Column: Popcorn! Get your hot, freshly popped, buttered popcorn!“Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?” The answer is, “No. Zombies eat their popcorn first.” This got me thinking about popcorn.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Zombies have been very big through recent years.
Well — I mean — zombies are the same size they ever were, but zombie stories are attracting big audiences. There are zombie movies, film thrillers about living corpses. There are zombie video games. I believe there are zombie television shows. There are zombie books. Best sellers. “The Zombie Survival Guide.” Zombies eat flesh.
A nephew’s daughter posed a question:
“Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?”
The answer is, “No. Zombies eat their popcorn first.”
This got me thinking about popcorn. Popcorn is part of our lives across southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. There probably are people all across America who eat as much popcorn as we do, but I think no one eats more.
I remember stories — oh, this would be the 1920s, 1930s — Mrs. Julian lived at 1314 Third Ave. On Saturday nights when the town band played on the courthouse lawn and cars were parked double along 10th Street and people stepped off curbs to get around crowds on the sidewalk — on such a night Mrs. Julian would roll out her popcorn wagon and park at the intersection of Third Avenue and 10th Street. She could scarcely pop corn fast enough to meet the demand. Five cents a bag.
In a later time, there was a closet-size building on the west side of 10th Street, across from what then was Montgomery Ward — across from BenLee’s.
Helen (Mrs. George) Rockwood, decked out with bangles and earrings, used to press inside opposite her popcorn machine and fill bags and boxes with popcorn until nine or 10 at night. In later years Joe Heger was there, and then his sister, Julia Cunningham. Joe, who wore a white apron and a tall white chef’s cap, used to say, “Some days I do more business than Montgomery Ward and Meier Brothers (pool hall) put together.” It was a joke; he was talking about Sundays and holidays.
Most of all, if you talk popcorn in Worthington, there was Janet Petersen. Janet had a popcorn stand/corn popper mounted on the chassis of a vintage truck. Janet Petersen parked on fair weather evenings in a stall near what today is Mick’s Repair. She rolled her rig to Chautauqua Park band concerts and the Nobles County Fair. She was on hand for every Turkey Day. Locally, Janet was famous. Worthington knew her as the Popcorn Lady.
To this day popcorn is popular in Worthington. Residents make special trips to Bank of the West on Friday mornings to pick up a free bag of corn at the bank’s popcorn machine. Some stop at Northland Cinema 5 just for popcorn. Well — popcorn with butter.
I was at Shaller, Iowa, not far from Storm Lake, oh, a hundred years ago. At that time Shaller (population 779) was Popcorn Capital of the World. Things changed. The railroad was torn out. Still, Shaller reminds: we live near the heart of popcorn country.
Everyone from this area who ever has gone to Sioux City probably has a memory of the American Pop Corn Co. complex on the west side of Highway 75. That’s the home of Jolly Time. If you never stopped for a Jolly Time tour, it’s a great way cap a visit to Sioux City. They’ll give you a red plastic cup with a handle for molding popcorn balls. About 200 people work at American Pop Corn. It’s one of the biggest popcorn operations on this earth.
Now and again, when winters used to be winters, I still would take out the old copper-bottom kettle, pour some oil and shake until I was shaking all over. Kettle-popped is good corn.
Most of the time most among us are popping corn in our microwaves, of course. I think Orville Redenbacher has fine popcorn. Orville was born at Brazil, Ind. Brazil is about Worthington-to-Sioux City from the crossroads of Popcorn, Ind. True.
Worthington’s Lions Club used to sell popcorn from a machine at Northland Mall. The news this week: popcorn is good for you. It would be great still to have a popcorn stand somewhere around town, but I suppose it’s not worth the effort any longer:
Sell popcorn and you probably make only peanuts.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.