Saturday and Moxie

In a land built on “the pitch,” not the baseball kind, but the one that marketing is known for, having your elevator speech ready to go is essential. Given that this is Moxie weekend in Lisbon Falls, the epicenter of Moxie’s universe, feel free to use some of these tips to frame your parade-viewing and other conversations while taking in the town’s sights and sounds. Before long, people will start coming to you as their resident “Moxie expert.”

Be on the lookout for the Moxie Horsemobile.

What is Moxie?
Moxie is an iconic soft drink. Invented by Augustin Thompson, a Maine native, who was living in Lowell, Mass. at the time, Moxie is the oldest, commercially-bottled soft drink in the U.S., being marketed and sold since 1884.

I’ve written two books about Moxie. There are a host of stories, some true, and some somewhat apocryphal.

For instance, back in 1982, the late Frank Anicetti, owner of Kennebec Fruit Co. (aka, the Moxie Store) sent out 13 post cards for a book signing he was hosting for Frank Potter. Potter, who at that time had written some of the quintessential books about Moxie, including The Moxie Mystique, managed to draw a a crowd that Anicetti claims (in an interview I did with him in 2008) was close to 500 people. While the actual number’s never been confirmed, it was a sizable turnout. The next year, Lisbon’s summer festival, Frontier Days, became the Moxie Festival and we’ve been at it in Lisbon Falls now for 35 years.

Where does Moxie get its distincty-different taste?
Moxie’s distinctive taste comes from Gentian Root, a medicinal herb.

Prior to the Food and Drug Act, which limited claims made about products, Moxie, then marketed as a “nerve food” was said to cure anything from blindness and paralysis, to the “loss of manhood,” making it America’s first Viagra.

Back to the marketing of Moxie, the brand’s chief spokesman during the 1950s was Red Sox star and Hall of Famer, Ted Williams, a huge fan of the soft drink. Maybe It was Moxie that helped Williams hit .406 in 1941, making him the last MLB hitter to bat over .400. That was 76 years ago!

I believe that Moxie’s staying power is first and foremost the result of one Frank Archer, a marketing genius. There are a host of items that collector’s treasure, developed by Archer, to market Moxie. Things like thermometers, a Moxie board game, the various signs featuring the “Moxie Boy,” and others.

While some of Moxie’s 20th century ambassadors like Archer, Williams, Potter, and Anicetti have passed from the stage, Moxie continues to confound critics. The brand, now back in New England where it belongs, has taken to social media and the digital landscape in marketing its magic to a whole new generation. You’ll see plenty of the younger set in Lisbon Falls today, interspersed with those of us who have known about Moxie’s magic for decades.

Enjoy the festival and parade!!

Remembering Others

I’ve written tributes about people in my life who were special to me. I think it’s important to discharge our debts of gratitude personally, and in some cases, publicly. I’ve tried to walk that out in my own life.

Having written two books about Moxie, the distinctly-different regional soft drink that has developed a cult following in parts of my native New England, I know a bit about the elixir’s history. I also recognize that there have been figures in that history that were essential in keeping Moxie’s brand alive.

If your curiosity about Moxie’s been piqued, I’d point you to a couple of blog posts. This one about Sue Conroy is one I’d highly recommend. Sue got me excited about Moxie and forced me to dig into the drink’s past. And then if you think you are good at math, there’s nothing quite like a little Moxie math. Continue reading

In the Blink of an Eye

Life’s circumstances can turn on a dime. In a world where technology is exalted and worshiped, we’re less likely to remember that our seasons evolve and fluctuate.

We’ve just come through a stretch of weather spanning 3-4 weeks where May felt like mid-July, or even early August. Then, in a matter of minutes on Sunday, as a cold front passed over central Maine, the humidity and heat were switched off, replaced with a crispness that has been missing for much of the past few weeks.

This morning, I awoke to steady (and needed) rainfall. Talk of drought was replaced by reminders of “flooding in low-lying areas.” As the old-timers would say, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” offering their apt and simplified descriptor of what the meteorologists tell us about Maine’s weather.

Sunday, my sister and he who we know as “Handy,” were doing an early run-through of some recipes that may show up in the upcoming Moxie “Cook Off,” better known as the Moxie Recipe Contest, which she reminded me, would be taking place in “40 days and 40 nights.” This year’s Moxie culinary throw-down seems to be taking on something akin to biblical import in Lisbon Falls and surrounding communities.

Moxie-The star of Moxie Season.

The focus of Moxie Season.

Continue reading

Picture Talk

Pages & Pints Outline

Pages & Pints Outline

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one might be worth 750, or so.

It’s my talk given at Friday’s Pages & Pints at Lewiston Public Library, in a photo. Well, technically not my talk, since flip charts suck as an audio platform, but an outline of my 30-minute blast on Moxie, beer, and a few thoughts on the craft of writing (and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft). Continue reading

Candy Man

In the realm of iconic American products, M&M’S is right there at the top, maybe next to Moxie (not!!). Seriously though, if you’ve ever been into candy, you’ve probably gone through an M&M’S phase. Is there anything better than a peanut M&M?

NPR, that bastion of journalistic integrity and investigative grit was digging deep this morning, when it provided an in-depth piece on why the bag of peanut butter M&M’S is lighter by a fraction than the bag of plain M&M’S. Inquiring minds were waiting for dirt on this one.

An iconic American candy product.

An iconic American candy product.

Continue reading

Know Your (Moxie) Audience

If you’re sick of me talking about Moxie, just plug your ears and go, “la-la-la-la-la.” It’s been awhile (two months) since I mentioned New England’s most iconic drink, and Maine’s official state soft drink.

Moxie as a subject has been a gift that’s given much more than I anticipated back in 2008 when I got the idea to pursue this intriguing subject. It seemed like a great follow-up to baseball. At the time, however, I never thought I’d sell out two printings and then, have Down East Books commission me to write a second book about this distinctly-different beverage. I certainly didn’t think I’d still be talking/writing about it five years later. Continue reading

Yellow submarines, Moxie, and Lobster Rolls

Saturday I headed down the coast. My traveling companion and better half, Miss Mary, was prepping for her third Tri for a Cure on Sunday. I was on my own.

I enjoy driving down coastal U.S. Route 1 towards places like Thomaston, Rockland, and even Camden, my final destination. Given that it was mid-July, and tourist season, I thought the traffic would be heavier than it was. I wasn’t complaining. Continue reading

Moxie Math

Moxie math and keeping the stories straight.

Moxie math and keeping the stories straight.

Moxie is a state of mind, or so I’ve been told numerous times. Apparently, it also has its own distinctly different system of computation. How else could this be the Moxie Festival’s 31st year, if 2008 was its 25th, or silver anniversary?

History is important to me and by extension, the history of Moxie is something I’ve paid particular attention to especially since 2008 when I wrote my first Moxie book, but really, since 2004, when I first signed on to provide PR and marketing support for the Moxie Committee that summer and the following year, too. Continue reading

This Week in Moxie

Moxie can

I drove through Lisbon Falls over the weekend. One week out from the town’s crowning celebration, the place looked like a ghost town. Save for a couple of banners strung up over Route 196, Lisbon Falls looked nothing like a place where 20,000+ people will flock to in order to celebrate a distinctly different New England soft drink called Moxie.

Moxie’s been on my mind the past few weeks as it often is during July, when Lisbon Falls again assumes its place as the epicenter of the Moxie universe for one weekend. Then, it will go back to being a community in obvious decline, much like it has for the past 30 years that Moxie’s been connected to the place. Continue reading