Updated: Dec 29, 2022
For those who grew up in the Kootenays before 1950, the word Gassosa must be intensely nostalgic. It means soda in Italian and was the name of a Trail soft drink company that operated in the Gulch.
According to the book Trail of Memories, company founder Dominic Daloise came to Canada from Italy in 1904. He initially worked for the CPR in South Slocan, but soon transferred to Trail, and then spent several years at the smelter until his fellow Italian workers chose him to manage a co-op store. In 1916, he went to work in T. Lauriente & Sons grocery store, operated by his father-in-law.
Daloise returned to Italy in 1922 following his mother’s death, and there saw the manufacturing of soft drinks. Although he intended to stay in Italy with his family, Daloise received a letter from his father-in-law offering to sell him his grocery business. Daloise agreed and returned to Trail the following year, but had the idea to supplement the business with a new soda works.
The Gassosa Co. Ltd. was incorporated on March 19, 1924 to “carry on the business of manufacturers of and dealers in or agents for any or all kinds of soda-water, ginger-beer, root-beer, gassosa, and any or all other kinds of soft drinks.” It was capitalized at $20,000 and operated out of the back of Lauriente’s store.
According to retired Gulch merchant Larry Pagnan, who has the original bill of lading, the bottling equipment was purchased in Italy. By one account, Daloise also ordered his bottles from Italy, but Pagnan thinks this unlikely.
Gassosa’s products were memorable because of their Codd-style bottles — which had a marble and washer in the neck. As Shirley Stainton recalled in her posthumously-published memoir Children of the Kootenays:
The first time I remember seeing or drinking pop was at Calder’s store [in Camborne]. It was called “Gassosa.” My little friend Jean Boyter called it Gassola … The pop was in a strange glass bottle with a bulge at the top that held a marble to seal the bottle. I presumed the glass ball was pushed up by all the gas bubbles inside and sealed in the liquid pop; however, it was a mystery to us children. To be able to drink the pop, we had to get the marble loose to break the seal. We did this by pushing the margin in with a finger or hitting the top of the marble with a stick, then the marble would sink inside the bottle. We called this “popping the marble” because the bottle would make a popping sound when the gas pressure was released. I later found out that this strange glass bottle is called a Codd bottle. Sometimes the boys would not return the bottles to Calder’s store. Instead they would break the bottles to get the marbles out for playing shooting games with them.
Gassosa was not the first to use Codd-neck bottles, but appears to have been the only one doing so in the West Kootenay. (Such bottles are still used in Japan and India.)
Trail of Memories says Len Doubleday passed by the pop works one day, where Daloise was struggling to seal them: “It was tricky to get the bottles full enough and with just enough carbon dioxide to keep the marble tight. Mr. Daloise was having trouble with this, and Len helped him solve this problem, as this same type of bottle had been used in the Doubleday factory in England.”
This bottle was found in the sump pit in the basement of the old Gassosa factory at 328 Rossland Ave. about 20 years ago by the owner of Star Grocery. Therefore it has a verified provenance as one of the actual ones used by Gassosa ca. 1924-35. One side is blank for attaching a label and the other has the Codd patent info. Gassossa reportedly did not use a label, but rather had an inked red G on the side. (Courtesy Ed Mannings)
The BC Archives has the corporate file for the Gassosa Co. Ltd. from 1924-26. The whole thing is embedded below, but to summarize, the original directors were Domenic Daloise (store clerk), Domenico Orlando (smelterman), and Vicenzo Orlando (smelterman). The first two held 1,500 shares while the last named held 250. The other two shareholders were Antonio Lauriente (merchant) with 1,500 and Angelina Daloise (housewife) with 250. Each share was $1.
The corporate office was given as Block 32, Lot 10, which is now 908 Rossland Avenue and corresponds to the former Trail Meat Market, which is still standing in much altered form as Interior Signs among other businesses.
By 1925, Daloise was running the former Lauriente Grocery in partnership with Joe LeRose and Dominic Orlando. It was now known as D. Daloise & Co. The 1926 annual report of the Gassosa Co. Ltd. showed Dominic Daloise as president, Joe LeRose as secretary, and Dominic Orlando as director. LeRose, a smelterman, now had 1,500 shares, transferred from Antonio Lauriente.
Running both the grocery store and bottling works became too much, however, and Daloise sold the Gassosa business in 1928 to Joe LeRose’s nephew, Annunziato LeRose. A recent emigre, Annunziato had been working at the smelter, but a foot injury forced him to look for another job. He began making pop in his uncle’s basement.
In 1928, the company received a letter warning they had gone two years without filing an annual report, and were liable to be struck from the corporate register, which is presumably what happened.
Annunziato moved Gassosa to 328 Rossland Ave., in part of the building later home to Star Grocery. BC Assessment says the building was constructed in 1935. The company first shows up at that address in the civic directory two years later. It was reincorporated in 1936 as Gassosa Co. Ltd., capitalized at $10,000.
328 Rossland Avenue (Google Street View)
According to Trail of Memories, brothers Ron and Gord Gattafoni felt lucky to live next door, for “the likeable Mr. LeRose … on occasion was generous with a bottle of soda pop, noting that [their] father (Joseph) would soon be making all the cases that the pop would be sold in.”
After 1943, Teresa (Terry) Audia, was employed both bottling pop and looking after the office.
The only contemporary mention of the business I can find is in The Vancouver Sun of Jan. 16, 1937, in a feature on Trail businesses. It suggests Mose Agostinelli was by then a co-owner (he was listed in the civic directory that year as a bottler). However, Larry Pagnan finds this doubtful. He says Mose was unlikely to have brought any money to a partnership.
Annunziato sold the business around 1948 to Primo Fantin, and it became Seven-Up (Trail) Ltd. Fantin worked with his brother-in-law, Giosue (Joe) Volpatti, but the work took a heavy toll on Joe, who developed high blood pressure and died in 1953 at age 47. The business was sold to Mike Molina and his brother-in-law Joe Biagoni.
As of 1953, 328 Rossland Avenue was shown in the civic directory as vacant. Seven-Up had moved to 2950 Highway Drive in Glenmerry under the management of Biagoni. It was later known as Kootenay Soft Drinks and lasted under that name until about 1987. The building still stands as the Selkirk Technology Access Centre. BC Assessment indicates it was built in 1948.
Amerigo Corrado is seen with two different varieties of Gassosa-brand pop. Cominco Magazine, March 1947
Shirley Stainton’s memoir quoted above reveals that Gassosa products got to the remote northeast arm of Upper Arrow Lake in the 1930s. Tom Lymbery says they also supplied his family’s Gray Creek Store.
Gassosa bottles in the Trail Museum
Gassosa bottles in the Stan Sherstobitoff collection — including an unopened one.
Gassosa Company Ltd. billhead, Stan Sherstobitoff collection
Gassosa billhead from the Stan Sherstobitoff collection, following the sale of the Gassosa to Primo Fantin, under whom it became Seven-Up (Trail) Ltd.
— With thanks to Larry Pagnan, Stan Sherstobitoff, and Ed Mannings.
Updated Nov. 20, 2018 with the 1937 newspaper clipping. Updated Sept. 13, 2019 with the museum photo. Updated Nov. 27, 2019 with the billhead and bottle photos from Stan Sherstobitoff. Updated May 10, 2021 with further details from Larry Pagnan. Updated on April 17, 2022 with photos of the Codd bottle from Ed Mannings. Updated on Dec. 29, 2022 to add the corporate file.