Rangtang’s Bet

Back in the day, and I mean a long time back in the day, about 1919 or so, my paternal grandmother decided to use her birthday money to purchase some stock.

Now I know that to most readers, this seems like such a length of family memory to carry around that you’d trip over it, but by way of explanation, I should mention that I’m a southerner, and we tend to remember everything any of our relatives ever did, or said, or are said to have done, or said, and that is enough to turn anybody into Pat Conroy.

Anyway, to return to this particular birthday -  sometime short of 1920, Rangtang decided she wanted to do was to buy stock in a little soft drink company called Coca Cola.

Aunt Lucy weighed in on the subject, possibly Aunt Lil did as well.

“Oh now, how can you want to go and waste your money on a company that sells dope down to the soda fountain?” they asked.  (Coke, by the way, was popularly called dope at the time because it was rumored to contain a miniscule amount of  cocaine.)

But Rangtang was determined and she bought her stock, and the rest is history.

Although the profits are long spent, it was the first appearance of a spectacular talent Rangtang possessed for stock picking not shared by her son (my dad), and an enduring taste for Coca Cola which was shared by most of the world.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that cola notes crop up frequently in twentieth century perfumes.  Take Moment Supreme for example.  The original formula was done by Henri Almeras for Paul Poiret and resurrected for Jean Patou in 1929. Almeras is alleged to have sold a variation of Moment Supreme to Elizabeth Arden ( thoughI can’t substantiate this tidbit, and most perfume sites credit George Fuchs with the composition) and this version was released as Blue Grass in 1934, a real case of waste not want not, if ever there was one.

Moment Supreme has a distinct cola note about halfway through its evaporation.  It begins as lavender, goes through a slight peppery phase, then hits its floral stride and subsequently dives into the Coca Cola glass, finally it dries off on the diving board while showing everyone its very long amber tanned legs. You’ll still smell that long drink of Cola by morning.

It’s a complex floral oriental but that coke note is most definitely there.  I wonder if it wasn’t somewhat responsible for the popularity of the fragrance in the U.S.  It certainly was subliminal advertising.  I can’t think of a bolder attempt at circumventing  the consumer’s cortex in recent years, or a more successful one.  Well, maybe the marijuana note that Parfumerie Generale puts in such perfumes as Coze.

Cinnabar is my other pick for the Coca Cola note.  It came out as far back as 1978 and my comment early in the 1990’s was, “Coca Cola but completely.”

Now that statement puts me at odds with most people who feel that Cinnabar smells like Opium, YSL 1977, and I’ve never heard anyone accuse Opium of smelling like cola.  It was supposed to recall another drug to mind altogether (well, it was the seventies…).

For me, though, both of them resurrect Rangtang and the Coca Cola stock, and her stubborn insistence that if she liked something, then it was probably a good investment, and that no, for her birthday she didn’t want another dress or hat or some dratted ole box of chocolates.  She wanted an investment.  I absolutely take her point.

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4 Responses to Rangtang’s Bet

  1. Mals says:

    Oh, you ARE a Southerner! “Down to the soda fountain” – I can hear it in your writing.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Yes ma’am I am. We’ve been irritating the locals in Virginia for a couple hundred years, although I went and married a yankee and may no longer be so nahce, as I used to was. I can still make Sally Lunn bread and light biscuits so am not a entire loss. Have read your blog by the way and enjoyed it a lot. By the by, did you ever smell some of these old Jean Patous? I assume things like Moment Supreme are knock-knock jokes to the perfumically literate, but you never can tell
      Happy Hols,

  2. Bob Pegram says:

    I remember the story, but had no idea it was of Rangtang herself! I thought it was about a distant relative in or around Atlanta when there was ‘Dope’ in the cola! I’m fairly certain that I was the source of the name we’re using here, evidently she’d entertain tiny me by doing ‘the Rangtang’.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Yes a variation on the Charleston, I think, and the lyrics went, “Rangtang, curl your hair…”. Of course I forget the rest.

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