In February of 1937 the local Marion paper announced that the newly completed Gwyn building on the lower Rialto was occupied.(2) The building had four 4-room apartments on the second floor which had all been rented, and the ground floor was being used by the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company.(2) The company was started by two North Carolinians who saw an opportunity to acquire the Dr. Pepper franchise in Marion. They were Clay F. Church, twenty two years old when they formed the company, who had been a member of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, and an associate of his father in the gas and oil business in his hometown of Elkin, NC.(2) He also had a love of flying and had received his pilot’s license in 1933, by 1942 he owned a 2 seat Aeronca brand plane.(2) Mr. N. S. Forester Jr, his partner in the company was twenty six when the company started, and was also owner of the Forester Beverage Company in North Wilkesboro, NC which bottled Pepsi-Cola, distributed Budweiser beer, and manufactured ice cream.(2)

In 1939 the product line was expanded to include the Sun Crest brand which was owned by Nu-Grape; however, it didn’t take long for them to decide that what they needed was their own brand which they created in June of 1939, and filed a patent for in September of 1939, Sun Flower Beverages. The blue and white ACL (Applied Color Label), squat bottle style with embossed shoulders and heel, and name all bore a remarkable resemblance to the Sun Crest bottle that it replaced funnily enough. In May 1940 a sister company was created to distribute Budweiser Beer in the area which went by the Southwest Distributing Company.(2) A new plant was built to house the growing bottling, and distribution, companies just west of Marion on Lee Highway which opened on March 20, 1942.(2) This was a large two story building with the bottling equipment and warehouse on the bottom floor, and the mixing rooms on the second.(2) The Architect for the new building was John O. Crockett of Marion.(2)

Even with a successful bottling franchise under their belts, Church and Forester weren’t sitting on their hills in the early 1940’s. They incorporated The Tip Corporation on July 18, 1944 based upon a grape soda named Tip, which was created by J. N. Gary Jr. of the Gary Beverage Company, which they had purchased after the war’s sugar rationing had adversely affected the Tip Company portion of Gary Beverage’s business. Tip had been created in order to take advantage of a new light weight 6oz bottle back in 1938, and it is said that Clay Church wanted to turn Tip into what could be termed a Grapette killer, which was also a grape soda that was bottled in the same style bottle, and had become quite popular in the South. The Tip Corporation shared the same building as the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and Southwest Distributing, eventually it grew too large and they built a new building on North Main Street to house the corporation in late 1947.(2)

Of course after the acquisition of the Tip brand, the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company was bottling Tip under the name of The Tip Company in the classic 6oz bottle and a new 10oz red & white labeled bottle which was introduced in 1948.(2) An interesting twist is that the Sun Flower Beverages bottles are also stating that they are being bottled by the Tip Bottling Company of Marion, VA as well, and the brand is being franchised to other bottlers. The most noteworthy being not only N. S. Forester’s own bottling plant in North Wilkesboro, NC, which had been bottling a Blue & Yellow labeled version of the bottle since the early 1940’s, but Greenville, NC with its Brown & Yellow label version, and Norton, VA which was just the usual Blue & White version that has The Tip Bottling Company Norton, VA on the back.

The association of Clay Church, and the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Marion, with the Tip Corporation ended around 1957 when the Corporation was on the brink of bankruptcy and was saved by its President Bill Jones, a group of investors, and a new brand to franchise, Mountain Dew. Sun Flower Beverages’ bottle was completely redesigned, and now featured a female character with a sun flower face and the colors changed to yellow and white by 1959. At some point the company picked up the franchise for bottling Seven-Up, but things couldn’t have been doing too good for the company during the 1960’s.

February 24, 1971 the Pulaski Southwest Times announces the purchase of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Marion by the Marion Bottling Company.(3) The purchase was made from the trustees of the N. S. Forester Jr. estate, and no mention of Clay Church is made.(3) The plant was closed and all the operations were being moved to the Marion Bottling Company plant, along with its employees at least on a temporary basis.(3) Marion Bottling Company would take over the Dr. Pepper and Seven Up franchises, and thus ended the history of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Marion, VA.

The first location for Dr. Pepper of Marion, VA on East Main Street

The first location for Dr. Pepper of Marion, VA as it stands today

The second location of Dr. Pepper of Marion as it was the day it opened in 1942.

Dr. Pepper of Marion as it stands today

On the left is Clay Church and on the right is N. S. Forester, Jr. from the Smyth County News of March 17, 1942.

Two trucks from the Southwest Distributing Company

12oz Sun Crest bottle shard dated 1939

The bottom of the Sun Crest bottle

Early Sun Flower Beverages cap

12oz Sunflower Beverages bottle dated 1939

Dr. Pepper of Marion ad from Janurary 1939.

6 1/2 oz Dr. Pepper bottle dated 1941

The bottom of the 1941 bottle

From the collection of Frank Anderson, photo by Joseph Lee
12oz Yellow & Blue ACL Sunflower Beverages bottle dated 1941

6 1/2oz Dr. Pepper Good For Life bottle dated 1942

The bottom of the 1942 bottle

A photo of the Dr. Pepper Employees standing outside of the second plant during its opening in 1942.

6 1/2oz Dr. Pepper Good For Life bottle dated 1944

The bottom of the 1944 bottle

Dr. Pepper of Marion ad from November 1946

10oz Sunflower Beverages bottle dated 1950. The interesting thing about this bottle is that in 1950 the brand is still being bottled by the Tip Bottling Company, which is really being bottled by the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Marion; however, this bottle has the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company embossed in the bottom, and no mention of Tip.

The bottom of the Sunflower Beverages bottle

December 23, 1948 Christmas ad from the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Marion, VA.

6 1/2 oz Dr. Pepper bottle dated 1951. Notice that this bottle has the earlier clock design of the "Good For Life" bottles; however, has the green color of the later no clock bottles.

The bottom of the 1951 bottle

6 oz Dr. Pepper bottle dated 1952

The bottom of the 1952 bottle

10oz Sunflower beverages bottle dated 1955. It appears that Dr. Pepper has stopped bottling the brand for the Tip Corporation by this point.

10oz "Bottle Cap" painted label Dr. Pepper bottle dated 1955

6 oz Dr. Pepper bottle dated 1956

The bottom of the 1956 bottle

10oz Dr. Pepper bottle with acl contents on front dated 1956

10oz Dr. Pepper bottle without acl contents on front dated 1956

10oz Sunflower beverages bottle dated 1957. So far this is the latest one of these I’ve seen. An interesting thing on this bottle is that the sunflowers on the neck are actually upside down.

Dr. Pepper of Marion reciepts which include Sun Flower Beverages, Tip, and Seven-Up.

10oz Sunflower beverages bottle dated 1961. The white peddle bottles are the first version of this bottle, and the more common yellow pedal version are the later versions. The colors were inverted at some point after 1963 for unknown reasons.

10oz Sunflower beverages bottle dated 1963. You’ll notice that there is an embossed “C” on the neck of this bottle below the “Sun Flower” label on the neck. There is also the town name “Clinton, SC” embossed on the bottom. It appears that this is a manufacturing mistake. The bottle that the Sun Flower ACL was applied to is actually a bottle used by the Canada Dry Bottling Company of Clinton, SC for their Sandy’s Chocolate soda.

10oz Sunflower Beverages bottle dated 1964

October 28, 1960 center ad for a Marion High School football program by Dr. Pepper.

10oz Sunflower beverages bottle dated 1966

This bottle cap represents the only piece of artifact evidence that the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company was bottling Seven Up as Wythe Hull told us in his book.

A Seven Up crate from Marion, VA

A Dr. Pepper crate from Marion, VA

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(1) The History of the Marion Bottling Company, Inc. By Wythe M. Hull, Jr Copyright 1985 by Wythe M. Hull, Jr

(2) The Smyth County News

(3) Pulaski Southwest Times