I’ve passed through Georgia so many times throughout my childhood, yet the only memory I’ve ever had of the state is the distinct smell of paper mills and marshlands. Now, many of these mills are being converted into apartments, and I am excited to explore Georgia beyond its olfactory experience.
The state sign reminds us that Georgia was home to the 1996 Olympics. I distinctly remember those summer games, watching on TV as Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame. We drive into Atlanta, where the ceremonies were held, and aside from imagining the five linked rings, I recall Scarlet O’Hara, as she gasps “At-lana.”
My parents owned the movie, and my sisters and I would watch those two VHS tapes over and over. “Gone With the Wind” became one of my all time favorite films, and although a Yankee, I dreamt fondly of some day becoming a southern belle. I’d wear the hoop skirt, shawl and hat, fanning myself as my beau held a parasol over my shoulder. Back then; I knew nothing of the pain and discomfort of corsets. Ribs tied up like Chinese foot bindings, combined with the impracticality of hoopskirts, which caused kitchen fires and even death. While appearing graceful and spectacular on the
outside, women were restricted in every activity by the secrets of their undergarments. Despite being tightly bound and awkwardly adorned, the southern belle was the epitome of southern hospitality. She is a reminder of plantation living and a symbol of the romantic ways of the American South’s antebellum upper class.
While fantasizing about plantation life, and a place called Tara, we enter into the world of Coca-Cola. Coke was invented by Doctor John Pemberton in 1885, and the exact recipe has been a secret ever since. Dr. Pemberton was a pharmacist who lived in Covington Georgia. He intended to make headache medicine, and instead concocted an alcoholic drink in a kettle in his backyard. With the institution of prohibition, the doctor used his unique formula to develop a non-alcoholic version of the drink. It was this beverage that his bookkeeper helped him name “Coca-Cola.” To this day, his secret formula, known as “7X” is considered to be one of the most closely held secrets in the modern business world.
Coca-Cola once contained an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass, but was removed in 1903.  There have even been questions about the legal origins and ownership of the current Coca-Cola Company, since Asa Griggs Candler (incorporator of the company), had early records burned. However, despite its origin, Coca-Cola has become an American icon, and a favorite drink to many generations.
Even for those like myself who cringe at the harsh taste of the soda, we cannot deny the curiosity that surrounds Coca-Cola’s “7x” formula. Reminding northerners that southern ways may forever be an enjoyable mystery.
1. Liebowitz, Michael, R. (1983). The Chemistry of Love. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co.