After his returning from glider pilot service in World War II Marion, VA native Charles O. Gordon along with his wife Evelyn A. Gordon, and Marie G. Harding incorporated the Tip Bottling Company on March 19, 1946.(3) It is claimed that Samuel Y. Harding was also involved in this venture; however, his name isn't listed on the incorporation paperwork. Charles Gordon purchases the land for the Tip Bottling Company at the corner of West Walnut and Cherokee Streets on April 26, 1946.(3) Samuel Y. Harding is President of the Tip Bottling Company by 1947, and Charles Gordon is Secretary.(3) Having had experience with Quonset huts during his military service Gordon decided to use one to house the new bottling company. Tip was a grape flavored soda franchised by the Tip Bottling Company of Marion, VA, and was the company's only drink for a time.

This would quickly change on June 12, 1947 when the Tri-City Beverage Corporation is incorporated with Charles O. Gordon, Samuel Y. Harding, and George F. Brandt signing.(3) Charlie Gordon is President, and Samuel Y. Harding is Secretary.(3) This appears to have had been a move to disassociate themselves from one particular brand, and possibly one that wasn't performing all that well also. They erect a second Quonset hut beside the first one and have picked up the Hire's Root Beer franchise by October 1947.(5) It is unclear when they decided to create their Tri-City Beverages flavor line; however, the earliest bottles we know for it are 32oz bottles dated 1948 with 8oz bottles being ordered by 1950. It appears that by June 1948 the Tip Corporation is allowing Tri-City Beverage to use their 6oz Tip bottles to produce a Tip flavor line which may predate the Tri-City line. These include Tip Orange, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry, Peach, Ginger Ale, and of course "Unique Flavored" Tip, which it seems were being provided by the Tip Corporation itself.

Also in 1948 they gain the franchise to bottle Mil-Kay Orange which was a brand from the "House of Lazier" located in St. Louis, it would appear that they may have also have picked up the franchise for Mil-Kay’s sister brand Sun Drop Lemonade around the same time.(2) Sun Drop Lemonade was usually bottled in a paper labeled bottle around this time and I have yet to lay eyes on one from this company during the period prior to the 1952 reformulation of the modern Sun Drop we all know. When the brand is reformulated in 1952 by Charles Lazier Tri-City would also bottle the new "Golden Girl Cola" as well. The Tip Bottling Company of Johnson City Tennessee surrenders its charter of incorporation on December 30, 1948 with company President Samuel Y. Harding, and Secretary Charles O. Gordon sighing.(3)

In June of 1951 they introduce what would become their signature drink, Dr. Enuf.(1) They would incorporated the Dr. Enuf Corporation of East Tennessee on July 19, 1951 with Charles O. Gordon, Evelyn A. Gordon, and George F. Brandt signing.(3) This brand is so important to this company that I have devoted an entire page to Dr. Enuf story which can be found HERE. The year 1954 would be an interesting one for Tri-City Beverage first with the acquiring of the Frostie Root Beer franchise to replace Hires Root Beer. They also appear to be bottling Nesbitt Orange soda, and also pick up the franchise for the brand that would make the company a legend, Mountain Dew.

Mountain Dew was a lithiated lemon soda created by Barney and Ally Hartman of Hartman Beverages of Knoxville, Tennessee in 1948 as a mixer for their alcoholic beverages. There is much speculation who bottled the brand first which I have written an article to address this named "Mountain Dew Logic VS Legend: Who first commercially bottled Mountain Dew?" So I won't get into all that here, but if you are interested then click the link above. Tri-City Beverage was using two different bottles for Mountain Dew, one being an 8 ¾ oz ACL (Applied Color Label) bottle and a 1 pint 12oz No Deposit/No Return bottle with a paper label applied to it. It is only logical to assume that this same No Deposit bottle may have been used for bottling their new Gordon's line of mixer beverages including Gordon’s Club Soda, and Gordon's Ginger Ale. As of this moment an intact paper label bottle has been found for any of these three drinks.

In 1958 the company gets talked into trying out a new 24oz bottle design by a glass company. The new bottles were tapered toward the shoulder where two large rings ran around the bottle. They used this design for their Tri-City Sparkling Beverages line and also more famously for Mountain Dew. The bottles didn't go over very well and eventually the company ended up destroying most of them as they were returned after they surrendered the Mountain Dew franchise. In 1963 the dietic soft drink craze was in full gear with everyone wanting to get into this new market for low calorie or no calorie sodas. Tri-City picked the Cott Low Calorie Dietary Beverages line which was based in New Hampshire. Known Cott's Low Calorie flavors include Low Calorie Root Beer, Orange, Raspberry, Cola, and Ginger Ale; however, at present I don't know which ones were actually bottled by Tri-City.

In 1964 Bill Jones of the Tip Corporation of America sold his reformulated Mountain Dew to Pepsi-Cola, and Tri-City Beverage was one of the sixteen Non-Pepsi bottlers that held a franchise for Mountain Dew. They sold their franchise to the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Johnson City who started bottling the brand on March 1, 1966.(1) The late 1960's was a tumultuous time in the bottling industry where many independent bottlers were being bought up by larger multi-bottler organizations, driven out of business by competition and limited shelf space, or found themselves having to move to more remote areas of the respective towns that they started in. Tri-City was one of the latter. It appears that after having acquired the franchise for bottling Cheerwine after the Orange Crush Bottling Company closed its doors after 1968, Tri-City decided it wanted a new bottling plant as their old one was twenty years old.

They found this new location at 714 Rolling Hills Drive which is quite a ways out from Downtown Johnson City, and erected a new bottling plant there. They moved one of the old Quonset huts to the location as well. Not too long after the move they acquire the Nugrape franchise sometime during the transition of the Dr Pepper Bottling Company being sold to the Royal Crown Bottling Company, and then Rice Bottling taking over the Dr Pepper franchise in 1972.(2) They are also bottling Chocolate Soldier during this period, along with Frostie Root Beer, Dr. Enuf, and their Tri-City Flavors.

By the year 2000 Tri-City Beverage is producing two new flavor lines along with Dr. Enuf, these are the Gordon's Cream Soda line, and the Charlie O's flavor line.(4) The Gordon's Cream Soda line included Blueberry, Banana, Orange, Black Cherry, Strawberry, and Peach. The Charlie O's line consisted of an Orange, Strawberry, Grape, Lemon, and Lemonade.(4) It appears that after the death of Charles O' Gordon on August 15, 2004 the Charlie O's and Gordon's line were discontinued. The TC's Old Fashioned flavors line was introduced in 2007. The line included Sweet Orange Grove, Cool Vineyard Grape, Strawberry, and Fuzzy Peach Orchard, but it was discontinued in 2009 due to poor sales. Today Tri-City Beverage is still bottling its signature brand Dr. Enuf along with contract bottling for other brands to keep running at full speed including one of their older franchises Sun Drop. As of 2013 Dr. Enuf was being carried by the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants, and I personally found it at one in Delaware back in 2011. This local favorite produced this little independent bottler is finally starting to make waves nationally, but it is still produced right here in the valleys of Northeast Tennessee, and hopefully always will be.

Photo of Tri-City Beverage from a December 3rd, 1946 showing the original single Quonset hut sporting the TIP sign.

A photo of Tri-City Beverage during the introduction of Dr. Enuf showing the second Quonset hut.

The original location of Tri-City Beverage as it is today

Tri-City Beverages at it's present location on Rolling Hills Drive

A December 3, 1946 ad announcing the grand opening of the Tip Bottling company of Johnson City Tennessee.

6oz Tip Grape bottle from the Tip Bottling Company of Johnson City, TENN. dated 1946

An ad announcing the introduction of Hires Root Beer from the October 20, 1947 Kingsport Times

From the collection of Whitey Snow, photo by Joseph Lee
32oz Clear Tri-city Beverages bottles dated 1948

10oz Mil-Kay bottle dated 1948

Tri-City Beverage ad promoting Mil-Kay and Sun-Drop from 1950

8oz Clear Tri-city Beverages bottle dated 1950

8oz Green Tri-city Beverages bottle dated 1950

8oz Clear Tri-city Beverages bottle dated 1951

7oz Sun Drop bottle dated 1953

A Golden Girl Cola crate from the "Tri-City Beverage Corp" of Johnson City, Tennessee. This crate most likely dates to the mid-sixties after they reacquired the franchise for Sun Drop Golden Girl Cola after selling their Mountain Dew franchise in 1966.

10oz Mil-Kay bottle dated 1954

12oz Frostie Root Beer bottle dated 1954

12oz Frostie Root Beer bottle dated 1955

8 3/4oz Mountain Dew "Charlie, Jim and Bill" bottle dated 1955

1 pint 12oz green No Deposit No Return bottle dated 1955. This bottle matches the 28oz (1 pint 12oz) paper label that was used by Tri-City to bottle Mountain Dew in 1955 that appears in photos from a local Johnson City Tennessee television show that they sponsored. These bottles may have also been used to bottle the original Gordon’s brand of sodas that they were bottling around the same time. Unfortunately one of these with the surviving Mountain Dew paper label have yet to surface, but one lives in hope that one finally does.

9oz Mountain Dew "Charlie and Jim" bottle dated 1956

24oz clear Tri-city Sparkling Soda bottle dated 1958

12oz Frostie Root Beer bottle dated 1958

A Frostie crate from the "Tri-City Bottling Company" of Johnson City, Tenn.; however, the company was never called the Tri-City Bottling Company, dated 1960.

10oz Frostie Root Beer bottle dated 1961

From the collection of Christopher A. Weide, photo by Christopher A. Weide
9oz Mountain Dew "By Charlie and Bill" bottle dated 1962

10oz Cott Low Calorie Dietary Beverages bottle dated 1963

10oz Mountain Dew "Charlie and Bill" bottle dated 1965. I bet you are wondering what that white dot is over the Hill Billy's head. This bottle was made in 1965 and according to Dick Bridgeforth was a step taken by his father Bill Bridgeforth to help in recognizing his bottles due to the different sizes and types of Mountain Dew bottles coming in from other bottling companies. Most of the mid sixties mountain dews didn't have the company names on them. Even the Charlie and Bill name on them didn't help because there was a 9oz running around with the same name on them.

10oz Tri-City Beverages bottle dated 1965

10oz Frostie Root Beer bottle dated 1968

10oz Tri-City Beverages bottle dated 1972

Tri-City Beverages bottles in universal carton they came in.

10oz Tri-City Beverages bottle dated 1980

From the collection of Geff Moore, photo by Joseph Lee
Foam labeled Tri-City Beverages bottles

12oz Cheerwine long neck bottle from the early 1990's

12oz Frostie long neck bottle from the early 1990's

From the collection of Geff Moore, photo by Joseph Lee
12oz Gordon's Oranges 'n' Cream Soda bottle

12oz Gordon's Bananas 'n' Cream Soda bottle

12oz Gordon's Blueberries 'n' Cream Soda bottle

12oz Charlie O's Lemonade bottle

12oz Charlie O's Strawberry Soda bottle

12oz Charlie O's Grape Soda bottle

10oz TC's Sweet Orange Grove Slow Sippin' Soda bottle

10oz TC's Cool Vineyard Grape Slow Sippin' Soda bottle

10oz TC's Fuzzy Peach Orchard Slow Sippin' Soda bottle

10oz TC's Strawberry Patch Slow Sippin' Soda bottle

A couple of the sodas that were bottled at Tri-City Beverage through contract bottling, Sun Drop, which they bottled years ago as well, and Red Rock Ginger Ale.

A 10oz bottle of Corn Squeezin’. The Corn Squeezin’ brand is owned by the Corn Squeezin’ Company of Louisa Kentucky, but this appears to have been a contract product bottled by Tri-City Beverage. It is a nice nod to the history of Tri-City Beverage so I had to post it on here.

A four pack carton of 12oz Corn Squeezin’ bottles bottled by Tri-City Beverage.

Tri-City has started putting out Dr. Enuf in an ACL retro 12oz bottle which you can see above. If you want to find out more check out their site at the address below.


This page is only part of a much larger site. To see the rest then just click TAZEWELL-ORANGE.COM

Tazewell-Orange.com and the contents on this site are copyrighted by Joseph T. Lee III except where otherwise noted see Terms of Use.

Special Thanks to:

Tri-City Beverages for the use of image TCB-1.

(1) Johnson City Press

(2) Polk's Johnson City, Tenn. City Directory

(3) Wasington County Circuit Court

(4) www.drenuf.com (via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

(5) Kingsport Times