Updated Wed, Aug 14, 2013 12:49 pm
In the small and quaint Harmar Village of Washington County, a one-of-a-kind museum is bringing back a classic '50s feel with bright red booths, a black-and-white checkered floor and shiny dispensers full of highly carbonated soda.
Welcome to the Marietta Soda Museum, a place where young and old alike can view the "pop" culture of America.
Formerly known as Butch’s Coca-Cola Museum, the Marietta Soda Museum offers a gigantic and colorful collection of antique soda memorabilia that will give visitors a hankering for a sip of sweet, fizzy goodness.
The previous owner, Butch Badgett, was inspired to begin his collection by his late father’s creation of handmade Coca-Cola memorabilia. Soon, Badgett’s small collection became one of the largest in the world.
The new owner and operator of the museum, Ralph Waldeck (shown right), has been collecting soda memorabilia since he was a small boy and bought Badgett’s collection in late 1999.
"Back when I was young, the soda companies would give out small collectible things for advertising," Waldeck said. "My mother would just throw them in the trash, and as soon as she turned around, I would be digging them back out of it. I just loved them."
Complete with signs, posters, dolls, airline coolers, wallets, dishes and parts of old soda fountains, this museum holds just about anything and everything that relates to soda.
Old-time decor, including antique Coca-Cola stained glass chandeliers and traditional soda fountain glasses, are also among the collectibles that transport visitors back in time.
"My favorite thing about this place would have to be my working soda fountain," Waldeck said. "You can come in here, get a glimpse of how things used to be and enjoy a nice soda or milkshake from my fountain."
Waldeck’s sodas are unlike what comes out of the typical can from a vending machine, as he uses more carbonated water than soda companies.
"I like to crank up the gas, you know, because people like that extra burn and fizz," he said.
Along with the delicious drinks, the museum also has its own bakery, where Waldeck’s favorite ciabatta bread is made.
"No one can get my bread unless they come in here," he said. "My bakers make sandwiches, hot dog buns and all sorts of good things to eat here."
Waldeck says that running the museum does not feel like work to him.
"It’s a really fun atmosphere, and this is a relaxing thing for me," he said. "I just really enjoy being around people, talking to people, and sitting and having a soda with them, and this place is perfect for that."
The Marietta Soda Museum is open Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at 109 Maple Street in Marietta. Admission is free of charge. For more information, visit www.mariettasodamuseum.com.
This article orginally appeared in the Winter/Spring 2013 edition of Southeast Ohio Magazine.