The cast of characters in this essay is humungous.  I have no idea what humungous means, but youngsters use that term and it is a lot better than some of their other expressions.  Now on to the characters.  First there were my playmates, Billy Seyfried, Timoteo Marcellan, and Charlie Baldridge.  Beyond those playmates, there is my brother Earl and his wife Josephine as well as Joe D’amico, and Freddy, the bartender of Margarita and Bianchi’s Restaurant.  So this is a multifaceted essay which was suggested by none other than Howard Lawrence Davis, my long-time friend.  I have to accommodate Mr. Davis because he is 92 years old, and he comes from that grand and glorious place, Missouri, which I am told is pretty close to heaven.

The story goes back to perhaps 1930 or thereabouts.  At that time, I had three playmates, all about eight or nine years of age.  When we finished with our games, we went to a Skelly filling station run by a gentleman named Mr. Stack and his wife.  Mr. Stack and his wife lived upstairs over the filling station because this was the Depression and that’s about the best they could do.  Mr. Stack kept an ice box on the outside of the station, and he purchased 25 pounds of ice every day from the Polar Wave Ice Company.  In the beginning, he stored Coca Colas in this ice box.  You may recall that Coca Cola at that time was in a glass bottle that contained only six or seven ounces.  That was not enough for hungry ball players.  Our thirst was quenched by the introduction in 1930 or 1931 of Pepsi Cola.  Pepsi Cola came in twelve-ounce bottles and it tasted pretty much like Coca Cola.  There was a jingle on the radio which said something about Pepsi Cola hits the spot.  I am not sure what spot it had to hit, but for thirsty ball players such as my companions and myself, the twelve-ounce bottles truly hit the spot with great force and accuracy.  The second line in the jingle was, I believe, “For a nickel you get a lot”.

Let me tell you a little bit about my boyhood chums.  First there was Billy Seyfried.  His father was a chauffeur who drove executives from one of the leading St. Louis department stores called Stix, Baer and Fuller. The executive used a large Lincoln automobile, which was parked outside of the Seyfried home.  I suspect that some passersby would have concluded that a rich man lived there.

Billy was born with a harelip and was never able to get it fixed as a child.  He talked a little different from the rest of us, but all of us were very impatient with anyone who criticized old Billy’s speech.  I lost sight of Billy somewhere along the way.

My mother died in 1961.  Who showed up at the viewing (a monstrous process) but old Billy Seyfried.  Billy and I sat and talked for maybe an hour.  He had become a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinal minor league organization and was out of work because, in the Cardinal organization, you either won or got thrown away.  It was determined that Billy would never make the major league team and so they terminated his contract.  Billy was a great guy.  I regret very much that he had a harelip and never got to the big leagues.


The second companion was a youngster named Charlie Baldridge.  Charlie could not pronounce my name, which is Edgar.  He could not get the “d” and the “g” in the proper order and so he always referred to me as “Eggie.”  His father was a pressman for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which was a good thing because in the Depression, the newspapers provided a very safe place to work.


The third companion was named Timoteo (the Spanish equivalent of Timothy) Marcellan.  We called him Timo.  His father was a Spanish buyer of mules for the Spanish Army.  He married an American woman whom I believe was formerly a waitress.  Timoteo’s father was a wonderful man who played baseball with us, and tried to teach us how the soccer ball should be handled.  He and his son were excellent soccer players.


When the Spanish Civil War broke out, something happened to the Marcellan family.  They left us and were, I believe, headed back toward Spain over the objections of Timoteo’s mother, who spoke no Spanish.  Timo was a wonderful kid.  We missed him.

During that time, whenever we had an extra nickel, we would repair to Mr. Stack’s filling station and treat ourselves to the champagne of bottled sodas called Pepsi Cola.  The advertising for Pepsi Cola indicated with great subtlety that it was as tasty as Coca Cola, that it had all of the ingredients that pepped you up, and, more than anything else, that it came in a twelve-ounce bottle as distinguished from “that other brand” which came only in six- or seven-ounce bottles.

One of the persons who was persuaded by all of this advertising was my older brother Earl.  In later years, Earl started drinking Pepsi Cola.  Old Earl was very fond of mixing his bourbon whiskey with Pepsi Cola.  I can assure everyone that bourbon whiskey with Pepsi Cola is a hideous drink.  But Earl and his wife Josephine were great believers in Pepsi Cola.  I shook my head.

There was an occasion when Earl and Jo came to New York and I took them to dinner at a place called Bianchi (the name for white-haired gentlemen) and Margarita’s.  The bartender at that place was named Freddy and he was a connoisseur of everything.  He was a great companion to talk to.  The owner, Bianchi, was a taciturn man who never left the cash register.  When he had to tend to problems of urination, he locked the cash register until his return.  Old Bianchi trusted absolutely no one.

His wife was Margarita, who at that time must have been approaching the age of 80.  Each evening for six nights, Margarita would appear as though she were a diva in a low-cut gown, even though she was now quite plump.  On occasion, she would insist upon singing a song.  Her voice had left her perhaps 20 years earlier but nonetheless she plowed through arias and we all applauded, which only made things worse because she thought that we liked her voice.  I might also say that Margarita wore her evening gowns which demonstrated a major amount of cleavage, which on an 80-year-old woman was not a particularly toothsome sight.


Now back to where we were when I took Earl and Josephine along with Eileen, my wife at the time, to Bianchi and Margarita’s for dinner.  They were intent upon drinking bourbon whiskey with Pepsi Cola.  The fact, as explained by Joe D’amico, our waiter, was that the restaurant had no Pepsi Cola.  At that point I intruded and suggested that they should drink Scotch whiskey because it lacked the ingredients of bourbon whiskey which tended to make people sick.  They wound up ordering Scotch whiskey at my suggestion but insisted that it be served with ginger ale, which was the substitute for Pepsi Cola.  My big brother Earl announced that he and his wife considered Scotch whiskey atrocious.

Our waiter at Bianchi and Margarita’s was a young baritone named Joe D’amico.  Joe had a strong baritone voice which he used to sing arias and Italian love songs.  He was a great performer.  In New York, it is mighty tough to get a break in show business.  So Joe waited on tables at Bianchi and Margarita’s and during the evening he would sing a few songs and people would tip him.  He made two records, both of which we now have, but in the end, I lost track of Joe and I regret that happening.

Well, that is my story about the rivalry between Coca Cola and its challenger Pepsi Cola.  This essay was suggested to me, as I said, by my old friend Howard Davis, who will not let a Pepsi Cola near his lovely lips.  I have explained to Howard that Pepsi Cola is the official drink of the Missouri graduate students and of the great state of Missouri.  But Howard, who is married to a diminutive woman of Czech origin who has acquired an excellent British accent, will not touch the drink that provides long-lasting benefits, namely Pepsi Cola.

I have enjoyed doing this essay at Howard’s urging because it has revived some ancient memories of my playmates when I was a child.  There were old Billy Seyfried, Timoteo Marcellan, and Charlie Baldridge, who still could not pronounce my name of Edgar the last time I saw him.  For old timers such as myself, it is very pleasant to be reminded of childhood days and the champagne of bottled drinks, Pepsi Cola.  It hits the spot so I am told.



June 10, 2010

Essay 470


Kevin’s commentary: It is a shame that clearly nobody told Pop that ginger ale is, in point of fact, vastly superior to both Pepsi and Coke and should always be acknowledged as such. I can at least feel better about myself now that he is aware.  Then again Pop isn’t much of a soda drinker at all these days, so I guess it is not much of a contest.

Moreover I am somewhat surprised with this discussion of whiskey/burbon and cola. I thought that much like Gin and Tonic always have and always will go together, I assumed that Coke’s partner has been and will always be rum.  Whiskey and Coke (or Pepsi) indeed sounds nasty. I will make a point of not trying it.


  1. Ashley Marcellan says:

    Such a great read! I love hearing stories about my ancestors!

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