The Greg Brady Project

Welcome to the official Barry Williams' blog

My friends call me Barry. From time to time I also hear the name Greg. Yeah, as in Greg Brady. The Brady Bunch represents a fun time in my life. But it’s only part of the story. There’s more to say and that’s what The Greg Brady Project is all about – a place to say it. So, I’ve invited some friends to join me and share their perspectives on the Brady’s, the 70′s and just about everything else. Now, I’m inviting you…

06 Jan
Bob Hunt

Spirit of ’76

written by Bob Hunt in Blog | 6 comments

Uncle Sam wants YOU…to drink enough 7UP to build this pyramid!

I was in the beverage aisle of my local megamart this morning when a sparkle of green light caught my eye.  There on the end shelf among a host of trendy boutique soft drinks stood several single bottles of 7UP.  They were real glass, with a bona fide bottle cap affixed to the top and 12 ounces of soda inside.  I was instantly smitten by these miniature replicas of the 16-ounce returnable bottles that were ubiquitous in the 70′s.  Then I saw the price:  $1.19.  Each.  And just down the aisle I could pick up a full 2 liters of 7UP for only pennies more.  Still, I hesitated before the retro bottles.  Why?  Should I care in the least how the goods I buy are packaged?  No.  And yet, despite myself, I do.

Somewhere out there is a beverage marketer who knows what memories are triggered when I see that glass 7UP bottle.  As I gazed upon its fragile contours, I saw a corner of my boyhood kitchen stocked with soda for a family gathering, the bottles standing upright in those cardboard carriers with handles that would cut into your fingers as you lugged them through the store.  I felt the coolness of frosted glass upon my forehead on a blistering summer day.  I heard the rattling of the conveyor belt that carried the empty bottles back to the bowels of the store after we had collected our deposit.  Good thing I didn’t pick it up and feel the heft of a bygone packaging era, or I would have found it much too easy to place it in my cart instead of back on the shelf.

The funny thing is this:  I wanted to buy that bottle of 7UP even though I had almost no desire to drink the product inside.  It was all about the packaging, which I reflexively associated with fond memories of my childhood.  Perhaps the strange psychological lure of clever product design, that dastardly method by which we are coaxed into buying things we don’t even want in the first place, was stronger than I thought.  For as I wheeled my empty cart down the aisle, I recalled a copious amount of 7UP being consumed on my street in the summer of 1976.

As it was our bicentennial summer, all things patriotic were the rage.  7UP picked up on the frenzy and released a special series of 50 cans, one for each state.  State outlines and related trivia were probably not enough to persuade many shoppers to keep buying soda until they collected the entire series, so 7UP upped the ante with a truly inspired idea.  The back of each can featured what appeared to be a random and nonsensical repetition of the product name in red and blue against a white background.  When all 50 cans were collected and correctly arranged in a pyramid shape, they would reveal the ultimate in consumer-driven pop art:  a colossal portrait of Uncle Sam.

In my youthful mind, there was nothing much cooler than this.  My parents, unmoved by my begging, weren’t buying it.  They neither wanted to drink the stuff nor produce patriotic images with its cans.  However, a family just a few doors down took up the mission, and by summer’s end, their kids propped up a card table on the sidewalk in front of their house.  Maybe it wasn’t the Rockwellian scene they had envisioned (We didn’t exactly see neighbors emerge from their homes to crowd around the table), but I was certainly impressed.  All 50 cans glinted in the sunset, and the great 7UP Uncle Sam was at last revealed for all to see.  It was the culmination of a great effort in patience and pop drinking, a patriotic self-sacrifice all in the name of bringing the Spirit of ’76 to our street.

It’s a spirit that, clearly, lives within me to this day.

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    on Jan. 7th, 2009

    When I saw your closeup photo of the red and blue computer-looking type on the 7-up cans, I gasped. I absolutely remember that promo. Thanks for the memory – it blew my mind.

    Tom Adams
    on Jan. 29th, 2009

    I collected the 7-Up cans that year, and I think that I ended up getting all 50 (that was difficult!). However, I have no idea what happened to the collection. My family moved from Illinois to Alabama in 1978, so maybe I (or my mom?) threw out the cans before we moved. Wish I still had them — maybe they’d be worth some bucks!

    donna runeric
    on Oct. 8th, 2009

    Wow. Hi. I found your site while doing a search for pricing of my bicentennial 7-up bottle. It’s filled and capped, of course. Are you interested? The closest I’ve come on pricing is $15 for my bicenntenial coke bottle. Would be thrilled to hear from you either way. Would love to tell people I got an email from Greg Brady.

    daniel d.
    on Jan. 5th, 2010

    i too collected all 50 cans and still have them today….i rememeber all the fun i had trying to finish the collection. Great memories!

    on May. 24th, 2010

    I was doing a home inspection on a house where the owner had recently died and had no living family. The Trustee said he was going to trash out everything so I was welcome to whatever I wanted in the garage. I had my assistant grab a small toolbox and socket set, can you have too many tools? He did some snooping and found a sealed box in the rafters with all 50 7up straight side steel cans inside. He’s only 26 and was confused about pull top and how it worked, he had never heard of a “pull tab”, just to show my age I asked if he knew what a “church key” was? Any guess on what the complete set is worth?

    Ron Turner
    on Jan. 6th, 2011

    I collected the 1976 Uncle Sam 7-Up collection and also a collection that they had in ’79. I still have the ’79 collection, but at some time the ’76 collection disappeared.

    In ’76, my father, another family and I were building a boat dock, an all-year project, at a boat club they belonged to. I drank alot of 7-up then and started collecting cans. The bartender there realized what I was doing, and had me make a list of the cans I still needed. When he got a new y-up delivery, he would look them over, find the ones on my list, and set them aside for me to buy as I got soda. Thanks to him, I was able to complete the collection.

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