There might be a little truth to the old Coca-Cola slogan, “Coke adds life,” after all; Fred Kirkpatrick, 97, is celebrating 80 years working for the soda giant’s plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and has gone as far as to say that he has no plans to retire any time soon.
Aside from a couple of years that he served in the army during the Second World War, Kirkpatrick has spent all of his adult life working for Coca-Cola. He first started out as a clerk at Coke’s offices in 1938, a time when many were still struggling through the great depression, and hasn’t looked back since. Before long, Kirkpatrick had been promoted to a bookkeeper, then office manager and eventually worked his way up to the position of operations manager.
Kirkpatrick’s main role these days is a little more relaxed than it was in times past, as he now spends his working days looking after Coke’s museum and archives, which includes his very own extensive collection of antique Coke bottles and memorabilia. Speaking to KFSM, Kirkpatrick confessed that collecting Coke bottles was a natural progression for him. “I’ve always been interested in history and I collect stamps, and I collect baseball cards and things like that,” he said.
During his eight decades as a Coca-Cola employee, Kirkpatrick has seen many changes take place and watched the brand evolve, but the main difference now, he says, is that they no longer bottle the beverage themselves. “We really are just a distributor now, but for more than 90 years we were a bottler,” he said, but that hasn’t changed his love of the soda and he even attributes it’s consumption to being a possible factor behind his long and healthy life.
The 97-year-old still likes to remain realistic when it comes to the topic of his longevity, though. “Well I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been drinking Coca-Cola all those years, but [it’s] probably because I try to keep fit by exercise and eating properly and not smoking,” he says with a smile.
Naturally, things aree vastly different at Coca-Cola headquarters compared to when he started 80 years ago and Kirkpatrick has seen almost all of those changes happen before his very eyes. What makes his story even more amazing, however, is that he wants to continue to stick around with company for as long as possible and witness even more.