The long-awaited launch of Cordial-makers of the Shoalhaven and their bottles was held on Saturday at the Nowra Museum.
Although it was a book launch like no other - COVID regulations restricting the number of people present at the invite-only launch of Alan Clark's latest historical book, while Saturday's stifling heat also made conditions uncomfortable for those present.
Published by the Shoalhaven Historical Society, the book takes you back to the times when cordial making was a thriving industry in the Shoalhaven.
Shoalhaven cordial history goes back to the 1880s when the Pollock family established their first factory in the area and were major players in the local industry until 1910, before they sold the business to Reginald Thomas.
Another major industry player was James Kelly, which later went on to be Kelly and Sons and would be the final owner of Nowra Cordials which produced various drinks over a span of 80 years.
Of course, a major fire at the Nowra Cordial Factory on the corner of Kinghorne and Douglas Streets (the site of the Parkhaven Motel today) in September 1968, brought to an end the local industry.
Many long-time residents remember that fire and it was again recalled during Saturday's book launch.
Also included in the book is the Faust family of Milton-Ulladulla and Bolts of Berry.
Historical society president Lynne Allen, who although she could not be present on Saturday, in a prepared speech gave a brief overview of the industry's history, including how long before Coca-Cola dominated our soft drink selections, aerated waters were produced by the cordial makers.
"Most Australian towns of substance in the 19th century had their own factories," she said.
"Shoalhaven, of course, did and we are delighted those stories are being told."
Of course, cordial then was so much different to what we class as cordial today - a flavour added to usually a water-based drink. Back then, cordial was aerated water (carbonated water), a drink similar to today's soft drinks.
"Many bottles used by Australian cordial makers were made in Britain and brought here by steam ship," Mrs Allen said.
"We've all heard about young boys who smashed bottles with the marble mechanism, so they could enjoy a game of marbles - it's no wonder the cordial men became so angry."
There are also instances in Nowra Court where a new manufacturer was charged with using a competitor's bottles.
Daughters of the late James Kelly, Laraine Dean and Jacqueline Kelly, were both present at the launch as was the man many believe is portrayed on the cover of the book, Ron Smith.
Mrs Allen spoke of Alexander Pollock, who shipped a selection of drinks to the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, held as part of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage of discovery.
His exhibit included lemon syrup, peppermint, cloves, lime juice cordial, raspberry syrup, ginger wine, orange bitters, hop bitters, aromatic bitters and sarsaparilla.
"After cablegram had indicated some success he had to wait three years for the certificates and medal to arrive at Nowra," she said.
"The judges stated that his Lime Juice Cordial and Lemon Syrup had been awarded for the "delicacy of preparation, strength of aroma and good distillation".
Not mentioned was their keeping properties, which would have been essential for their passage by sea to the United States.
Mr Clark has been assisted with the book by fellow member Robyn Florance who worked on layouts and photograph placements, Keith Masson who helped with the accompanying museum display, which includes many local bottles on display, and Neville Haines who helped with the design of the book cover.
Mr Clark thanked everyone involved in the book's publication.
"While my name is on the cover and I provided the text, I started the project with enthusiasm but negligible knowledge on the subject, so needed lots of support," he said.
"Special thanks to vice-president Gerri Walker who is also a tower of strength in the preparation of our many books, likewise life member Robyn Florance.
"It is great colour has been included in the book, as suggested by local collectors, so the bottles can be seen at their best.
"I'm grateful to the descendants of the cordial makers who are here for the launch and thank those who have provided information."
To enable the publication of the book the Shoalhaven Historical Society received funding from the NSW Government's Cultural Grants Program administered by the Royal Australia Historical Society.
Copies of the Cordial-makers of the Shoalhaven and their bottles will be available at the Nowra Museum on Tuesdays from 10am to 2pm and Saturdays from 1pm-4pm. Copies are $20.
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