Over the years, Dr Pepper has earned itself a legion of lifelong fans who swear by their favorite soda and couldn't imagine drinking any other. But enthusiasts and history buffs alike delight in a walk down memory lane, found figuratively and somewhat literally in the heart of Waco, Texas, where the famed beverage has deep roots.
The 10-2-4 Collectors' Club recently met up in Waco for its 33rd annual collectors' convention, traveling from various parts of the country to connect over their prized Dr Pepper memorabilia and learn some of the lesser-known stories behind the brand. The club derives its name from a classic slogan, "Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2 and 4," based on research showing that human energy levels sagged near those times of the day.
"We come here to meet our neighbors," joked club member Vicki Hitchcock, a longtime Missouri resident who has frequently attended the annual event with her husband since the 1980s. "We've come all the way to Waco for the convention and met collectors who live just a few towns over from us." The Hitchcocks, like many of their fellow collectors, make a point of touring the museum during their visit each year. It recently expanded to include 10,000 additional square feet of exhibit space with a broad range of interactive experiences. Onsite, visitors can hear special presentations, view vintage television ads in a theater setting, climb aboard an antique Dr Pepper truck for photos, indulge in a traditional soda fountain experience straight out of the 1950s and get an up-close glimpse at hundreds of thousands of Dr Pepper artifacts from years gone by.
Before launching into the weekend's festivities, including an auction, swap meet, and educational seminars, the convention's participants sat down to dinner together at the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, which has attracted more than 1 million visitors since openings its doors in 1991. Home to more than 100,000 objects that tell the story of Dr Pepper and other iconic soft drink brands, the museum holds three floors of permanent exhibits ranging from early 20th-century bottling equipment to the soda machine used in an ad for a recent blockbuster superhero movie.
Buzzing about the quirks and treasures found within the museum's walls, collectors then converged on the Waco Convention Center for a series of seminars looking back over the brand's history and telling stories of bygone eras. David Bryant, the son of a dedicated Dr Pepper bottler who spent more than three decades in the business, presented a slideshow highlighting his father's time spent with the company, spanning all the way from 1936 when he took a job at a plant in Clayton, N.M., through the 1960s when he sold his own Dalhart, Texas, bottling plant to the local Coca-Cola bottler. Bryant recalled the moment his father sold an old Dr Pepper delivery truck to a family friend for just $25. "The good old days," he laughed.
Another seminar leader, Paul Ward, showed his collection of slides covering the brand's earliest days in Waco, from the bottler that used steam from the city's natural geysers in the bottling process to the beverage's prominence at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. In keeping with this year's "Uncanny Catchphrases" convention theme, Ward shared a sampling of ads and flyers featuring past slogans, including "King of Beverages" and "Vim, Vigor and Vitality."
The 34th annual convention of the 10-2-4 Collectors' Club is expected to take place in spring 2018. For information on attending the convention or joining the club in advance (annual dues are $25), visit the club's Facebook page here. To learn more about the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, visit its website.