My Town Monday: The Little Things

One of the fun things about writing (and reading) time travel stories is the whole fish-out-of-water aspect, especially when someone goes into the future. There is one scene in Time’s Enemy, my newly-released time-travel novel, where a character from the 1930s comes forward to modern times. When she asks for a drink and is handed a can of Mountain Dew, she’s understandably perplexed at what to do with it (and initially thinks it’s moonshine, LOL).

Anyone remember drinking beer or pop (“soda” for you non-Midwesterners) from a can like this? Younger folks might not, but in the sixties, seventies, and into the early eighties, this is what you got if you bought beer in a can, or got a Coke, Pepsi, etc. from a machine. Of course, I also remember pop in glass bottles – you know, where you bought a six pack at Kroger and paid a deposit of $.05 – .10 per bottle, which they returned when you took the bottles back to the store.

But back to the cans – before they were like this, they required a can opener, like is still used today to open larger cans of juice, although those are now mostly replaced by bottles. The can opener had a sharp point on it, and poked a triangle hole in the edge of the can. A second hole was needed to admit air.

Dayton inventor Ermal Fraze

The pull tab shown on the can to the right came about in the early sixties, after Dayton tool-and-die maker Ermal Fraze went on a picnic, and forgot to bring a can opener for the drinks. According to the stories, he ended up prying cans open on a car bumper (???), then went home and devised a can with a built-in opener – the pull tab.

The pull tab was eventually superceded by the now-familiar push-in top in the eighties, but it was the pull tab that helped push cans to edge out glass bottles in popularity as a beverage container. Fraze’s legacy lives on today in the form of full-top pull tabs that are still commonly used in canned snacks like peanuts. Dayton Reliable Tool (now DRT Mfg.), the machine shop he formed in the 1940s, is also still in business in Dayton today.

Do you know of any cool little details that we take for granted today, that originated in your hometown? Please share!

More at the My Town Monday blog

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverage_can
http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/fraze.html
http://www.heartlandscience.org/manuf/poptop.htm

Photo of beer can via Wikipedia, public domain
Photo of Ermal Fraze via Heartlandscience.org

3 Responses to \

  1. I don’t know anything that was created here…other than more Texans. I do, however, have a memory to share.

    Remember how those pull tabs used to be all over parking lots? And, back then, we all went barefoot everywhere. I remember my mother admonishing me that those discarded pull-tabs would cut my feet. I don’t know about where you live, but down here, there are not many drinks sold in aluminum cans at convenience stores. Most of what I see are those big gulp plastic bottles.

  2. A few years ago I would have answered this post with saying my home town is Stratford Ontario, Canada home of The Shakespeare Festival where great actors like Maggie Smith and Christopher Plummer got their start. Now, I have to say it’s the hometown of Justin Bieber. Yep. Me and the Beebs. Crazy. Love your blog!

  3. @Catie – environmental concerns with discarded tabs were one reason why the current, push-in tabs replaced Fraze’s design. I also remember every now and then, one of the pull rings would break off while you were trying to open the can – what a pain! Of course, I’ve had that happen with the push-in ones, too. And now that you mention it, I think the convenience stores sell more soft drinks in plastic bottles here, too. But still plenty of beer in cans.

    @Kate – wow, some cool history from Stratford! And Justin Bieber. LOL. Of course, Dayton’s more known for the Wright Brothers, but this was a fun fact too. Thanks for stopping by!