Long before Corona became the name of a deadly virus. it was familiar in the branding of one of the world’s best-selling beers, and before that – especially to people of my generation – of a hugely popular make of soft drinks. These were always called ‘pop’ – a name that has gone, along with the product.

The history of Corona pop is easily discoverable on-line and easy to summarise. Begun in the 1880s by two enterprising Rhondda grocers, William Evans and William Thomas, the company aimed through its products to wean Welsh miners off their raging thirst for beer. (They didn’t quite succeed.)

By the 1920s, when the Corona name was introduced, the company’s soft drinks were being delivered to homes throughout Wales.They came in glass bottles with a marble stopper, an invention of the American Hiram Codd (hence ‘Codd bottles’). I possess one from the Eynsham firm Blake and Co, particularly known for their ginger beer.

The value of the bottles was such that from the earliest days Evans and Thomas instituted a system of rewards for their safe return to shops – any that sold the product, which most grocers did – or to the men on weekly home deliveries.

During my 1950s childhood, by which time Corona had hundreds of lorries operating throughout the country, this was an important source of extra pocket money.

Relying on my often faulty memory, the sum involved was three old pence a bottle, a little more than one of the new-fangled ‘pee’ introduced with decimalisation. (By the 1980s, when the system was petering out, the bounty was 10p.)

Return of the bottles emptied at home – those containing dandelion and burdock and ice-cream soda flavours were particularly popular – was generally made to the delivery man, with the money offsetting the cost of the next purchases.

Enterprise came in the scouring of the neighbourhood in search of other (clearly more affluent) people’s discarded bottles.

The money from one was enough, at 3d in the early 1960s, for a packet of the new cheese and onion crisps from Golden Wonder. Much more interesting than Smiths, with salt in a twist of blue paper.

It is often said that flavoured crisps were Golden Wonder’s invention – indeed, I saw it said again a few months ago when I read Jonathan Meades’s An Encyclopedia of Myself.

He refers to the sighting, in 1961, of a woman lifting from her car “several boxes marked with Smiths Crisps’ logo”. The reader is then directed to a footnote: “Smiths hegemony was near its end. Golden Wonder introduced the UK’s first flavoured crisps – cheese and onion – the next year, 1962, and by the end of the year had become the market leader.”

This statement is incorrect, since I was eating cheese and onion crisps (and, indeed, other flavours), made by the Leicestershire company AGM, in the late 1950s.

Flavoured crisps had, in fact, been the invention of Irish manufacturer Tayto (prop. Joe Murphy) in 1954. Cheese and onion and salt and vinegar were the first varieties.

Meades implies that Golden Wonder’s flavourings were the reason for its market superiority. As one who lived – and munched – through the period, I would say it had much more to do with price.

Smiths charged 4d a bag. Golden Wonder entered the market with a 3d price tag – and maintained it – for a pack of precisely the same size. Nuff said.

It would have been around this time that Corona soft drinks decided to drop its metal clip and porcelain stoppers, in use for so long, and screw caps came in.

The revival of the swing-top caps by the Dutch brewery Grolsch helped its lager’s popularity when exports to Britain began in the 1980s. Drinkers like me enjoyed the nostalgia, though naturally I would never drink (as many did) straight from the bottle.

This of course means I have never drunk Corona beer in approved fashion, with a slice of lime or lemon in the bottle neck.

It has been said that the coronavirus has made the brand name unpopular, leading to a sales slump (the same was said of Vat 69 whisky when VAT came in). There has indeed been a sharp decline in Corona sales, but the reason is that hardly anyone in one major market, China, is going out to drink it.