Tab (the soda)

Tab cola is one of those exotic things from my past. I love everything about it. Like the funyons from Piggly Wiggly I wrote about earlier, it evokes memories that normally lie dormant.

Earlier this year, I went to to buy some and have it shipped to my house. It’s strange to think that things like this are so easily purchased online. While it hadn’t been too long since I had drank Tab, it seemed like a lifetime. This soda was once very easily obtained in a variety of stores; like so many other products, it got pushed out by the shiner, newer products.

I remember the first time I ever drank a Tab. It was sometime around November, 1976 and my family had moved back to a place near my hometown of Brinkley, Arkansas. I had some coins during 3rd grade recess, and one of my classmates, Calvin Hill, showed me where the coke machine was. (We called all soda machines “coke machines,” by the way.) The machine had grape soda, regular coke, orange soda and things like that. But Tab caught my eye. I bought a bottle of it and Calvin looked at me like I was a madman recently escaped from the local asylum. Bear in mind that I had been raised on the idea that Coke (the original) was the preferred soda. Tab’s taste back then was very tart. Tab never tasted sweet or smooth. In fact, its distinctive weird flavor is why I loved it so much. Most people thought it tasted like boiled tree bark – but given my strange tastes, that, too, might have been a great choice for me. The bottle was very cold and I drank it so fast that my stomach swelled from the carbonation. As poor as I was, I drank one every chance I could.

It’s strange how our memories are tied so closely to tastes and smells of our childhoods. Even though I drank a swimming pool of Tab throughout the years, it didn’t lose its appeal to me. I would like to be very clear, too, that I didn’t drink it because it was “diet.” When I first tried Tab in the 3rd grade, the word “diet” was about as foreign a word as I could imagine. There was simply “good” and “not good” to eat.

(By the way, I would like to mention that I generally don’t remember names at all from early school. There are just a few that come easily to the tongue. I’m trying to remember to remind people that I’m not in possession of a great memory and sometimes I should be. With a name like mine, you might jump to the wrong conclusion that names are easy for me.)