Editorial: Cheerwine makes history

Published 11:47 pm Thursday, May 18, 2017

Happy 100th birthday, Cheerwine. On Saturday, Cheerwine lovers from all over will flock to downtown Salisbury for the company’s big  birthday bash. The celebration will take up two blocks of North Main Street and keep downtown buzzing — and fizzing — from noon to 8 p.m.

Fizz, after all, is part of Cheerwine’s charm.

L.D. Peeler created Cheerwine in 1917, using cherry flavoring to make up for scarce sugar. The resulting deep, distinct taste has remained unique among soft drinks. Cheerwine’s super-bubbly quality tops it all off.

Cheerwine’s 100th birthday celebration reflects more than a successful brand; it’s also a clear sign of a solid family. Thanks to stability and good business sense, L.D. Peeler’s descendants have kept Cheerwine flowing through wars, the Depression and the entrance of countless competitors the soft drink market. Only the strong and consistent survive. Through five generations, Cheerwine has never wavered.

The brick building where Peeler came up with his winning concoction still stands on Council Street. “A lot of things have changed in 100 years,” Cliff Ritchie, president of Cheerwine, said when Rowan Museum opened its Cheerwine exhibit earlier this year. “And a lot of things haven’t — like that old building and the taste of Cheerwine.”

When men and women from this area went off to war, among the things they longed for back home was their favorite beverage, Cheerwine. Clifford Peeler, Ritchie’s grandfather, saved the letters he received from former employees such as John C. Marley, who was in Calcutta, India, during World War II when he wrote.

“I’m a long way from drinking any Cheerwine right now, but hope you are still selling all you can make,” Marley wrote on Nov. 7, 1944. “A good cold one would sure go good right now.”

Media reports about the birthday celebration have referred to Cheerwine as “North Carolina’s signature beverage” and “a Southern icon” Here at the soft drink’s epicenter, Cheerwine is all that and much more. Cheerwine is entwined in holiday traditions, childhood memories, cultural history and — generation after generation  — daily habits. People are proud to say we’re from Salisbury, the home of Cheerwine. If we meet people who have never tasted it, we quickly fix that and win more converts.

Thanks go to the people who run Cheerwine for all the company means to Salisbury and Rowan County—  a great product, good jobs, community pride and support for countless events and causes. In its own quiet way, Cheerwine is part of the bedrock of Rowan County.

As Marley said, “A good cold one would sure go good right now.”