Gaston & Catawba

Antique vending machines star at Granite Falls museum

Where can you go to listen to a jukebox play 45s and choose from 40 different flavors of soda – in glass bottles – dispensed from a machine that asks only for a nickel?

If you have noticed the sign reading “Antique Vending Company's Soda Machine Museum” in downtown Granite Falls, then you know the answer.

Folks have driven from across the country to do that, and to see the first soda-vending machine ever made.

Alan Huffman has expanded the collection at the museum, located at 24 S. Main St. and originally acquired in 1989 by his father, Granite Drug pharmacist Larry Huffman.

The number of antique vending machines has grown to more than 700, with 400-plus on display in the museum.

And, yes, included in the collection is the first soda machine ever made, an IcyO made in Atlanta. It has a display rack for soda bottles and the first bottle opener, and reads “patent applied for.” When the patent was granted in 1927, the first patented IcyO vending machine was made in Charlotte. Both reside in the Granite Falls museum.

The coolest old vending machines might be the first decapper machine, out of 261 made. Its impressive engineering rolls a bottle into a slot for decapping, pours the soda into a cup, then rolls the bottle into the empties collection area. That machine is in the final stages of repair.

Woodgrain panels conceal some soda machines for offices – a trend in the '70s.

Although the museum at a glance first seems to be a sea of red Coca-Cola machines, other brands are represented, including Mountain Dew, Nehi, Pepsi, Cheerwine and more. One of the machines that Alan Huffman is most enthusiastic about has Magic Marker writing all over it, which he says are autographs of members of the cast of the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV series from the 1980s. That machine (along with some of the museum's period Coke machines) just attended another Dukesfest in Atlanta in June, Alan Huffman said, so that the “General Lee” (the Dodge Charger driven by the show's main characters) could jump over them, as well as a few cop cars.

In addition to vending machines, the museum features a functioning luncheonette, a 1960s television that looks like it belongs on the Jetsons cartoon, and a few jukeboxes.

Expanding the display area will allow access to other artifacts from Caldwell County, including an 1899 bulletproof safe from the First Bank of Granite, a popcorn machine from an old movie theater, barber and shoeshine chairs, Cheerwine uniforms, plus items from Shuford Mills and the old Belk department store in Granite Falls.

The facility has been expanded to include a banquet hall that can be rented for parties. Dubbed “Club Cola,” the hall has tables and chairs for up to 300 guests, a buffet service area, a jukebox and vending machines set to dispense a soda for a nickel. What more could you want for a good party?

Tours of the museum are free. Call first to connect with Huffman, who is usually working in his vending-machine repair shop behind the Granite Falls Public Library next door to the museum.

The Web site offers an email link, but Huffman rarely has time to respond, he said. But do give him a call: 828-962-9783.

Art club's work on exhibit

Starting Friday, find some “Hot Summer, Cool Art” in Lenoir at the Caldwell Arts Council. The August exhibit is composed of work by the Brush and Palette Club.

The art club was founded over 35 years ago by a group of Caldwell County artists that included Evelyn Allen, Nina Robinson, Mary May, Jo Jonas and Carolyn Turner.

Originally the group had a social focus, but in time the group evolved into primarily a professional artists group. Members serve as valuable mentors for each other. Group meetings focus on art education and critique.

Current members are Sarah Akins, Caron Baker Wike, Peggy Bissette, Edith Carter, Mary Dobbin, Kathryn Feierabend, Theresa Gloster, Sylvia Greene, Lois Hickman Haas, Rebecca Hall, Vaun Healey, Sarah Hedrick, Lynn Hennessee, Toni Indicott, Marti Kardol, Shirley Lee, Jan Martin, Margaret Martine, Bette McGimsey, Judy McNeill, Jo Moore, Jan Pennell, Barbara Penning, Susan Powers, Judy Prevost, Irene Ridgway, Virginia Sauer, Pam Smith, Melba Stapleton, Shirley Story, Norma Suddreth, Cathy Taylor, and Dotts Vanderbloemen.

Friday's opening reception is 5-7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibit continues through Aug. 29.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The gallery is in the Caldwell Arts Council at 601 College Ave. in Lenoir. For more information, call 828-754-2486.