Thursday, December 15, 2005
At 10-2 and 4 O’Clock, It Was Dr. Pepper Time
By ROGER M. GRACE
I’ve come across an ad for a Dr Pepper contest. To have a chance at winning $5,000 tax free, the ad says, an entrant simply has to supply the second line for this couplet:
“A lift for life at 10, 2 and 4
In case you’re thinking of rushing to get your submission in, sorry, you muffed the deadline. It was midnight, July 31, 1951.
A more recent Dr Pepper contest had a May 22, 1965 deadline. The first prize was described thusly:
“Two fun-filled weeks in scenic Switzerland (TIME capital of the world), a car clock (installed in a 1965 Mustang), His and Her Longine watches—and—$10.24 an hour, 24 hours a day for 14 days….”
The contest placed an accent on time, an ad explained, “because we’ve clocked ‘10,’ ‘2’ and ‘4’ as traditional Dr Pepper times.” The sum of $10.24 was arrived at, it was spelled out, was “[t]o remind you of 10, 2 and 4—what else!”
If you’re my vintage, or older, or just a bit younger, Dr Pepper’s tie to the numerals “10, 2 and 4” is no mystery. I strongly suspect, however, that if my daughter were to read the foregoing, it would make absolutely no sense to her.
The significance of the numerals to the popular fruit-based soft drink is explained on the website of the oldest bottler of Dr. Pepper (in Dublin, Texas) as follows:
“It was in the 1920s that Dr. Walter Eddy at Columbia University studied the body’s metabolism. He discovered that a natural drop in energy occurs about 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. But he also discovered that if the people in his research study had something to eat or drink at 10, 2 and 4, the energy slump could be avoided.
“After Dr. Eddy’s research findings were released, Dr Pepper challenged its advertising agency to come up with a theme which would suggest that Dr Pepper should be that 10, 2 and 4 drink which would keep the energy level up. The result was one of the most enduring of Dr Pepper’s advertising themes: Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2 and 4.”
Promotions for Dr. Pepper centered on those numbers. For example, an ad in the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle on July 26, 1934 announced that on Saturday, the local movie theater would interrupt the film at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to serve complimentary bottles of Dr. Pepper (which back then, was spelled with a period after “Dr.”).
There was even a syndicated radio show during World War II called “The 10-2-4 Ranch” (later, “10-2-4 Time”), aired in the South and other areas to which Dr. Pepper’s distribution had extended. The show featured the Sons of the Pioneers (associated with Roy Rogers) and, for most of its run, Dick Foran. (Foran in 1935 had emerged as the original “singing cowboy,” beating Gene Autry to the designation by a matter of weeks.)
The Dr. Pepper Company pushed the notion that ingestion of sugar at 10, 2 and 4 was actually something healthful. And, of course, parents would want their children to engage in healthful practices.
In these days when there’s a push to rid school cafeterias and vending machines of sugar-based products and those high in carbohydrates (which turn into sugar), it’s hard to imagine an ad like the one appearing in the Sept. 23, 1930 edition of the Port Arthur (Texas) News. It was headed, “One Healthful form of Necessary Nourishment that kids need no coaxing to drink,” and said:
“Little ‘Human dynamos’ run out of ‘juice’ between meals. That’s why they tease for sweets. Sugar is the quickest energy food and Mother Nature knows it. She prompts the appetite. It’s as natural as hunger can be.
“If your kiddies crave sugar, give them as much as they want...but in a form that can’t be abused. Dr. Pepper contains fruit juice for flavor and health…pure sugar for quick-energy supply...and sparkling water for bulk and thirst. No tax on digestion. No ingredients that can possibly harm. The small proportions of sugar to water is a safety-valve against excess.”
An article appearing July 10, 1977 in the Elyria, Ohio Chronicle Telegram reflected that “[a]lthough the use of the 10-2-4 set of numbers was discontinued on company bottles several years ago, old advertising signs and painted barns throughout the South still display those numerals.”
The article noted that the intent behind the slogan—to encourage a boost in blood sugar level at 10, 2, and 4—“got lost and thousands of mothers and grandmothers in the South, to this day, believe that the drinking times are meant to achieve regularity.”
It quoted the company president as assuring that, contrary to rumor, prune juice was not a Dr Pepper ingredient.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company
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