An interesting donation came in a few weeks ago that we wanted to share with you. Collections Associate Margaret has got the scoop for you!
In the throes of World War II, young men were called to serve their country overseas leaving many companies with gaps in their workforce. Women were asked to rise to the occasion and take on the jobs traditionally performed by men, be it clerical to industrial labor. The then Dr Pepper Company was not immune to the loss of hands for production. In an effort to continue delivery and the manufacturing process, Dr Pepper hired on the wives, siblings and other female industrialists to temporarily and in some cases permanently, work in the bottling facilities. These women were nicknamed the Pepperettes. This month’s collection spotlight features photographs of a handful of the Pepperettes of the Fort Worth, Texas bottling facility in 1944. Also shown are the managers of the Fort Worth bottling plant Rollie and J. B. Dorris relations of Henry B. Dorris who founded the Fort Worth bottling facility in 1928 after working for over twenty years for the Waco based Dr Pepper Company.
Featured in all of the photographs is Helen Taylor, who at eighteen years joined the Pepperettes on the Dr Pepper bottling line during the war. Her experience inside the company was monitoring the conveyor belts of Dr Pepper bottles and packing for the trucks. Helen Taylor’s daughter, Betty Brett remembers her mother remarking about being allowed to pull a Dr Pepper bottle straight off the line whenever she felt thirsty.
Balancing family life with the new environment of a career, women like Taylor worked the same eight hour days as their male counterpoints. They even may have worn the same uniforms refitted for the female form or were issued new tailored route salesman suits. Either way, the surprising swiftness in which women were incorporated into the work force speaks volumes to the efficiency and aptitude of companies such as Dr Pepper in coping with war time employment and production.
Many of the News and Views as well as the Clock Dial publications from 1942-1945 illuminate the role women played in the operation of the bottling machinery in articles titled “Womanpower”. Even during the misery of the war however, Pepperettes and other Dr Pepper employees found time to relax. In an article titled “Dallas and Ft. Worth Fight Air Battle” in the April 1945 issue of News and Views, Helen Taylor was a featured contestant on the quiz radio show “The Quiz of Two Cities” sponsored by Listerine toothpaste. Helen was the first round contestant for the Fort Worth bottling team followed by fellow Pepperette Violet Owens in the third round versus the Dallas Dr Pepper bottling team in a four round challenge of general knowledge questions. In each round, one contestant from each team answered three questions worth both points and money. If the contestant answered the question correctly, the money went into their own pocket. If the contestant’s response was incorrect, the money went into a jackpot for a team oriented bonus round called the “super-duper question”. After a nail-biting tie, the Dallas team went on to win the jackpot prize of sixty-three dollars. After the war, Pepperettes continued to work on in various capacities at Dr Pepper bottling facilities, however, the nickname would not reappear until the early 1980s as a reference to a band of “I’m a Pepper” commercial dancers.
The Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 S. 5th Street in downtown Waco. During the spring and summer, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and Sunday from Noon until 5:00 PM, last ticket sold at 4:15. During the fall and winter, the museum is closed on Mondays; other days remain the same. For more information, visit us on the web at drpeppermuseum.com. To purchase your own Dr Pepper memorabilia, visit the Museum’s online gift shop.