WQED mobile
menu
close menu


- CHAPTER 1 -
Our great American imagination

unusualBuildings

CHAPTER 1 | CHAPTER 2 | CHAPTER 3 | CHAPTER 4 | CHAPTER 5 | CHAPTER 6 | CHAPTER 7 | CHAPTER 8 | CHAPTER 9 | CHAPTER 10 | CHAPTER 11 | CHAPTER 12 | CHAPTER 13 | CHAPTER 14 | CHAPTER 15 | CHAPTER 16 | CHAPTER 17 | CHAPTER 18

RICK Well, your attention might get grabbed if you’re driving in Illinois, just east of St Louis, where you may pass through this small town.

THOMAS Collinsville. This is the Midwest of the USA.

RICK It’s a town with an unusual old water tower that’s a great gimmick.

CHUCK The catsup bottle? Well, I think it’s a great landmark.

MIKE When you come to town and you’re looking for it, and you don’t see it, but when you get on 159, and you head just south out of downtown, you come down out of that hill, and it just rises up out of these trees, and it’s just a, just a sight to behold. We’ve had people tell us that it just takes their breath away first time they see it.

JUDY The first time I saw the catsup bottle, I was with this wonderful real estate agent who had shown me a thousand houses, and we’d drive in the driveway, and I’d go, “No, no.”

DOUG I was raised underneath the catsup bottle. Believe it or not.

JUDY And I almost killed myself getting out of the car. “What is it?! What is it!?” When I saw it, it was just, it was love at first sight.

MIKE What’s neat is a lot of kids like it from the time they grow up because what kid doesn’t like catsup, you know?

JUDY It was like sitting there, and I was going, “Why do you have that? Where did it come from? What it?” And she’s like, “Well, I believe we made ketchup, you know.” And they did. We had an old catsup factory here for years.

CHUCK I remember when they built that. I’ve lived here all my life virtually.

WILMA Well, I know a lot about it because I used to work there.

MIKE Right about time I was born, in the early 60s, is when the catsup factory actually shut down.

JUDY Everybody kept saying, “Oh, it needs to be painted, it needs to be painted, but actually when I found out that it was going to be torn down, I thought, “OK, that’s it. You know, maybe I didn’t grow up here, but you know somebody’s got to do something. And I had a background in architecture and historic preservation, and I ended up being the Catsup Bottle Lady.

DOUG Lot of volunteers brought the catsup bottle back to life, repainted it, and it’s just a roadside landmark.

MIKE Just by selling T-shirts and raising five, ten dollars at a time, raised eighty thousand dollars to get this thing “restored.”

JUDY The catsup bottle is something everybody wants to see because it is pretty funny, and it is one of a kind.

MIKE The design that’s on the catsup bottle now is the original label design that was on the catsup bottle when it was built in 1949.

RICK When the restoration was complete in 95, the Catsup Bottle Lady, Judy DeMoisy, who’s also Collinsville’s downtown manager, got together with this graphic designer named Mike Gassman…

MIKE Please pass the catsup.

RICK …(whom some call the Big Tomato) and they decided to keep promoting the old water tower every summer around the 4th of July with a festival.

MIKE This is the “The Downtown Collinsville World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Summerfest Birthday Party Custom & Classic Car Show Bash.” I think I got it all. And it’s the annual birthday celebration for the world’s largest catsup bottle.

THOMAS I follow the Catsup Bottle. (laughs)

DOUG This isn’t the big city. This is small town America.

MIKE And we have all kinds of things going on. First and foremost, we have the largest custom and classic car and truck show in the St Louis area.

THOMAS I did the last year’s show with the Catsup Bottle. So we heard about it this year, and I said I’m gonna make that show.

CHUCK I think it’s real great, and it’s great for Collinsville. Keeps people downtown and I think it’s great.

MIKE We do musical chairs, we have, we play a game called Pass The Catsup.

THOMAS And the kids and the family, they really love it, you know.

MIKE We have a hula hoop contest.

DOUG This is it. This is America. This is America.

MIKE We have a catsup-tasting contest.

DOUG We’re testing four major brands here: Brooks, Heinz, Red Gold and Hunt, and we’re seeing if they can pick it out, and see which one might be the “tangy-est.”

JUDY You travel all over the world, and you know something great when you see it. And that Catsup Bottle was just as impressive to me as the Eiffel Tower.

MIKE It appeals to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.

JUDY We did just get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places …

THOMAS I love the Catsup Bottle deal.

JUDY …as “mimetic architecture,” or something that mimics a product, so it has that status now.

DOUG I mean it’s part of our history. You know, you have to know where you’re from to know where you’re going.

JUDY That’s what the Catsup Bottle does for you. It gives you that total sense of place. You’re not in St Louis, you’re not at the Arch. You’re right there in good old Collinsville.

 

 


BEHIND THE SCENES | ORDER A DVD | READ THE TRANSCRIPT | PRESS CLIPPINGS
OTHER RICK SEBAK PROGRAMS

Produced by Rick Sebak and WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh

Made possible by Viewers Like You and CPB The Corporation for Public Broadcasting,
a private corporation funded by the American people.

 

featured specials

  • Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black
    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
  • Classical Crossroads
    Where classical music crosses paths with rock and roll, world music, folk music and jazz. Listen to interviews with people who make good music here.

featured specials

  • Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black
    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
  • Classical Crossroads
    Where classical music crosses paths with rock and roll, world music, folk music and jazz. Listen to interviews with people who make good music here.

featured specials