RC Colas & Moon Pies: A Southern Tradition

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Over the course of America’s history, the South has produced more than its fair share of famous and infamous couples — here’s looking at you, June and Johnny… and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw… and of course, Bonnie and Clyde!

Yet it’s hard to imagine a duo that could possibly be more compatible than the pair from East Tennessee and western Georgia: Moon Pies and RC Cola.

Together, the couple garnered a reputation as being the “working man’s lunch” and have spent many a day together inside a lunch pale in the dark coal mines of West Virginia, factories of Carolina or fields of America’s farmland.

Selling for only five cents each, the tasty combo served as the main entrée for a countless number of laborers’ during the last century and offered many children, hard at play, a refreshing snack in the summertime heat.

The marriage between these two lovebirds has endured for nearly a century and has found its way into several radio songs – first by Hank Williams’ touring buddy, Big Bill Lister who sung, “Give me an RC Cola and a MoonPie, I’m playin’ Maple on the hill…” to Tracy Byrd’s award winning hit, “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous”.

Interestingly, the marriage of these two American icons was perhaps more out of necessity than true love: During the Great Depression, both RC Cola (first developed in Columbus, Georgia) and MoonPies (produced 175-miles to the north in Chattanooga, Tennessee) were sold at a lower price and in a larger portion than their competitors, making them an irresistible deal for working-class people.

MoonPies owe their entire existence to a Kentucky coal miner:E Earl Mitchell Junior said his father came up with the idea for MoonPies when he asked a Kentucky coal miner what kind of snack he would like to eat. The miner requested something with graham cracker and marshmallow, adding that he’d like to see it, “as big as the moon”.

Thanks to this conversation, the MoonPie was invented on April 29, 1917.

On the other hand, RC Colas owe their entire existence to a feud with a Coca-Cola dealer: In true southern form, RC Cola was birthed out of a feud between a grocery store owner and his local Coca-Cola distributor.

In 1901, the Hatcher Grocery Store was established in Columbus, Georgia. At that same time, the popularity of bottled soft drinks rose rapidly, and grocery store owners wished to maximize their profit. As a grocery wholesaler, Claud A. Hatcher purchased a large volume of Coca-Cola syrup from the local company salesman.

Due to the volume he had purchased, Hatcher felt that his deserved a special reduced price for the syrup.  The Coca-Cola representative would not budge on the cost, and a bitter conflict between the two erupted.

After considerable quarreling, Hatcher told the salesman that he’d never purchase another drop of Coca-Cola and then spent the next year developing his own soft drink formula.

Over the course of the coming decades, the grocery store owner’s product like of in the Royal Crown sodas grew in popularity throughout the South.

In 1934, the company’s drinks were reformulated by a chemist and the Royal Crown Cola we love today was born.

In 1954, Royal Crown was the first company to sell soft drinks in a can, and later the first company to sell a soft drink in an aluminum can.

Though neither company seems willing to acknowledge any concerted effort to marry the two’s marketing strategy, Southern Culture has undoubtedly been shaped by this unassuming pair’s relationship.

Even NASA’s culture has been shaped by this marriage, as the agency has been known to serve MoonPies at various celebrations.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission, the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum showcased the world’s largest MoonPie, a 55-pound, 40-inch diameter, half-a-foot high MoonPie.

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