Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soda Memories

For years I've been telling people about all the weird flavors of soda I had or saw growing up in Sacramento and no one seems to know what I'm talking about. As I grew older, I eventually realized Sacramento must have been a test market for this kind of thing and it turns out I was right.

I brought up one of these long lost sodas, "Tropical Chill" Pepsi, to Allie the other night and she kind of rolled her eyes at me for retelling the story, yet again. So I decided to try and find evidence of them on the interwebs. Turns out "Tropical Chill" Pepsi was only available for 1991 in select markets. I remember it as being really delicious, like Cherry Pepsi with Hawaiian Punch in it. Back then, soda was still a treat for me. We didn't stock it at home, but my parents would buy me one once or twice a week. I had allowance money but was usually too cheap to spend it on consumables like soda and candy--I'd rather have something I could keep that would last, like toys, comics and baseball cards (almost 20 years later and I'm still trying to get rid of those purchases).

All of us kids loved the new "Tropical Chill" flavor and we gave it its own theme song, co-opting Guy's R&B hit "Let's Chill." The lyrics were the same, but the subject was now about drinking soda instead of getting romantic, "Let's chill/let's settle down/that's what I want to do/Just me and you/Let's chill." We all loved rap and R&B in those days.

One day, we had a big, school-wide athletic event (possibly the "Have a Heart Jogathon") and we scored free "Tropical Chill" soda. I was pretty thrilled. Looking back at it now, I'm sure this soda was just donated or discounted to the school as Pepsi's way of infiltrating the hearts, minds, and taste buds of the city's youth. Still, nothing goes together better than soda and athletics, right?

"Tropical Chill" was one of three fruit infused colas, referred to as the 'Wild Bunch,' which Pepsi marketed and even sold together. I remember seeing another of these flavors, the "Raging Razzberry," but have no memory of the "Strawberry Burst." Apparently, they were all "Fresh From The Tropics," as evidenced by this picture:

There was also Coke AM, an extra-caffeinated soda marketed to coffee drinkers as an alternate way of getting their morning pick-me-up. Turns out I've been misremembering this soda for years and it was actually Pepsi AM. I used to wait for my morning elementary school bus at the end of the block along with my dad, my school mate Linette and her dad Art. Art was really into Pepsi AM and used to drink it while we waited.

There are dozens of great websites and blogs out there that talk about old sodas. I particularly like this one, for giving the lifespan of the various drinks mentioned, and this one for being somewhat more comprehensive in its list of old sodas.

It's funny how even the detritus of our consumer, popular culture can so fully inform our childhood memories. Junk food and advertisements are as much a part of my fond childhood memories as books, TV shows, movies, vacations, sleepovers, and family get-togethers.

I still love the advertisement iconography of my youth; soda can logos, the hats and colors of Major League Baseball teams, light brown M & Ms, McDonald's characters, Bell Biv DeVoe, Bo Jackson commercials. Brown and orange will always be my favorite colors for the San Diego Padres. Though it's long gone, I'll always want another taste of "Tropical Chill."


1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeremy,
    I'm planning on doing a Soda Pop zine. Couldn't believe when I stopped into Guapo today and Allie told me about your town being a test market for these amazing and weird sodas. Can I use this story in the 'zine? I'd love for you to write or contribute more soda pop tales if you're interested.
    Karen G.