Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brookdale Soda...The Best I've ever tasted

Growing up in Newark New Jersey in the 60's and 70's, I was exposed to the best food and drink you could ever imagine. I knew it too, and I can look back now and realize now how magical of an era it was in America's history. I could spend weeks and weeks talking about the different foods and beverages the inner cities of the Northeast had at their fingertips but for this post, I will discuss the greatest soda I have ever tasted. First and foremost, Brookdale Soda's main plant was located in Clifton, New Jersey. As the company grew through the years, they built locations to buy the product in Bloomfield, Newark, Fairfield. When I was real young, one of my older brothers Richard, worked for them. In the early days, the soda came to you. It was usually on a Saturday morning that the big truck with all the blue crates of colored soda would pull up to the house, all exposed of course. What a highlite to pick out your own flavors for the week. The driver we had was this big man whose name was "Gus". He became a friend of the family, and he would go into the cellar and get the empty bottles and after you picked out your 12 bottles, he would carry it on his shoulder back into the cellar. The flavors chosen were usually the same and went like this. 3 bottles of "Cola" which was a excellent substitute in case you didn't have any Coca Cola in the house. Because everyone in the family loved "Orange", we had to have 3 bottle of it. . Had to get 1 each of Birch Beer and Root Beer. Black Cherry wasn't my favorite but it was for most people, so I had to get 1 of those. It was also called "Cherry and Cherry Pit". Had to get at least 1 Cream, it was so good. And my all time favorite soda Lemon/Lime... After Brookdale went out of business, I have never had any brand of soda make anything that came close to Lemon/Lime. I miss it to this day. Sometimes due to house parties, we had to get the Quinine, or Tom Collins mix and I never got Grape soda. Once in a while my mother had to get the half and half which was a Grapefruit Soda. It actually tasted real good. Years later when I had my restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, I displayed a bunch of Brookdale bottles both large and small with a few blue crates. Customers would comment all the time on how it was the best soda they ever tasted. One day a gentleman came in the store and asked me where I got the bottles. I told him I collect everything under the sun especially if it has a link to my childhood. He then said he was the owner of Brookdale and as joke I bowed to him and he laughed. We talked for a while and he said the soda business of course got too big and competitive, and since Coke and Pepsi were now gigantic companies, Brookdale couldn't compete. So of course my obvious question to him was what made that soda taste better than any other. He said that there was water supply over in the Brookdale Section of Bloomfield that was only available to Brookdale. I also asked him where is the 30 foot bottle that was displayed for years on Route 46 in Fairfield. He said someone did have it he didn't know who. If you lived in the greater Newark area which included Bloomfield, Belleville, Nutley, from the 1950's to the 1980's, it was a good chance that Brookdale soda was in everyone's cellar. It really was the best soda I have ever tasted. As a matter of fact, after they closed, I have never even tried a bottle of Orange Soda. When I had my store in the early years, I had the old-fashioned Coke Dispenser that made soda taste the way it's suppose to. The best soda out right now is Boylan since they still use Cane sugar and not Corn Syrup, but it still doesn't beat Brookdale.

10 comments:

Anthony Buccino said...

Brookdale soda was the BEST!

Great info!

http://brookdalesoda.blogspot.com/

Vito O said...

I agree 100%...Brookdale Soda was the BEST...We usually purchased it from Home Liqours on either Bloomfield Ave and No. 13th St. or next to Kielb's Bakery on Franklyn Ave. The Black Cherry Pit was a favorite, as was the Cream Soda...Don't forget about about the Cocao Cream Soda, that was a one of a kind taste...

Mark Long Island said...

Brookdale soda was indeed great... does anyone remember their Half & Half... half grapefruit and half lime.... delicious, esp with Gin.. lol....... as a side note there was another local soda manufacturers, and I can't remember the name... they made THE best root beer...with lots of vanilla I think and the suds had a creamy texture...I used to buy it in Irvington/Vailsburg... Thanks

jill staffa said...

found in the basement a bunch of glass brookdale soda bottles, anyone know if they are worth anything?

GJGiuffre said...

We lived right behind Brookdale beverage in the 50's. It was weekly Fist on our Sat. a.m. Shopping stops. We would pile into our ole Mercury station Wagon and bring back our case or two of empty bottles and get to pick our favorite favors for the following week. What a treat! This was in the 50's when I was about 3 or 4 years old. The Jeffrey family.....great memories.

Jarvis Knapp said...

I lived in Bloomfield on West Passaic Ave, a short walk to the Brookdale soda bottling plant on Sylvan Rd. When I was big enough to pull my wagon over there I would walk to BB and take back the empty bottles and get a fresh case. Right next to the bottling line, running full speed, were cases of various flavors you could mix and match to your liking and fill your case. Imagine a young kid (10 or so) having the run of a factory running full speed, with nothing to prevent me from contacting the machinery. My my, how times have changed.

DDEENY said...

I was born in 1959 and grew up in Belleville, NJ. I can remember Brookdale Soda in ours and our neighbors' and relatives' homes from my earliest recollection. I attest that was definitely the best soda ever made. There's a small garage building located at 348 South Franklin Avenue in Belleville that's still there where Brookdale soda was sold in the late 60's and early 70's and that's where we bought ours. After we moved to Kenilworth in 1969, we bought our Brookdale soda at what was then Home Liquors located at 1850 Morris Avenue in Union, NJ. When I turned 18 and began to drive, I remember going to Home Liquors with the empty cases in the trunk that I handtrucked into the store and deposited and picked our our next cases of Brookdale that we always stored in our our basement under the stairs. We loved all of the Brookdale flavors and even the drink mix varieties, and I believe that I also remember diet varieties. I think that the Half & Half flavor was very similar to what was later marketed as Fresca brand soda. I have only fond memories of Brookdale soda as it was a part of our lives in a bygone era that I now sorely miss. Brookdale was of course eventually supplanted by the new 2-liter plastic bottles marketed by the big soda companies but they'll never taste as good as Brookdale soda did. Thanks and God Bless.

Unknown said...

My father, Ron Kelichner worked there, it was his first job. This had to have been in the 40s and 50s? I was born in New Jersey but my dad got transferred from the Jersey Anheuser Busch plant when I was two years old in 1976. He was the first employee of the Fairfield California Budweiser plant. He was Quality Assurance Manager. He passed away in 2012 at 73 years old. My uncle called me to pay his respects. He said my father actually created flavors for Brookdale and my sister who is 13 years older than me visited him at work when she was 5. He would be wearing a lab coat and there were tubes for the lab. He got a degree in Chemistry at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Does anyone remember my father? Ronald Philip Kelichner born in 1938. I am his youngest child at age 42. Thanks this really interests me. Jennifer Kelichner

Jennifer Aguilar said...

My father, Ron Kelichner worked there, it was his first job. This had to have been in the 40s and 50s? I was born in New Jersey but my dad got transferred from the Jersey Anheuser Busch plant when I was two years old in 1976. He was the first employee of the Fairfield California Budweiser plant. He was Quality Assurance Manager. He passed away in 2012 at 73 years old. My uncle called me to pay his respects. He said my father actually created flavors for Brookdale and my sister who is 13 years older than me visited him at work when she was 5. He would be wearing a lab coat and there were tubes for the lab. He got a degree in Chemistry at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Does anyone remember my father? Ronald Philip Kelichner born in 1938. I am his youngest child at age 42. Thanks this really interests me. Jennifer Kelichner

madyson007 said...

Does anyone remember the "The Plantation"? It was a burger place and I think it was close to Brookdale Soda? I might have it wrong because I was really little when we went but to me they are somehow connected in my memory?