Coca-Cola, a Thirsty Sailor and Fort Lauderdale Beach

The bottle that launched a million smiles is getting an upgrade this year — and it’s got a retro feel. This year, Coca-Cola turns 125. Coke has released special commemorative bottles in celebration of their summer of fun. Just the sight of a glass bottle brings back memories of summers on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the best drink in the world.

Every summer during my childhood in the 1970s, my Dad would buy my brother and me a bottle of Coke each right before we headed down to the “strip” the stretch of beachfront on A1A that kisses the Atlantic Ocean. We’d sit there on the burning vinyl seats of his old Impala, cooling off with an ice-cold coke, listening to Jimmy Buffett and fighting over who got to sit closest to the window.

Most of the time, we’d drive up and down the beach, just taking in the salt air and enjoying the scene. Sometimes, however, we’d head down to Port Everglades.

Back in the day, you could usually drive right up to the ships that pulled into port. Sometimes, we’d give one of the sailors a ride back into town when they needed a lift into town and back again. During the summer, especially, that walk could seem like forever. Dad would sometimes stop off at the 7-11 and get the thirsty sailor a Coke of his own.

Every now and then, a grateful sailor would thank us for the ride and offer us a tour. On one very special occasion, we returned a sailor to his ship, a Dutch frigate. Dad, my little brother and I were invited aboard by our new friend.

In the excitement, I took a little tumble on the stairs and skinned my knee — embarrassed, I remember hiding my face from the rest of the crew, who clustered around a small metal table in a small break room below deck.

I heard the telltale spray of the pop-top: the Dutch sailor was offering me a Coke. Without saying a word, he handed me my drink and smiled. That drink soothed more than thirst — the bruised ego of a little girl appreciated it immensely.

That’s why, thirty years later, when I head to the local military base with my own family, we always stop and get a Coke. If he’s nice, I’ll even share it with my favorite sailor — a different sailor, who just happens to be my husband. He was once a little boy who loved watching ships, too, miles away with his own dad.

It’s even easier with the My Coke Rewards Program, which offers great deals on summer activities with the kids. Theme park packs, concert tickets and other goodies are available throughout the season. All in all, there’s no better way to spend time with the family than by making memories with our favorite drink.