52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 11: Fortune
PROMPT: Week 11’s theme is “Fortune.” Merriam-Webster gives several definitions for fortune: A large sum of money; prosperity attained partly through luck; or destiny, fate. Be creative with this week’s prompt!
The topic of “fortune” brought to mind a business owned and operated by family. I didn’t know much about the business–a bottling plant–but I was fairly certain that it had been a lucrative enterprise. Cousins of mine from Junction City, Kansas, are the granddaughters of a former President of the local Coca-Cola plant. Their grandfather had succeeded his own father who had founded the business and who had served as the first President of the company.
I found a lot of information about the business online. However, as with most things, real answers are best obtained by going directly to the source: the “real thing.”
Thankfully, my cousins were eager to assist me and were extremely helpful in sharing their memories and knowledge of the business. I have them to thank for the many great photos accompanying this post as well.
This story starts at the turn of the past century when, on January 23, 1901, John William “Will” Deppish (1875-1945)–along with a partner, H.C. Behrend–purchased a “soda water” plant in Junction City, Kansas. Will Deppish and his wife Carolina Augusta “Lena” Palenske Deppish (1877-1956) put in many long hours at the bottleworks.
A post on the Geary County Historical Society blog described a typical day for the Deppish family in this way:
Long and tiresome hours were put in by both J.W. and his wife, Lena. Many mornings they would start work before 5 A.M. Sometimes, to get an early start, Mrs. Deppish would get up at 3 A. M. to get breakfast, then help load up the wagon with soda water for trips to Keats, Riley Center, Leonardville, Ogden, Alma, Dwight, Alta Vista, White City and other towns within their trade radius. Since the horse had to take it easy, J.W.’s day would often end in the early hours of the next day when he would pull in any time between one and two A.M.”Geary County Historical Society Blog post – May 16, 2019
A 1915 profile of the business, Crown Bottling Company, details a small business capable of producing 200 cases of “pop” per day and whose best-seller was Mr. Deppish’s own root beer.
Because of the “charm” of early twentieth century small-town journalism, we can surmise that Will and Lena Deppish’s hard work paid off…so much so that they were able to purchase a house (for $600!) and a new delivery truck in the same year.
Above, newspaper clippings from The Junction City Daily Republic and The Junction City Weekly Republic dating from August 30, 1901, to July 31, 1920.
A subsequent post on the Geary County Historical Society blog details the business’s growth after that:
In 1916, the Deppishes began bottling Coca-Cola. Due to the extra demand for this drink a power bottling machine was installed. In 1931 the company added the new soft drink, 7-Up. Then in 1962, the company [name] was changed to the Junction City Bottling Company, Inc. New lines of beverages were added many times. In 1938 to 1959, the line of Blue Jay soft drink flavors was added to the company. On October 8, 1941, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company held an open house for its all new bottling plant across the street from the original plant. It had new equipment and the latest in automatic bottling machinery. The new equipment took the bottling capacity to 4,320 bottles of Coca-Cola an hour. The business was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Deppish in 1949. Charles W. Lundeen, Sr., their son-in-law, joined the firm in 1951. Upon the death of Carl in 1976, Charles Lundeen, Jr. [sic] became the President of the Company. Charles Lundeen, Jr., joined the firm and the company continued to grow. In the spring of 1979 an all new line of equipment was purchased to accommodate drinks that were sold in cans.Geary County Historical Society Blog post – May 17, 2019
Carl Henry Deppish (1904-1976), mentioned above, was the spouse of my Great Aunt Gladys Minerva Harding (1908-1981). Not only did Carl Deppish serve as President of the bottling company, but he also served as the mayor of Junction City. He was one of two sons who had assisted their father in running the business in its early years.
Both of Carl’s own sons were involved in the day-to-day business of the company. For many years, the older son, William Louis “Bill” Deppish (1933-2013) was the Vice President of Sales. According to his oldest daughter, Julie–my second cousin–the line of beverages bottled when her father was there–besides Coca-Cola–were 7 Up, Dr. Pepper, Squirt, and Fanta. When Dr. Pepper was added to the line, her father marketed it as a medicinal drink!
Her father also shared some interesting memories of growing up next door to the plant in this uncredited and undated clipping shared with me by Julie’s sister Kim.
As described in the latter post on the Geary County Historical Society blog, Carl’s son-in-law succeeded him as President of the business. Charles Lundeen, Sr., was married to Carl Deppish’s only daughter Donna Marie Deppish Lundeen (1913-2015.) Shortly after their father Carl’s death, both Bill and his brother Lawrence “Larry” Deppish (1943- ) left the company.
Julie’s aunt’s family having taken over the business and her own father not having had any involvement since the late 1970s, she has not followed the more recent history of the franchise. However, with her knowledge of the business’s history, she assured me that, while the business had been successful, no one in her family had made a vast fortune on it. [Fortune in this case, then, can be seen as the “good fortune” of a successful business if not a multi-million-dollar enterprise!]
As detailed in this article, Coca-Cola memorabilia have become collectors’ items, some fetching hefty prices on resale sites such as eBay. Julie has memories of the Coca-Cola Christmas trays her family brought out for the holidays. Every Christmas Eve, she and her three sisters would leave cookies–and a bottle of Coke–for Santa!
I suspected that, as an avid baseball fan like myself–and a regular at Oakland A’s games, Julie would probably value any treasured promotional giveaways of her favorite Major League franchise more than any Coke memorabilia. Julie confirmed my suspicions and even sent me a photo of her treasured Oakland A’s bobblehead collection! Her favorite is the Scott Hatteberg bobblehead: it plays the audio of Bill King’s radio call of September 4, 2002, when the A’s won their twentieth game in a row on “Hatte”‘s walk-off home run against the Kansas City Royals.
No, there are no Coca-Cola tchotchkes in her home in Oakland, but–to this day–Julie still doesn’t drink Pepsi!
I still hold out hope that Julie might come East and go to a Mets game with me at Citi Field. Now that the former “Pepsi Porch” at my ballpark has been the “Coca-Cola Corner” for some time, I hope she’s giving more serious thought to my offer! And, while I’m at it, the offer stands for any of her sisters as well!