The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cray's Soda of Holyoke

Nostalgic pictures.

Prominent Valley videographer Jeff Ziff films everything from the Valley music scene to tours of local neighborhoods. However long before YouTube the Ziff name was synonymous with the local soda pop industry, with the Ziff family running Holyoke's Cray's Soda for many decades. They sold the company almost a decade ago to a conglomerate. Today their sign is in ruins.

Now artifacts from the beloved company have become valuable collector's items. Here are a few rarities from Ziff's personal collection.

How many invoice pads from the company do you think still exist?

Here's a bargain you'll never see again!

The images on this label suggest Cray's grape soda suited all occasions. Dig the old-fashioned football uniform! That's the type they wore when my Great-Uncle Steve played for UMass and the Springfield Acorns.

Here are five Cray's classics!

The green bottle even has the actual soda still in it!

This historic antique would bring top dollar!

It's a shame how our Valley's old family businesses have vanished over the years. At least we still have artifacts such as these to remind us of what once was.

I came across this numerical political statement parked in Northampton recently:

Yesterday's horrible weather was aptly summed up by the headline in the Northampton newspaper The Hampshire Gazette this morning.

Far-right critics of that paper sometimes call it The Homo Gay-zette. However people from across the political spectrum are glad that the storm has passed. All that remains now is the ice, which is everywhere from the ground to the trees, as seen early this morning in Amherst.


Anonymous said...

My father painted the Cray's sign that was up before this one pictured. I remember it from my childhood. It must have been in the 70s at some point. He's passed on now, I was wondering if you have any other photos of times past from Cray's. Good memories and excellent soda.

sodafixer said...

Thank you Tommy, It was quite a nice surprise to find this posting!
Anonymous, your father painted the sign(before this sign shown) for my father (who has also passed on now) and I believe he also painted most of our delivery truck signs. I remember as a kid, watching him letter one of our trucks. I still remember my dad telling me he was the best sign painter in the valley!

Anonymous said...

sodafixer, wow that's great. It's funny, a lot of people commented on his artwork. He worked for the Holyoke DPW,too. Painting many signs for Holyoke. He helped design and make the Winnie the Pooh float that one first place when I was about 3. I have clippings somewhere from the Transcript Telegram of it. He was an artist till the end, as well as a musician. He played the bass for over 40 years. Paul Gauthier was his name. I'm sorry to hear of your fathers passing.

John Staples said...

Hi Tommy, I have one of the Cray's ceramic Old Fashioned Root Beer bottle that you have pictured on your website. Any idea if it's worth anything?

sodafixer said...

Hi John, The crock bottle you have at one time was going for as much as 20 U.S. dollars online, but the prices on old bottles have dropped quite a bit.
I kick myself whenever I think that years ago my grandfather had a back room filled with these bottles and gave them all away to customers. Now I have only a few of them (none of which will leave my family) I don't even want to think about all of the signs (Dr. Swetts rootbeer) that the old timer that worked for my family for many years (Roy) used as scrap metal to patch the walls in our old building. Keep in mind...the signs were antique signs even at that time....still in the shipping crates..never used! Luckily I managed to save a few of them for my own collection.

Anonymous said...

My great grandparents started this company! It's amazing to see the old bottles and sign ! Any information on we're to buy some of these bottles I know my mother and grandmother would love to get their hands on one of these !

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I can shed more light on Cray Soda Co of Holyoke: The original owner and operator of Cray Soda was Patrick J Cray. Not sure when he first began the business but it preceded the 1920s. The first bottling plant was located on a dead end road east off of Northampton St south of Dwight St (now called Cray Ave). The building is still standing as is the Cray homestead located behind the plant. My brothers and I over the years (1920 to 1940s) took turns spending summers with Patrick's eldest son Frank and wife Isabelle who ran the family business after Patrick's death. During my stays (1940s) Cray Soda sold various flavors of soda (called tonic) and seltzer water to area bars, restaurants, grocery stores and amusement parks such as Mountain Park (Mount Tom) and Hampton Ponds. Uncle Frank Cray also owned and operated Cray's Package Liquor store which was attached to the bottling plant. Sometime after the 1950s Frank transferred the soda operation to his younger brother William (Billy) who moved the bottling plant to another location off of Northampton St. I was out of the Cray Soda loop after that and not sure how long Billy ran the business, but at some point he apparently sold Cray soda to another family. Wondering how Anonymous is related to the Cray family or who his grandparents were, but Frank and Isabelle were childless.