North Carolina’s iconic soft drink, Cheerwine, will celebrate “100 years of cheer” Saturday in downtown Salisbury.
Salisbury is the birthplace and hometown of the family-owned soft drink company.
Cheerwine’s history in North Carolina
In 1917, L.D. Peeler wanted to create a soft drink of his own, and bought some interesting cherry flavor from a traveling salesman from St. Louis.
L.D. experimented, mixing cherry with other flavors, stumbled upon a singular flavor sensation, and Cheerwine was born. Anyone who tasted it loved it.
Three years later, glass bottles etched with three cherries and the Cheerwine name were produced to replace the original paper label. Shortly thereafter, similar cherries appeared on slot machines and three cherries became synonymous with good luck.
After outselling another L.D. soft drink, Mint Cola, in 1924, the company name was changed from Mint Cola Bottling Co. to Cheerwine Bottling Co.
The change came as no surprise to anyone, except for Herbert Von Kennel, who was Salisbury’s only mail carrier at the time.
After L.D.’s death in 1931, his son, Clifford Peeler, assumed the managerial role of the Carolina Beverage Corp. and the Cheerwine Bottling Co.
In addition to keeping the company afloat during the Depression, he kept it profitable.
In the 1940s, like many Americans, the Peelers donated what they could to the war effort.
Much of the old signage was used in the creation and repair of naval ships. Sailors of the era claimed to have seen the faint image of a Cheerwine logo imprinted in the hull of the USS Intrepid.
Dwight Eisenhower came through Salisbury to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Rowan County in 1953 and became the first president known to enjoy a Cheerwine.
After the first sip, as rumor has it, he proclaimed, “Ike likes!”
George Bush Sr. became the second president to experience the soft drink when he came to the Faith Fourth of July celebration in 1992.
Clifford was recognized in 2006 with an induction into the Beverage World Hall of Fame. His service to the company began in 1924 and continued for a full 76 years, until his retirement.
Today, his grandson, Cliff Ritchie, runs the company. He was inducted into the Beverage World Hall of Fame in 2010.
Celebrating Cheerwine’s 100 years
Cheerwine’s centennial celebration will be held noon to 8 p.m. Saturday on North Main Street.
The event will focus on “all things Carolina” with a barbecue competition, food, music and more.