A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 09, 2008
Suicide Soda (Suicide Coke; Graveyard Soda; Swamp Water; Shipwreck; Hurricane; Tornado)

A “suicide” or “suicide soda” (also called “suicide Coke,” “graveyard soda,” “swamp water,” “shipwreck,” “hurricane,” and “tornado") is a soda ("Coke") with many different flavors mixed in. Most people think it tastes awful, but it’s an adventure that some have had at soda fountains a few times.

The origin of the “suicide” drink is unknown, but it was served in Texas by at least the 1950s. “Swamp water” appears to be a Canadian term for the “suicide.” According to some citations below, the “suicide” drink in the Houston area was also called a “shipwreck,” a “hurricane,” and a “tornado.”


25 April 1954, Paris (TX) News, part II, pg. 7, cols. 2-3:
A “Suicide Coke” is not what a budding young Lothario would order when his best girl has turned him down. Seems he doesn’t really know what he wants and this is just the best way to get some of all.

“We just go down the fountain, squirting some of all for a Suicide,” the fountain girl explained.

The other day about a six or seven-year-old walked up and took his place at the fountain. He ordered a Suicide Coke, but not without asking if the clerk knew what it meant. She did.

The clerk nearby smiled knowingly and turned to another customer to tell about the two who had Suicide Cokes and ended up at the doctor’s office.

About that time, only half through, the lad hopped off the stool and said:

“I really didn’t want all of it anyway.”

4 February 1956, Uniontown (PA) Evening Standard, pg. 4, col. 5:
One Uniontown mother said it was something like the “Suicide Drink” kids were getting here about a year ago. The soda jerk would go along the line with a sample of each syrup and mixture going into the dish.

(And we’re told there were actually those who kept coming back for more.)

5 September 1958, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. 17, col. 5:
When a real hep cat and his swingin’ chick buzz their favorite pop stop, they can choose from a large array of concoctions that Mom and Dad never heard of.

These include Dr. Jekyl’s Delight, Suicide, Wild Waco, Purple People Eater, Sour Grape, and Wild L. O.

15 January 1961, Paris (TX) News, pg. 9, col. 1:
Some of the fondest memories of a great many high-schoolers were called upon by the closing down of “Boedeckers,” or Carnation Ice Cream across the street from the school. Gone are the days of crying about a failure over a suicide Coke.

10 September 1972, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, “Oldtime Flavor Found in Gladbrook Soda Fountain” by Permelia Robinson Lay, pg. 7B, cols. 1-2:
The Skejskal purchased their store in 1939.  At that time you could buy a Coke for a nickel, but that size is 10 cents now. Today they feature Cokes in the following flavors: Plain, lemon, cherry-lemon, strawberry, pineapple, root beer and lime (Green River).

Just what is a “Suicide Coke”? Mrs. Stejskal was asked. “Many years back some children at the fountain begged me to mix a Coke using a little bit of every flavor we have,” she replied. “I tried to talk them out of it. I said, ‘That would be suicide to mix up a mess like that.’

“But having taught school for six years, I was easily persuaded to oblige the young customers. Shortly after that they brought back several friends to try a ‘Suicide Coke’.

“Many are the times I wish I had never given in to the whims of these young customers, but we are still featuring ‘Suicide Cokes’. Naturally, they take longer to make since it’s necessary to punch six or seven pumps instead of one or two,” Mrs. Stejskal said.
(...)
Mrs. Stejskal believes her young customers are her best advertisers and thinks they have asked for the special type of Cokes elsewhere, because she has had phone calls asking what a “Suicide Coke” is. She is certain they have the only fountain which makes these, because they are so time-consuming.

10 December 1986, Daily News of Los Angeles (CA):
“We had suicide Cokes,” she said laughing while describing the concoction mixed with various soda pop flavors.

9 September 1989, Kerrville (TX) Mountain Sun, “Fountain brings back memories of those good ol’ ice cream sodas” by Jeanne Edmonds, pg. 2, col. 2:
Do you dream of a large suicide Coke? (For those who haven’t lived yet, that’s a Coke with a squirt of almost any flavoring in it—chocolate, vanilla, you name it.)

Google Groups: rec.arts.tv
Newsgroups: rec.arts.tv
From: giles@pollux ("Who...Me?")
Date: 30 Jun 1994 17:14:23 GMT
Local: Thurs, Jun 30 1994 1:14 pm
Subject: Re: OK Cola Commercial

:It’s made by Coca-Cola and is supposed to be a combination of several soft drinks.

Jeezsh! We used to do that when I was a little kid whenever we found a self serve soda fountain...called it Suicide Soda ( Or HorsePiss...hey, 12yr.olds are amused by the darnedest things...). I guess some Coke exec. saw his kids mixing drinks at the local Pizza joint and figured they were close enough to X’ers to make a product source....what a joke.

Google Groups: alt.fan.dr-bronner
Newsgroups: alt.fan.dr-bronner
From: (Cat Yron)
Date: 7 Sep 1994 11:05:02 -0400
Local: Wed, Sep 7 1994 11:05 am
Subject: Re: oksoda

Nick Moffitt writes:
{OK soda is a “graveyard” meaning it is equal parts of every soft drink Coca-Cola ever made}

The term “graveyard soda” reminds me of a similar phrase, “Suicide Coke.”

When i was a kid, my parents briefly left the paradise of Berkeley for the hellholes of Santa Monica, where my misguided Evil Step-father decided he wanted to run a restaurant. He bought a Greek lunch spot called The Chicken Nest, on Pico Blvd., and learned how to make foods fried in lard. The soon-to-be-former-owner, before taking his money and running (back to his Agean village) told my Evil Step-father that he had to keep all the waitresses and the bus boy working, and thus i met Bobby the Bus Boy. Bobby was only 14, but he was tall and he had been working there since he
was 12, in violation of child labor laws, but this was considered fine because “his mother is blind.” He came in every day after school and washed dishes and flirted with girls his age, while i, a mere 8 year old, watched enviously.

Every day, Bobby threatened to make something he called a “Suicide Coke” and drink it while i watched. I had no idea what it was, but he really had me going. I wanted to try it too. One day, when the girls were not there flirting with him, he concocted this drink. It consisted of one squirt from every one of the fountain syrups (Coke, Cherry, Pineapple, Orange, Lemon, Chocolate) mixed with soda water, into which a scoop of vanilla ice cream was dumped, the whole topped off with whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a maraschino cherry. In short, a “Suicide Coke” consisted of one part
everything in the fountain.

It wasn’t bad...but it wasn’t good either.

Is this what OK Soda tastes like?

30 October 1994, Wichita (KS) Eagle, pg. 3E:
And the bravest of all soda eaters orders something called a suicide soda, which is a mixture of all flavors. 

19 May 1995, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, pg. 1A:
The result is a TV equivalent of the adolescent-loved “suicide soda”—a combination of all the soft-drink flavors from a self-serve fountain.

Google Groups: houston.eats
Newsgroups: houston.eats
From: (Jack Tyler)
Date: 22 May 2002 09:57:29 -0700
Local: Wed, May 22 2002 12:57 pm
Subject: Re: Vanilla Coke

> What you called garbage cokes we called suicide cokes!  (Kinda the same
> principle of “soda fountains” - just getting every flavor in the same cub.

In the 1950’s, growing up in Shoreacres, the closest soda fountain was at the corner drugstore in LaPorte.  We called it a “shipwreck” when it had all flavors of syrup in it. 

GOogle Groups: houston.eats
Newsgroups: houston.eats
From: “Sharon Amabile”
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 14:40:28 -0500
Local: Wed, May 22 2002 3:40 pm
Subject: Re: Vanilla Coke

It was called a suicide soda at the counter at Lang’s Pharmacy on Park Place in the early 1960s.  I did not like it then and I do not like it now.

Google Groups: rec.pets.dogs.behavior
Newsgroups: rec.pets.dogs.behavior
From: shelly
Date: Sat, 07 Jun 2003 17:17:54 -0500
Local: Sat, Jun 7 2003 6:17 pm
Subject: Re: OT ATTN: Chad and Marcel

>I was inspired by you at a soda fountain
>one day and mixed Code Red with Pepsi. Nummy.

excellent!  i loved mixing sodapopcokes when i was a kid.  we called it suicide soda. 

at work we’ve got a cafeteria downstairs, complete with self-serve soda. i usually mix regular Mt. Dew with red sodapopcoke.  it’s tasty.

23 December 2003, Southern Illinoisan:
One of the recipes is “Suicide Soda,” a memorable treat at the old Orpheum Theater. 

Ask MetaFilter
Mixed Soda Name?
April 25, 2007 9:10 PM
What do you call the drink that results from mixing a little bit of every drink in a fountain machine at a restaurant/similar establishment?

If you have a specific name for it, where and when do you remember first hearing it?
posted by comwiz to food & drink
(...)
In my childhood (Washington, DC, late70s - 80s) the only name I heard for this vile creation was a “Suicide”
posted by toxic at 9:13 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Wikipedia says, without citation:
A beverage made by mixing many soft drinks together, usually from a soda fountain, is variously known as a suicide, graveyard, sewage, pop bomb, swamp water, tornado, kamikaze, garbage soda, hurricane, or atomic bomb.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:18 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
We called it Suicide in the early-mid-’80s, in the suburban Midwest. I mainly remember drinking it from those tall, red plastic glasses you’d only see at pizza places, which also always had plastic checkered red-and-white tablecloths.
posted by lisa g at 9:19 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Swamp water. And as an aside, Mountain Dew was always ‘Panther Piss’.
posted by maxpower at 9:24 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Swamp Water, British Columbia, 70s, 80s. Believe my parents also used this term when growing up.
posted by acoutu at 9:25 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
My kids called ‘em Suicides. Their kids call ‘em Suicides. My great grandkids seem destined to call them the same.
posted by paulsc at 9:28 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Suicide, late 80’s, Southern California. I heard it from the friend who introduced me to the recipe.
posted by contraption at 9:29 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Another Swamp Water, Manitoba, late 80’s to early 90’s. First heard upon visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s after learning of their DIY soft drink fountain. This was completely unheard of at the time, for me. Heck, this was before free refills at McDonald’s!
posted by utsutsu at 9:30 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Another vote for “Suicide.” The boys in my circle would make a game out of seeing how much they could drink of the concoction, they sometimes added salt or Tabasco to the vile brew as well.
posted by snowleopard at 9:30 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
“Suicide drink”, southern California growing up in the early-to-mid-90s.

One time, we took a few more liberties with our suicide drink than were appropriate (I don’t remember what was in there, but there were several things that weren’t sodas, and I want to say some leaves from the yard) and mixed it up in a Pepsi can, and my friend’s mom drank a sip of it because we left it lying around after we were done playing around. Barfing ensued, and she refused to believe we hadn’t premeditated it. Oh, memories.
posted by crinklebat at 9:30 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Swamp water, in suburban Minneapolis in the 80s. Learned the technique and the term from my dad. Yum!
posted by vytae at 9:30 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Suicide, eastern NM in the late 80s. Learned it at the roller skating rink.
posted by sugarfish at 9:31 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Suicide too - New England in the 90s.
posted by cajo at 9:31 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
A graveyard. I was so young I can’t remember when I first heard it. We also used graveyard to describe a snowcone made with every flavor of syrup.
posted by peep at 9:33 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Suicide, mid-80’s, north central Texas.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:33 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
At BLT Burger in NYC it’s called a “Pop Bomb”.
posted by nicwolff at 10:03 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
Hmm, we called it a “Purple Dragon,” circa 1990, northern California.
posted by blahtsk at 10:59 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
I seem to recall it being ‘jungle juice’ around here.

(Related aside: when we got old enough to raid the folks liquor cabinet, our desire to take little enough that it wouldn’t be noticed necessitated taking a little from several bottles, the resulting concoction was called ‘rocket fuel’. Really taught me to hate gin.)
posted by The Monkey at 11:58 PM on April 25, 2007
(...)
On the snow cones sold by the PTA at my El Paso, Texas, school in the ‘80s, this was a ‘rainbow’. But my dad (b. 1954, raised in Utah) heard us describe said delicacy and said, ‘Suicide’, and this is the term I use at the soda fountain now.

But it’s only a suicide if it has every drink you can get in it. Otherwise it’s just knowing what you like.

And brujita: ‘Sneezy Crofu’ definitely gets my nomination for this month’s Best Metafilter Band Name.
posted by eritain at 3:07 AM on April 26, 2007
(...)
According to google, we all now have our online identities associatated with suicide. Just think what CNN would do with that.

In any case, Texas, mid- 70’s it was called a suicide.
posted by michswiss at 5:25 AM on April 26, 2007
(...)
Suicide, southern Texas, 1980s.

I wish someone would compile all this data into a handy graphic.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:47 AM on April 26, 2007
(...)
Suicide. Northeast Texas, mid to late seventies and early eighties.
posted by bradth27 at 7:14 AM on April 26, 2007
(...)
We called it tornado or hurricane in Houston/southeast Texas in the late 80s/early 90s.
posted by katemonster at 10:29 AM on April 26, 2007

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, June 09, 2008 • Permalink