For Washington and Lee alumnus William Frank Barron Jr., things always did go better with Coke.
A member of W&L’s Class of 1952, Frank belongs to a family that was the Coca-Cola bottler in Rome, Ga., for 85 years. His grandfather started the company in 1901, and, according to “Your Friendly Neighbor”: The Story of
Georgia’s Coca-Cola Bottling Families, the Barrons’ operations in Rome and Cartersville once boasted the highest per-capita consumption for Coca-Cola in the country.
Frank joined the family business in 1956. When the franchise was sold in 1986, he kept a treasure trove of Coke memorabilia. Earlier this year, he gave much of that material to the Rome Area History Museum, where it has become part of a permanent exhibit that documents not only the history of Coca-Cola but also the history of one of Rome’s preeminent families. A feature story in the Rome News-Tribune describes the exhibit as containing “hundreds of old glass bottles, chairs, signs, hats, a camera, radio, toys and a slew of other products bearing the distinctive Coca-Cola colors and logo.” In all, the collection boasts more than 1,000 items. Frank did set aside a few special items for himself.
After all, he and his family had a special relationship with the beverage. As he told the Rome News-Tribune, “Coca-Cola is such a unique product. There is almost a love affair that people have with it. It reminds people of their youth. It was cold and tasted so good. It was a treat. It’s a great memory for so many people. These things . . . this stuff . . . it takes you back.”