News From Terre Haute, Indiana

History

January 25, 2014

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Hitchhiker hits it big at World’s Fair

TERRE HAUTE — In 1933, Wayne Marr, a young man living on a farm near Paris, Ill., embarked on an excellent adventure. He hitchhiked to Chicago to take in the technological wonders on display at the Century of Progress World’s Fair. He enjoyed it so much that he applied for employment the following spring and was one of 140 individuals chosen from over a thousand applicants.

Marr began his job of selling bottles of Coca-Cola and orange drink in May, and finished in September when the exhibition closed. Working in a booth at the International Building site, he iced down 100 cases of soft drinks every day and sold them at five cents a bottle. He made seven cents for each case he sold and could earn seven dollars a day if he sold them all. During the Depression, that was good pay. He also made the thrifty move of staying at the YWCA.

On Kids’ Day, Marr sold all 100 cases by 1 p.m. and had to close for the day. His banner sales week was during the Fourth of July, when he earned $84.

After his summer of selling Coca-Cola, Marr had a career as a railroad engineer and retired from Penn Central. He resided in Terre Haute with his wife Thelma, and passed away in 2005.

Marr must have had pleasant memories of selling Coca-Cola at the World’s Fair. In 1995, he donated several mementos from his adventure to the Vigo County Historical Museum. Among them are a white shirt and jacket with red binding and the Coca-Cola signature, a white cap, his ID card and one ticket to the fair. These items, with photographs of the young Marr dispensing Cokes and smiles as he waited on customers at his booth, are on display in the Vigo County Historical Museum’s extensive collection of Coca-Cola items located on the main floor.

 

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