This is the third column on the old plant that once bottled Pepsi Cola and Morris soft drinks literally in downtown Kentville (first column, second column). And thanks to various readers, I’m able to somewhat flesh out the story of the bottling plant operating in Kentville over half a century ago.
I mentioned in the second column on the Morris plant that the proprietor was W. E. Morris. A reader called to tell me it was Bill Morris and his brother Jack who had operated the plant. And, the reader informed me, Bill’s son, Dr. Donald Morris, resides in the Halifax area. The reader also gave me Dr. Morris’ telephone number. I’m delighted to report that on contacting him, Dr. Morris provided background on the bottling plant and how it got started. Here’s what Dr. Morris recalled about the bottling plant his father and uncle set up Kentville.
“In 1939 my father (Bill) who was living in Montreal and his older brother Jack, who was living in Boston, acquired a Pepsi-Cola franchise for the Valley area. They bought a truck, drove to NS, and chose Kentville.
“Neither of them had any experience in the pop business. Somehow they thought that the old vacant church could become a bottling plant. (I was somewhat surprised when I arrived a month or two later at age 12). Luckily the Pepsi-Cola people were very helpful. Somehow they got the place fixed up and started producing Pepsi,
“Jack was in charge of production and Bill was in charge of sales. Shortly after they got started war was declared and sugar rationing was brought in. The production of soda pop starts with the syrup which comes in large barrels (like wine casks) from some top secret place. At the local plant a large amount of sugar and water are added. The rationing of sugar could have been a great problem, but extra sugar rations were allowed for pop sold to army camps, so with the help of Aldershot and Greenwood they were able to keep busy during the war years.
“After the war the business continued to grow. Jack had gone back to Boston after the first year. Dave Belcher was hired to run the plant and he was Bill’s right hand man for many years. In 1949 the Pepsi people asked Bill to take the Pepsi franchise in Halifax. This was a difficult decision for him but he decided to do it, building a new plant in Dartmouth which became very successful. They continued to supply Pepsi to the Valley from the Dartmouth plant.”
Dr. Morris added that it wasn’t long after they were in business that his father began to experiment “with his own brand of flavours and they continued to be constantly changing.” The company name was changed from Morris Bros to Morris Beverages. According to Dr. Morris, after the move to Dartmouth, the Morris brand soft drinks were “distributed in the Halifax- Dartmouth area, down the east shore as far as Sheet Harbour, as well as the Valley.”
Morris soft drink bottles are treasured by collectors today, by the way. The Morris bottles are likely all that remains as reminders of the time unique soft drinks were produced in Kentville.