Old country store, rural southwest Georgia.

Coca-Cola is as much a part of my Southern upbringing as SEC football, Elvis, pecan pie, collard greens and grits.

The brand was so potent when I was growing up that it was synonymous with soda pop itself. We talked about going to get a Coke even when what we actually pulled out of the cooler was a Barq’s root beer or a Nehi orange.

Coke was “it,” “the pause that refreshes,” “the real thing.”

But if you’ve watched any sponsored TV lately, especially around evening news time, you know that Coca-Cola is a horrible company, its signature product a…

Noel Holston

Mississippi native, award-winning veteran of The Orlando Sentinel, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Newsday, stand-up storyteller, lives in Athens, Ga.

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