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WINONA, Minn. -- After 80 years in production, little returnable glassbottles ofCoke bottles will stop rolling down the bottling line insouthern Minnesota.

Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Winona, the last in the country stillmaking the returnable 6.5 ounce bottles of Coke, ended production of allbottles Tuesday.

The last bottle popped off the line around 11:00 Tuesday morning.

About 6,000 bottles all from the 1940s and 1950s are part of thefinal production run of Coke in Winona. The last bottle off the line onTuesday will go to the World Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

"This is a very historic day," said Phillip Mooney, Chiefarchivistand Heritage Vice President of Coca-Cola. "For some 40 years,from 1915 to 1955, the only way you could have had a Coca-Cola was inone of these embossed glass packages (bottles). This really marks theend of an era for us."

The company says required upgrades to continue to fill and sell the bottles were not a sound business decision.

A crowd of about 80 people,many local dignitaries, Coke distributorsfrom the mid-west and Coke Memorabilia collectors from across thecountry, gathered to watch the final bottles come off the productionline.

Coke Collector's Club President Dick McChesney explained the originsof the uniquely shaped bottle. "(It) was created by Coca-Cola in 1915 bythe Root Glass Company in Terre Haute, Indiana. They wanted a bottlethat would replace all of the bottles of colors and sizes that they had.The line was: even a blind person wants to know that they are holding aCoke bottle."

The Winona bottler employs 14 workers full-time. All of them willkeep their jobs. Since, Clint Kuhlman founded the Coca-Cola BottlingCompany of Winona in 1932, four generations of his family have worked atthe Franklin Street plant.

"My wife's father built this building," explained Leroy Telstad, VicePresident and General Manager. "Her father still comes into work everyday at 86. He has been in uniform for 64 years now."

Maeve Peterson, the founder's great granddaughter, moved 24-bottlecases of the empty vintage bottles just like the three generations ofthe family before her.

The last 6,000 bottles are to be sold in the Winona area to helpfinance improvements to a bicycle and pedestrian path in Winona. Forcollectors elsewhere who want to purchase a bottle for $20, they can goto this website.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material maynot be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )

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