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WATCH | ‘The Real Thing’: Coca-Cola’s Ballard celebrates 97th birthday

by James Leigh | March 11, 2023 at 4:04 a.m.
Albert “Dub” Ballard, who celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday, has been working for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. for over 20 years. The full-time merchandiser stocks Coke products at Walmart on Albert Pike, and he is not looking to retire anytime soon. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

At 97, Albert "Dub" Ballard still outworks many of his coworkers and is not looking to slow down anytime soon.

The 23-year veteran of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. stocks Coke products at the Walmart on Albert Pike, and according to General Manager Bruce Fikes, Ballard still outworks many of his coworkers, despite celebrating his 97th birthday Friday.

"When I first interviewed him, I felt like, he was 70-something or whatever," Fikes said. "Of course, I had seen him work. Hot Springs is not big, so you'd see him with Tom's Snacks filling the machines, rolling the dolly, and he's in his 70s. ... He can work circles around me."

Ballard said before his job at Coca-Cola, he worked for Tom's Snacks for two decades.

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"I worked for those people 20 years," he recalled. "The guy sold out, so I didn't have no job. I came up here and met Bruce, and he said, 'Come on.'"

The nonagenarian said he "got tired staying at home," which led to his job search over 20 years ago.

While many people much younger than Ballard look forward to retirement and spending time at home, that does not appeal to him.

"I just don't like staying home sitting on my front porch," he said.

Raised on a cotton farm in northeast Arkansas, Ballard moved to the Hot Springs area with his parents as a child. His sister married a man from Bismarck, and the entire family moved south.

Fikes said Ballard is "The Real Thing," referencing the longtime slogan for Coca-Cola.

"He's amazing to us," he said. "This is a family-owned business, so I think that has a lot to do with Dub and friends. It just means a lot to him to be able to work, and not to be silly, but he is 'the real thing.'

"I mean, he really is. I mean, I don't know of anybody in this organization that's ever had any cross word with him. He just works and just keeps on going, and we're proud to have him."

Longevity at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. is not uncommon, Fikes said.

"Like I said, it is a family business, and it's not so corporate," he said. "Coke is corporate, but being in a family business, and you're friends with everybody, and everybody's friends with you. So it makes a big difference in my mind for people to stick around.

"We probably have, in my mind, 12, 15 people that have been here 25, 30 years, some more. It's just a good place to be."

Ballard said even though he is over 30 years past retirement age, he is planning to keep working "as long as I can."

"We won't let him go either," Fikes said with a laugh. "I mean, it'll have to be a real war for him to get gone. He is one of a kind."

  photo  Albert "Dub" Ballard, second from left, who is a full-time employee at Coca-Cola Bottling Co., celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday. Many of his coworkers, including, from left, General Manager Bruce Fikes, Vice President Dee Anna Formby and Sales Manager Rick Stevens, consider him a bit of a local celebrity. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

Print Headline: WATCH | ‘The Real Thing’: Coca-Cola’s Ballard celebrates 97th birthday


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