The Coke Plant

The Coke Plant

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2010 edition of Paducah Life Magazine.


Infinity is all, nothing, or an automobile. Zero is a number and is the starting point for progressions, positive and negative. Reference points are necessary to mankind. Among these are the geographic poles, Greenwich median, sunrise and sunset. In Paducah, the Coca Cola plant became one such marker in 1939. After an hour over two-lane roads that passed through a myriad of small communities, the families like the Byassees of Columbus, Kentucky, knew they were in Paducah when the familiar shape of the Coke plant appeared.


W. O. Green chose Paducah in 1951 and began a stellar career in the fire department in 1952. He recalls that it was not uncommon to tell newcomers, asking direction, to “go out Broadway until you get to the Coke plant, and then . . . ”


During the flood of 1937, no one in Paducah felt safe until they got off the boats on the landing on Broadway near LaBelle Street. Luther Carson chose this site, 3141 Broadway, for a new bottling plant after the 1937 flood. A pioneer in processing bottled Coke, Carson originally rented a building at 726 South Third and bottled his first case on March 27, 1903. Steve Vantreese reported in the September 28, 2008 Paducah Sun that Carson sold this first case to a grocer on Third Street, George Wolf. Later, Carson moved to 6th and Jackson in 1907. From this precarious beginning, Carson continued until he became a major player in the soft drink bottling industry in the United States.


Carson was the consummate salesman for Coca Cola. Peyton Cromwell’s voice lightens up as he relates that, as a child, he remembers Luther Carson coming into G. W. Dunbar’s Drug Store on Fountain Avenue and offering everyone there a bottled coke {he never recognized the fountain variety!} In fact, when the Carson family attended a function that served other drinks, they brought their own.


In this regard, Joe Harry Metzger and I share a common experience meeting Luther Carson. As children we had occasion to bump into Mr. Carson on different occasions. Metzger remembers asking for a 7-Up and getting one. I was at Hammock’s filling station in Sullivan, Kentucky, when a man I never saw before entered, told Earl, the owner, to “set ‘em up with Coca Colas.” The crowded establishment, about eight total, rushed to get their treats. Being the smallest, I was the last.


I said,“I want a Fruit Punch.” Frigid silence settled over the scene.


Earl leaned over and whispered, “That’s Luther Carson. He owns Coca Cola!” I said, perhaps a bit too loudly,“But I don’t want a Coke. I want a Fruit Punch. Cokes hurt my stomach.” I did not realize the dilemma I presented Mr. Carson. George Jacobs of Paducah was a rival producer of bottled soft drinks including Nehi and Fruit Punch.


I got my drink from a smiling Mr. Carson.



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