Over the past weekend I had the pleasure to meet Dina Benadon and Brent Young, owners of the 1893 house that Walt and Roy Disney were born in. They bought the place on Tripp Avenue and Palmer Street in Chicago and are now in the process of restoring the home to its original state – turning Walt Disney’s birthplace a landmark and probably a tourist attraction.
The home was actually built by Disney’s father, Elias, and much of the original wood, nails and cement used in 1893 are still there! Benadon and Young are also reviving another of Elias Disney’s creations – O-Zell Soda!
In an effort to profit from the forthcoming prohibition movement. Elias Disney teamed with dubious businessman Ernest Scrogin to create the O-Zell Company to manufacture and market a carbonated “Oriental Fruit Beverage,” which they hoped would soon take America by storm.
For three years, Elias awaited shipment of the first bottles of his investment to arrive. Nothing. In 1916 the company did yield a line of Jellies and Jams… but Elias was swindled. The full story can be read here.
Young Walt “took a job on the O-Zell factory floor, washing jelly jars, pulping apples, and packing cartons. By the end of 1918, however, he dusted out to drive ambulances for the Red Cross in France.”
The O-Zell Company was gone by 1920 – but a few years ago Benadon and Young decided to revive the name – bought the rights from whoever – and have just started making new soda (sold in bottles), all proceeds going to restoring and preserving Walt Disney’s Birthplace home in Chicago, IL!
So now it’s back (or here for the first time – I’m not sure if the sodas were ever really produced in the teens) – and the good news: it tastes pretty great! So far, they are just selling Root Beer and Vanilla Cream flavored sodas… with plans for many more. The website is pretty nifty too – with a great Sherman Brothers-esque theme song.
Word of advice: Disneyland should be selling this on Main Street – and Oswald The Lucky Rabbit should be the mascot on the label. Oswald, Ozzie, O-Zell? Makes sense to me.
So forget about Donald Duck Cola, your Orange Julius or Laugh-O-Gram Liqueurs – O-Zell is the true drink of Disney-holics everywhere!
End of plug!