothers obtained the coveted Coca Cola franchise in 1915. Basically, soda water is a flavoring syrup mixed with carbonated H20 which is capped to keep in the fizz. Edwin Staats reported that in the first year he bottled Coca Cola, he used less than one 55-gallon drum of syrup; by the time he sold the bottling business in 1972, he was using three 55-gallon drums of syrup each day. In 1921, the company was moved to 203 S. Castell. Edwin bought out his brother Walter in 1932; Walter became NBFD fire chief and fire marshal.

Lucky for me, a born and raised Texan, the Weidner’s Orange Crush Bottling Works obtained the franchise for Dr Pepper and became the Dr Pepper Bottling Works. They bottled that “nectar of the gods” for New Braunfelsers. In 1963, Edwin Staats also bought this franchise and boosted his soda water sales by 30 percent that year.

Edwin Staats provided a few aneccdotes to the NBHerald in 1966. Staats would take orders for ginger ale prior to the holidays. Harry Wagenfuehr (Pearl Beer distributor) would delay returning empties to the brewery and loan the bottles to Edwin for use. These were picked up after the holidays and returned to Wagenfuehr and THEN back to the brewery in San Antonio.

Staats also explained about the old bottles. A spring stopper was attached to the bottle and was put into place when the bottle was filled (so you could refill it). The popping sound it made when opening inspired the term “soda pop”.

And speaking about “pop” … My kids made root beer once. All the filled capped bottles went into the pantry cupboard to process. Several weeks later, what sounded like a gunfight came out of the pantry. The entire experiment ended up coating the two bottom shelves with a sticky brown liquid.

At least it did taste like root beer.

Sources: “Reflections” oral history recordings: #80 – Buddy Naegelin; #209 – Preston Staats; #180 – Homuth “Lops” Weidner 100th Anniversary edition of the New Braunfelser Zeitung, Vol. 100, No. 53; NB Herald – Dec 29, 1966, “Edwin Staats Celebrates 50 Years of Coca Cola”.

Photo Caption: Robert Posey, right, looks over damage to St. John’s Bottling Works after severe freeze on Feb 13, 1905.