What ever happened to Squeeze soda?

ADAMS -- When Linda Alibozek Saharczewski was growing up in Adams, the "Orange Squeeze guy" would regularly deliver a case of the sugary, fruity soda to her family's doorstep.

"It was a time when you just left the [old, empty] case in the hallway with the money [for the new case of soda] in an envelope," she said. "The Gwozdz family owned the business, and we met most of them when they delivered the soda. They felt like part of the family."

"It was delivered to our house in a big, wooden crate," recalled Joe Wotkowicz, another Adams native. "I liked black cherry, birch beer, pineapple and cream soda. All of them, actually. My grandparents drank nothing else."

The legacy of Squeeze soda is mostly memory, although the bottling plant building, now empty, still stands at 190 Howland Ave. But the soda itself no longer exists. After about a month of research, false leads and plenty of sugar, here's what this reporter found out about Squeeze's history, its demise and the availability of local alternatives.

Squeeze Beverages Inc. was founded in Adams in 1920. According to Eagle files, Adams resident Piotr Gwozdz (pronounced Ga-voosh), began the company by bottling soda in the same building as the Gwozdz dry cleaning business at 102 Summer St.

In 1931, the company became affiliated with the Orange Squeeze Bottling Co. of New Orleans. In 1947, the operation was moved to Howland Avenue.

When the New Orleans plant went out of business in the 1940s, the company kept the name and continued bottling and selling the Adams version of Orange Squeeze.

The iconic logo, featuring a boy and girl sitting on a bench, arm in arm, is actually adapted from a cover from the Saturday Evening Post.


Remembering Squeeze Soda

The cover painting, called "The Spooners" was painted by Norman Rockwell.

The company was owned and operated for most of its run by three generations of the Gwozdz family. At its height, the factory sold more than 30,000 cases of soda annually. The business waxed and waned in the latter part of the 20th century. It enjoyed a brief revival following the passage of the bottle bill in 1983.

In 1999, the company was sold to Blue Range Beverages in Keene, N.H. and the offices and plant was relocated there. Orange Squeeze, by now a fairly well-known national brand, was still available for several years after that.

It is tough to track down exactly when the company went out of business, but after being sold several more times, the last bottle of Squeeze was probably consumed in the early part of the 21st century. All that is left now are empty bottles for sale on eBay.

But it is fondly remembered by North County residents in general and Adams natives in particular.

The Gwozdz family started a "cash-and-carry" program whereby customers paid a 10-cent deposit on each bottle the first time they bought a case. They got to pick any of the dozens of flavored sodas they wanted and were given a wooden case in which to take them away. The second time they came back, they paid no deposit.

"I remember going to the plant and picking out a mixed case of soda," said Dan Pause, also an Adams native. "My favorites were pineapple, cream, strawberry and sarsaparilla. Loved it."

According to an Eagle story, Ted Gwozdz, the third generation owner of the company, reported that if customers didn't want any more soda, they could keep the case and would get their deposit back.

The soda itself was mixed on the second floor of the building. The Gwozdz family had several basic flavors, including orange, grape and several kinds of ginger ale. At the height of its popularity, there were 37 varieties of Squeeze, including several different birch beers, ginger ales and exotic flavors like watermelon, lemon-lime and pineapple.

"Pineapple and strawberry were the best," said Greg Lucia, of Adams.

"Birch beer," said Melissa Martin, of Adams, a favorite echoed by Mike DeMarco.

"Cream was my favorite," said former Eagle reporter Carrie Saldo, now a television personality in Denver. "But because the bottles were glass and had to be returned. I remember holding them as if they were the most delicate items on the planet."

For those who cannot bear to be without Squeeze (or, perhaps, want to taste some of the old flavors again), Martha Tanner, the greenhouse manager at Whitney's Farm, offers an alternative: Whitney's offers "Whitney's Old-fashioned Soda" in several flavors, including orange, grape and ginger ale.

"I don't drink soda much, but when I do, I drink Whitney's," she said. "To me, it tastes just like Squeeze."

To each his (or her) own. An informal taste test in the Berkshire Eagle newsroom with several North County residents revealed the verdict: Good soda, and close to Squeeze, but no cigar.

The consensus was there's only one Squeeze.