Dozier Smith T, member of the Opelika City Council and owner of Smith T Hardware, with a 100-year-old Coca-Cola mural he uncovered in his store in August 2014
Art Meripol Dozier Smith T, member of the Opelika City Council and owner of Smith T Hardware, with a 100-year-old Coca-Cola mural he uncovered in his store in August 2014

There are plenty of old lumberyards in this country, but how many contain an actual piece of history? Dozier Smith T's company, Smith T Building Supply, does—a vintage Coca-Cola advertisement from the early 1900s. Back in those days, the ad was on the outside of the building and faced railroad tracks.

Discovery
We were doing some remodeling on our store, and we took a wood panel off the wall. When we did, it exposed the words “five cents” on the bottom. We knew then that there was a sign there.

Careful Work
I was a little bit afraid when I first started chiseling away the plaster because I wasn’t sure if it was going to come off easily. But the paint kept the plaster from sticking, so it would come off in sheets. It took probably three hours. We uncovered the Coca-Cola logo in early June.

Find Anything Else?
When I moved a shelf, I found a friction tape box, Graybar’s Friction Tape brand. On the box, it says “war special.” It was a World War II friction tape box. The tape’s still in it—it’s pretty cool.

Family Ties
My grandfather, Winston Smith T Sr., was born here in 1903. He’s the one who started the store. Based on what we’ve determined from all of the documents that we’ve gotten, the sign was probably covered up with plaster back in about 1909. If that’s the case, then he probably saw it as a little boy because this store was only a few blocks away from his house.

Tourist Trap
The day after it hit the TV stations in Columbus, Ga., and Montgomery, Ala., we had a couple from about an hour and a half away, and another couple from about two and a half hours away show up just to look at the sign. People from all over are coming by to look at it. I might end up trying to sell some of that Coke stuff. There’s a market for it, I think.