Editor’s Note: This is the 346th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
UNTNGTON — In the late 1940s, Jim McClain, a Missouri native, was a traveling sales representative for Dr Pepper, the popular soft drink created in the 1880s by pharmacist Charles Alderton in Waco, Texas.
On the road, McClain kept dreaming of someday putting down roots and opening his own Dr Pepper bottling plant. The question was where? He found the answer to that question when he attended a convention of the West Virginia Soft Drink bottles Association at Huntington’s old Prichard Hotel.
At that time Dr Pepper wasn’t being sold in Huntington, and McClain immediately knew Huntington was where he wanted to settle. He purchased a Dr Pepper franchise, found a building at 20th Street and Artisan Avenue, acquired some secondhand equipment and in November 1946 opened the Dr Pepper Bottling Co. of Huntington.
Over the years, the business thrived. “I started out with one truck, and now we have 17 of them,” McClain said in a 1979 interview with the Herald-Dispatch. In addition to Dr Pepper, the plant produced a number of other soft drinks, including Vernors Ginger Ale, Double Cola and Canada Dry products.
Active in the community, McClain was a past president of the Huntington Lions Club, served on the boards of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington Council of Campfire Girls and was an elder at Huntington’s First Presbyterian Church.
McClain retired in 1987, selling his company to a Charleston operation. He died in 1997.