A History-Mystery: OBC's Chero-Cola Mural

Team OBC is so honored that the generous donations of Coldwell Banker Lake Oconee Realty and the Law Office of Russell Wall, as well as a Greensboro Downtown Development Authority façade grant, allowed us to hire an amazingly talented group of University of Georgia art students, under the direction of Professor Joseph Norman, to restore the Chero-Cola mural.

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We’re also proud of a fun theory related to this painting….But, first, a history lesson:

The section of the Brewery that is now the Event Center was built in 1913. The space was used to bottle Chero-Cola, which was created in 1910 by a pharmacist in Columbus, Georgia, Claude Hatcher.

In the same way that big business Bud Light has sneered the competition of craft beer, Coca-Cola did not welcome the new guys. They sued for trademark infringement and, after several years of courtroom battles, prevailed in exclusive use of the word “cola.”

Remember when we learned that we would not be able to use the original name for the Brewery, so we kept on keeping on by becoming Oconee Brewing Company? Mr. Hatcher did the same. The Chero-Cola Company became Nehi Corporation, which includes the brand of the same name as well as Royal Crown (R.C.) Cola.

Here’s the curious part about our mural: We know from photos taken in October of 1941 (which are now archived at the Library of Congress) that our Chero-Cola advertisement was not painted on the side of the building until after 1942, which is the same era that the court decision in Coca-Cola’s favor was reversed and the word "cola" was deemed a generic term.

So why would anyone go to the expense of painting an advertisement for a drink that had not been produced for over 21 years? And why was the script style lettering of Coca-Cola used rather than the block font typical of Chero-Cola?

Was this a long-awaited gesture of defiance by whoever commissioned the mural? We like to think so.

Leslie Tillery