Hydrate, hydrate, and re-hydrate. That is the mantra for this summer’s scorching heat.
During this oppressive heat wave, summer’s must-have accessory is the ubiquitous water bottle.
Whether Aquafina, Smartwater, or Poland Springs no one leaves home without toting these portable delivery systems of hydration. Always at the ready, plastic water bottles can be found littering desks and cluttering conference tables in offices throughout the parched country.
But long before these convenient thirst quenchers became available, a withered, overheated worker had to rely on the office water cooler or the cool refreshments from a vending machine.
A Baked Apple
The steamy summer heat wave of 1953 turned New York City from the Big Apple to the Baked Apple. Twelve consecutive 90-degree days had set the record for the hottest stretch in the history of the city.
Air conditioning was not widespread and was used primarily in air-cooled movie theatres and other public spaces. The summer heat slowed down office workers everywhere, including 25-year-old Mitzie McCrea a mid-century miss who toiled in the steamy jungle that was Manhattan.
Not unlike today, a brutal stretch of scorching temperatures had hit the metropolitan area with no immediate relief in sight. It was predicted the sweltering summer would only get worse with historic heat on the horizon for the city.
Mitzi was melting under this oppressive day after day stretch of heat.
Commuting to her office in midtown was brutal. The steamy subway platforms were unbearably hot, and the crowded cars were cooled only by ceiling fans. Air conditioning, the dream of very heat-maddened subway sardine was at least two years away. Poor Mitzi would arrive at work drenched in sweat.
Sometimes Mitzie just wished she could live inside her Frigidaire, especially when the summer temperatures reached the high 90s like they did that July.
This saucy secretary who could take dictation faster than you could place a long-distance call and change a typewriter ribbon more deftly than anyone on Seventh Avenue slowed to a crawl in the hot weather.
Like most firms in Manhattan’s steamy mid-town, sales were sluggish, and overheated office workers just slogged through the day. The hot air circulating through the office by the giant standing fans offered no relief.
As temperatures rose, employee morale dropped.
Wisely, Mitzi’s boss Mr. Dithers took matters into his own hands to revive his withered staff, making cooling refreshments available throughout the day.
Just a simple phone call to Kansas City and quick as a wink the Vendo Company – the premier manufacturer of cold beverage vending machines – was soon installing a series of their top-notch machines for on-the-spot refreshment.
Smiling, Dithers figured out how to beat the summer heat automatically! And boost sales.
In the late 1930s soft drink vending “machines” were basically just ice chests that required the customer to dig through the ice to get their beverages. Based on the honor system, they relied on trustworthy customers to not take more drinks than they had paid for.
Even machines that mechanically delivered soda bottles in exchange for coins were unreliable. They couldn’t distinguish between real coins and “slugs.
Two brothers, Elmer and John Pierson came to the rescue founding The Vendo Company.
In 1937 they invested in a new vending machine design.
Known as “The Red Top” it was essentially a lid with mechanical underpinning that could be fitted on top of a standard cooler. It could store bottles away from the ice which lessened mechanical failure.
The company also developed a sensor that could distinguish between real coins and slugs based on the sound waves emitted when the coins were dropped in the machines.
Their big break was in 1940 when Vendo got the official endorsement of Coca-Cola.
With the advancement of modern refrigeration, a supply of ice was no longer needed. It was so popular that in 1940 the US mint office produced double the number of coins of the previous years to keep up with the demand for change for vending machines
During WWII Vendo received a huge war contract from the government which considered soft drinks “essential for soldiers’ morale.”
In 1946 the invention of the first coffee vending machines was perfect for coffee breaks. Vending machines soon became a national phenomenon offering a variety of beverages and foods.
Mitzie and her co-workers were thrilled and her eyes lit up at the row of tempting refreshments that were soon installed.
Mr. Dithers went all out to cool down his staff.
Rich wholesome ice cream! Cold sparkling Coca-Cola! And nothing said “chill” more than a tall refreshing cup of milk. Hmmm boy, that’s good cooling! All served automatically at the touch of a button! Old Man Dithers was going modern all the way.
Now all Mitzie needed was to save up those nickels and dimes to beat the summer heat.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2022 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.