Coming May 10th to the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society is Dr. David Farst, retired veterinarian of Arcanum, is to present at AWTHS. Dr. Farst graduated from Ohio State University School of veterinary medicine. The presentation will take place at 123 W. George Street from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
The AWTHS held their annual election of officers recently the following will serve for 2018: President, Jenny Quigney; Fred Troutwine, Vice President, Jerry Kramer, Treasurer; Connie Norris; Recording and Correspondence Secretary. The Directors are Keith Furlong, Dave Flora, Larry Wallace, Dick Troutwine, Bill Metzgar, and Joyce Colville.
From the most recent AWTHS Newsletter, “Sharing the Secret” here are some interesting historical facts about the Blevins Popcorn Company that I thought you might like to learn about. It’s like a walk down memory lane.
The Blevins Popcorn Company of Knoxville, Tennessee purchased the Arcanum business, Ohio Popcorn Company, from Louis Harris in August of 1948. Louis had managed Valentine Tidswell & Son Popcorn Company at the same site during the 10 months the popcorn company was in operation. Owned by Valentine Tidswell and Katherine Harris, Louis became president and owner in 1946 changing the name to Ohio Popcorn Company. James Victor Blevins liked to be known as the Popcorn King after he began to market his own version of the snack to movie and grocery chains in the 1940’s. While working as a food broker he realized how demand for popcorn was surging along with movie audiences and that it was in short supply. Blevins founded the Blevins Popcorn Company in Nashville in 1945. He developed a fluffier, tastier hybrid corn as well as a buttery but low-fat seasoning. Besides selling wholesale he started selling retail.
Timeline for the Arcanum branch of the Blevins Popcorn Company begins in 1948 at the corner of High and South Streets in downtown Arcanum known as Popcorn Square. (I had never heard of this before? Has anyone else?) One can imagine three factors played into the decision to purchase the Arcanum company: 1) The Arcanum company was already contracting with area farmers to grow popcorn; 2) The factory was near the railroad line necessary for shipment; and 3) Darke County’s fertile ground, “a good corn growing area”. Blevins began immediately upgrading the machinery to process the corn by Blevins’ patented methods. Plans were for Arcanum to also be a distribution center for the company’s products; seasonings, boxes, peanuts, and more. New storage facilities were built to handle the additional corn planted. Contracts were made with each of the farmers in the fall for the amount of corn to be planted and for the price to be paid at harvest time.
Then disaster struck. Per the Arcanum Times, September 10, 1953 issue Blevins Popcorn Co. was gutted by Fire (7 South High Street). The Blevins Popcorn Company High and South Streets were destroyed by fire Wednesday morning the fire starting in the warehouse, where the drying and processing plant is located. — The office and rooms directly in the rear of the building were burned. Contents of the office were saved. —- The cribs were not touched by the fire and the Blevins Company will take in crops from farmers in this area. Arcanum Times, January 4, 1962 Blevins Plans New Plant at Arcanum ( Pops- Rite Lane) Construction of a new modern processing plant at the south edge of Arcanum is part of the 1962 expansion program for the Blevins Popcorn Company. — The new plant will be adjacent to the company’s 11 concrete silos at the south edge of the village, with total employment upon completion expected to be 25 people. Since the 1953 fire, the Arcanum office has handled purchasing, storage and warehousing of popcorn, a large amount of this supply is exported overseas. At the new one-story plant, the popcorn will be shelled, cleaned, graded and packaged through the use of modern equipment.
According to Mrs. Dorothy Catlett, office manager of the Arcanum branch an another article printed in the Arcanum Times on March 12, 1964— Blevins Begins Assembly Line – Mr. Ralph Bromagem of the Blevins Popcorn Factory has informed the paper they have started a new line of canning popcorn in 10 lb. cans. The factory has already shipped 3 carloads of the 10 pound cans and is shipping 6 more carloads as soon as possible. These carloads of popcorn go overseas. In the 3 carloads shipped there were 10,640 cans. Deanna Robertson Wuttke, daughter of office manager, Dorothy Robertson Catlett remembers how busy her mother was after harvest getting local farmers to contract to grow popcorn and again just before spring planting supplying them with the seeds. She remembers riding with John Smith when he made deliveries to swimming pools and other businesses. Mrs. Catlett worked for Blevins in Nashville; she came to Arcanum with her girls when Blevins bought the Arcanum factory. Dorothy remembers every four years at the time of the presidential election Blevins some way marked the small popcorn bags so they could predicted the outcome of the presidential election by the number of bags select when people bought their popcorn at the movies, etc.
One of the many farmers in Darke County who planted for Blevins was the John Smith family. Jed Smith remembers the tremendous amount of corn that his father, John and his brothers’ planted each spring. Blevins was very particular about how the corn was handled when harvested; they didn’t want the kernels damaged. It wasn’t until around 1976 when the Smiths purchased a new combine that Blevins would allow them to shell the corn as it was harvested.
Who remembers the Popcorn Festivals? Remember the go-cart races that were held downtown, the pony rides, fish ponds, bike races, cake walks, and greased pig chase? How about the chicken BBQ dinners in Ivester Park? There was always a parade, a King and Queen Contest, helicopter rides – and of course popcorn. I also remember selling Blevins popcorn every year for A# Club to support the band and choirs. Lots of memories of our little town to recall and share with the next generation. Interesting that now that building holds are city offices for the time being and also another new(er) manufacturing business American Clothing Company
Vickie Rhodehamel is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her Arcanum community column. She can be reached by calling 937-692-6188, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.