History - Ed Coleman: Kool-Aid arrives in White Rock

Published on August 3, 2014

Relatively isolated even by today’s standards, the farm Granny grew up was at least half a day’s drive by horse and wagon from the nearest town.  The farm stood on what her father and others called the New Road. Why it was “new,” she didn’t know. The White Rock farm had been there for at least two generations, maybe even longer, so the road probably wasn’t all that new at the time she was born.

Perhaps we can surmise that the road was the last to be roughed out in the area, the closest road, with the one running up White Rock Mountain towards Black River being the older of the two. Whatever the explanation, the farm on the New Road (called Sunken Lake Road today) was out in the bushes a bit and, when Granny was growing up, she had none of the conveniences we have today.

However, relatively isolated as it was, modern day treats often found their way to her farmhouse. One of them was Kool-Ade, a drink mix still popular today. Kool-Aid, as it later came to be known, was invented by Edwin Perkins in 1927. By the 1930s, Kool-Aid was being sold across Canada and had even reached out-of the-way farm areas such as White Rock.

Granny isn’t sure how Kool-Aid found its way to her father’s farm but she recalls that it sold for five cents a package. Perkins first marketed Kool-Aid for 10 cents a package, but with arrival of the Depression, he halved the price just to stay in business. Kool-Aid was meant to be served cold – it’s rather blah served warm - and was marketed as such. So with electric power several years away and with no refrigeration, the spring behind the farm supplied the cold water to make Kool-Aid enjoyable on hot summer days.  Granny remembers that the drink came in at least six flavours - which agrees with Kool-Aid history since Edwin Perkins original beverage came in six varieties.

Now, if you’re wondering how American refreshments made it to the sparsely settled community of White Rock only a few years after coming on the market, Granny remembers it was sold door to door by a family from Black River. At the same time, says Granny, Regal products were being sold door to door by school kids and perhaps they also offered the American beverage.

This is possible. At one time, Regal catalogues were as ubiquitous in Canadian homes as the T. Eaton catalogue. Regal was established years before Granny was born – in 1928 in Canada by William McCartney – and early on, schools were encouraged to sell their products as fundraisers for sports teams. Then again, it might have been people selling Watkins products, founded in the States in 1868, who went door to door in places like White Rock selling spices and other condiments.

This is immaterial, of course, and is only one of many things Granny remembers about life in the 1930s, a time before electricity, radio, telephones that reached beyond the immediate area, and all the other conveniences we take for granted today.