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Hi folks, Al here, with the sordid details about our Old Croak mascot.

He started life as a flask of maple syrup from Reynolds Sugar Bush, purchased on a trip by myself to the Winnipeg Folk festival back in the 1970s. After the syrup was used up, the bottle became a whiskey flask. Well-used, I must say, travelling the north country with the band.

Since the old label was wearing away, I figured I’d just get some more syrup. Seems they don’t sell these joke bottles any more around here, so I started looking on the web for one. It turns out that there were a whole slew of these silly labels used not only on maple syrup, but for honey and as bar lamps, coasters, salt & pepper shakers, and mini bottles of fake whiskey. A whole new world of corny comedy!

They were originally put out by the Par Beverage Company of Cincinnati, sold as novelties through Stucky’s restaurants as little bottles of sugar-water, and the product of the fertile mind of one Nelson Ronsheim.

Ronsheim was self-employed as a commercial artist in Cincinnati and wrote and designed these gag bottles. He was also a black & white photographer of note whose work was hung in galleries across the country in the late 30’s and early 40’s.

There’s an e-mail from Ronsheim’s grandson on our letters page.

In the course of this I have obtained a set of coasters (we use them at practice), some mini-bottles, several gummed labels and a couple of Old Grand-Gag syrup flasks. And we are still using our original Old Croak flask…so if you happen to find one somewhere, send us an email.