1,700 ways to have a Coke
NEWTON LANDMARK Dan Miley holds a gold-colored Coca-Cola bottle commemorating the 2002 Olympics. The item is one of many bottles and other memorabilia in his store in downtown Newton. Photo by William F. West / The Meridian Star.
By William F. West / community editor
August 11, 2002
NEWTON Dan Miley's little downtown grocery here could easily qualify to be a Coca-Cola history museum.
The 85-year-old storekeeper has more than 1,700 soda pop containers, locally and from all over the world, plus ceilings, shelves and walls of nostalgic decorations in his place, from clocks, paintings and signs to a mini blimp.
When it comes to Coca-Cola items, you name it, there's a pretty good chance he'll have it.
Miley was born on Feb. 2, 1917. He's been in the grocery business since 1948, having started in another building across Main Street.
On July 1, 1955, he moved to his present location at 117 S. Main St., just off the junction of Business U.S. 80 and Old Highway 15.
Minding the store
His wife and longtime co-operator, Elsie, died a few years ago, but he still comes down to mind the store.
Like many Southern downtown grocery stores, Miley's doesn't have the cream-of-the-crop customer list as in past years, yet it does draw a few walk-in customers, one of whom Miley politely waved off while giving an interview.
Miley started accumulating Coca-Cola bottles from town sanitation workers who were seeking refund money. Many of the bottles, then worth about a penny each, remain in his collection today.
Then, a light bulb of an idea came.
Miley had three or four five-gallon buckets on hand, which he used to soak the bottles clean.
That was about four or five years ago.
Soon, the word got out and folks started bringing their own novelty Coke bottles and items to add to Miley's own collection.
He's got bottles with something besides soda pop in them, too.
One of them he likes to show is a Coke bottle in which one opens not the top but the bottom.
And out comes a toy race car.
Another bottle, this one bearing the Citra brand, contains a T-shirt and four quarters.
Miley takes particular pride in showing a gold-colored Coke bottle commemorating the 2002 Olympics.
Another gold-colored bottle is packaged in recognition of Coke's 100th anniversary.
He also enjoys showing a flattened Coke bottle, which he said prompts people to ask what had happened to it.
He said he tells folks that a train ran over it, but he said the truth is a glass-maker crafted it in its unique shape.
His other unusual collections include soda pop cans that were converted to look like toy airplanes. He bought the items, which were being sold for charity, and had them attached to the ceiling.
Another quite visible novelty is a suitcase made with hundreds of Coke bottle tops on its exterior.
But it's the bottles, as well as the numerous cans, that are the bulk of Miley's treasures.
He's classified sections on shelves to represent all 50 states in the U.S., plus some 40 to 50 foreign countries and lands, including Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, the Ukraine, Mexico, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey.
Miley also showed a bottle from Hawaii that has an image of Mickey Mouse on it. The bottle was made for a supermarket 1994's campaign that used the Disney cartoon character to attract customers.
Miley also showed a Coke bottle decorated by a Chinese girl who was a student in the area a time back.
She painted on the bottle the words "Happy Chinese New Year," both in Chinese and English, with her name signed in English as well. She recently returned and stopped by the store, as readily evident by a large, nearby photograph of her and her friends.
Miley also has some Pepsi Cola items, but Coke items overwhelmingly dominate the store's interior.
He's also got a soda pop can titled "Clinton Cola," complete with former president Bill Clinton's portrait on it.
Miley can pretty much say whatever he pleases, not only because of his age but also because of his service to Uncle Sam.
Miley was a Navy radar man during World War II. He left town on Dec. 25, 1942, and he was discharged from the service on April 6, 1945.
Miley said that, while in the service, his ship was hit by three suicide aircraft, resulting in the loss of 77 men.
He told of seeing an airplane coming in and of his reacting by jumping into the water.
He told of struggling to climb back aboard but instead dropping back down into the water.
It was about midnight and about 60 miles from Okinawa.
Miley said he heard an unknown voice call out: "Give me your arm!"