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By Pam Burke 

As American as ketchup pie


July 25, 2014

Nothing says Americana quite like the Midwestern heartland and good ol’ American ketchup, and nothing says America’s heartland needs you more now than ever than a 170-foot-tall ketchup bottle going on the auction block in a little city called Collinsville, Illinois.

This isn't just any old 170-foot ketchup bottle. It is a vintage, mint condition, red-white-and-blue, world’s giantest ketchup-bottle-disguised 100,000 gallon water tower, ever. Ever, I tell you.

But that’s not all. It has its own website, catsupbottle.com, and its own fan club, with fans and a guy who calls himself the Big Tomato, all of which make it cool enough, but it also has visitors, big visitors.

Not just human visitors, we’re talking celebrities: the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile and — you might want to sit down for this — the World’s Most Ginormous Famous Idaho Potato, on tour this summer in a custom-made semi-trailer. It’s all there on the website. Look it up if you don’t believe me about the awesomeness.

The ketchup bottle was originally made in 1949 by the W.E. Caldwell Co., which is still in business today, for G.S. Suppiger a bottling plant which specialized in Brooks old original rich and tangy catsup in a red, white and blue bottle, the website says.

The ketchup was cooked up and bottled right there in Collinsville.

Then tragedy struck — and you might want to get a tissue for this — Brooks Foods, and the giant ketchup bottle along with it, was sold and then resold and so-on to a short string of companies until 1993 when the then-parent company wanted to unload the bottle. With no takers, company brains decided to just give it to the city. But city officials turned it down because it was too expensive to maintain.

Tragic, yes, but hang on. We’re building up to the the exciting climax of the story.

Local townsfolk couldn’t bear to see their landmark die so they pitched in together to raise money to pay for the repairs. Since August 2002, it has been on the National Register of historic places.

It’s like the little giant tower of ketchup that could. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better story, and to prove that, there is now a sequel being set up for the world’s largest ketchup bottle.

It is for sale, again, said a report by Mary Wisniewski of Reuters news agency.

I don’t think it will be bargain basement, either, but consider the perks: Including all the awesome bits about it listed above, it has a festival every year in July, a concert and a car show. And — and you might want to hold onto your hat for this — it’s located just off Route 66. Yes, the historical Route 66.

I’m telling you, invest in this baby, put some real ketchup in it and invite the folks from Guinness Book of World Records over for the world’s largest burger barbecue. Think of the joy.

(It makes a conversation piece with a down home statement at pam@viewfromthenorth40.com.)


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