Off Limits

The name of Denver's latest sports team came as good news to Bill Stearns, proprietor of, a Web site devoted to soft-drink memorabilia. "It's crazy," he says. "People keep calling for Orange Crush T-shirts; for years they've been doing this to me. To people in that area, the Broncos are big-time. Here it's Alabama/ Auburn football."

"Here" is Trussville, Alabama, where Stearns also runs a site selling classic cars.

"There's more to life than football," he points out. There is, for example, a small Orange Crush picnic cooler, circa 1950, that Stearns recently sold for $2,000 to someone in California. Or "the only known Orange Crush score board with bottle and Crushy in dazzling graphics," a '40s relic featuring the drink's mascot that's still available on the Web site, its price reduced from $1,475 to $1,175. Or a very rare celluloid singing Crushy. Or an Orange Crush serving tray from 1947, or an Orange Crush calendar "with beautiful school girl and crinkled brown orange crush bottle" from that same year, or an Orange Crush thermometer, or an embossed "Drink Delicious Orange Crush" sign that dates to 1926, just ten years after the drink was invented.

And a half-century before Denver Broncos fans adopted Orange Crush not only as their drink of choice, but as the preferred nickname for their beloved football team.

"Orange Crush stuff is very rare," Stearns explains.

Since the Colorado Crush will be playing arena football inside the, ahem, Pepsi Center, there may not be many opportunities to buy actual Orange Crush artifacts -- much less the drink itself -- at the venue. Which is where Stearns comes in. "I've got something for everybody," he says. "If somebody's got money, I've got the stuff -- the Crush stuff."

"They love that Orange Crush in Denver. It's certainly one of our most popular cities," says Kyle Rose, spokesman for the Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper/Seven Up, a subsidiary of London-based Cadbury Schweppes, which markets canned Orange Crush. Sales of the drink here have been "up 31 percent for the past 52 weeks," he adds.

Apparently, Elway and company weren't the only ones anticipating the outcome of the name game (see The Message, page 15).

Not that it's easy to find the drink within Denver city limits right now. Full Service Beverage Company makes Orange Crush for sale in Colorado Springs and Cheyenne, under contract with Dr Pepper/Seven Up. But there's a "little dilemma with Orange Crush," one employee reports, since the company lost its Denver rights when Cadbury decided to introduce premium glass packaging in this market -- and it retains those rights. Still, even if Orange Crush were coming out of Denver Water taps, it wouldn't be served at the Pepsi Center, where Pepsi products enjoy exclusivity. Unless, that is, "our friends at Pepsi asked us, and then we'd entertain it," says Tom Philand, vice president of marketing and sales at the Pepsi Center.

Orange Crush has been providing "orange refreshment since 1916," when Clayton J. Howell followed up his "Howell's Orange Julep" with "Ward's Orange Crush," named after partner and chemist Neil Ward, according to the drink's official history. Through the '50s, the Crush continued its worldwide advance, moving into South America, New Zealand and Africa. But the line was moribund by 1989, when Cadbury Beverages acquired Crush USA from Procter & Gamble and revived the Crush.

As for the name itself, Howell used the word "crush" to refer to the process of extracting oils from oranges.

In the Arena Football League, it refers to the process of extracting cash from off-season football fans.

At least Crush partner Stan Kroenke won't have far to travel after watching a game. Kroenke Sports also owns the Pepsi Center (as well as the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche and an as-yet-unnamed lacrosse team), and that construction project on the side of the facility involves a new, very in-town apartment for Kroenke, as well as offices to replace the ones sacrificed for Kroenke's Blue Sky Grill.

That eatery's kitchen once held Dan Issel's desk -- but if you can't stand the heat...

"The Pepsi Center will be four years old, and we're already out of office space," says Philand.

Make that the Orange Crunch.

Where's there's smoke, there's a slogan: Jingle writers have until the end of business July 15 to fire off entries for Jefferson County's contest to create Burma Shave-style fire-prevention slogans (Off Limits, June 13).

Some 145 entries (each five twenty-character lines) are already in, according to Jeffco PIO John Masson. And that's a current count, he says, even if, post-Hayman, the Jeffco Web site seems a bit out of date, since it explains the contest with this: "Jefferson County wants to keep the gateway to the Rockies fire free this summer." Although no date has been set for picking the winners, Masson hopes that some signs will be posted before summer ends.

Tired of fire?/Don't retire/Do your bit/And use your wit/Safety you'll inspire. And remember: Only You Can Prevent Bad Jingles.


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