The call-out has been answered. Two weeks ago, the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun asked readers to help uncover a little bit of the Valley’s history.
It began after two old bottles surfaced in an elderly man’s shed in Queensland. After a gentle scrub, a loving polish and some spectacles, it turns out that inscripted into the glass is the word “Bellingen”.
“The brown bottle has the initials JLB on one side and below, it says this bottle always remains the property of Baileys Bellingen and on the other side it says J L Bailey on top and beneath it is Bellingen,” bottle-finder Dennis said.
“The clear bottle only has stuff written on one side and it says Geo A Coleman Quality First Bellingen and also this bottle is always the property of Geo A Colemans Bellingen and there is a ‘X’ on the base of the bottle.”
Dennis hoped that someone in the Valley had information about these items – and it seems the Shire’s collective knowledge came up with the goods.
John Lyle Bailey (Cordial Jack) and wife Jean bought the cordial factory at North Bellingen in 1940, which had been founded by the Coleman family.
The bottles were made of clear glass, however early on, brown bottles were used exclusively for dry ginger ale.
The original factory had a small fuel yard attached, producing firewood and making wooden crates for the cordial bottles.
In this factory the bottling machine was very small – filling and sealing one bottle at a time. Also, the returned bottles were washed by hand in a large tub using bottle brushes.
The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun understands that in about 1950 a new larger factory was built incorporating a modern carbonating machine, a rotary bottling and sealing machine, and an automatic bottle washer, making the process much more efficient.
At about this time the business name was changed to Valley Cordials. The business supplied soft drinks to outlets in Bellingen, Urunga, Mylestom, Valla, Nambucca Heads and Bowraville as well all the small localities in the Bellinger Valley.
It is also noted, that by this time there were other cordial makers in the area – Glynns at Coffs Harbour, Cloutens at Macksville and W.H. Bailey (Jack’s brother) at Dorrigo.
In 1960, Valley Cordials obtained the franchise to manufacture and deliver Cottees Soft Drinks for the area between Woolgoolga to Laurieton.
In 1970 the Bailey’s sold the business to the Hawkins family.