LIMA — Hoping to keep a lid on Beggar’s Night mischief, Lima police officers hit the streets in late October 1956 with a new weapon in their patrol cars — potato chips, lots of potato chips.
“The Ford-Pugh potato chip company contributed 15 cases of chips each case containing 60 bags of chips but before 11 p.m. the police were ‘out of business,’ their stock wiped out,” The Lima News reported Oct. 31, 1956, adding that “as a result the complaints of Halloween pranks were reduced considerably. Apparently the kids were using up their energy crunching potato chips instead of soaping windows.”
Likewise, when Decker’s Dairy Bar in Cridersville celebrated its opening in August 1951, bags of Ford-Pugh’s Chipper Chips were handed out. And, when the more than 200 employees of Westgate Plaza gathered for a picnic in Faurot Park in August 1956 they were treated to bags of Chipper Chips.
Potato chips had been around for a century by the 1950s, the inadvertent invention, so the story goes, of a Saratoga Springs, New York, chef, frustrated by a fussy customer’s complaint his fried potatoes weren’t sliced thin enough. After the customer rejected the potatoes a number of times, the chef in a fit of pique sliced them paper thin, deep-fried them and poured on the salt. They were a hit, although they remained mostly a menu item in northern restaurants.
In the 1890s, a Cleveland man began producing potato chips and delivering them to local grocers, where they were sold out of barrels. The chips came out of the barrel thanks to a California woman who, in the 1920s, began packaging them in waxed paper bags. Herman Lay, who had peddled potato chips out of the trunk of his car across the South during the 1930s, helped popularize the snack and Lay’s potato chips became the first national brand. Lay’s merged with Dallas-based snack food company Frito in 1961.
Ford-Pugh Chipper Chips Co. was formed in the mid-1940s by Lima residents Paul W. Ford and Russell D. Pugh. A June 25, 1947, ad in the News announced, “They’re new. They’re delicious. Chipper Potato Chips made in Lima by Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Company.” Chipper Chips initially were made in a plant on East North Street but, by the late 1940s, were being produced in a small plant at 110 Harrison Ave.
In an ad in the News ad on New Year’s Eve 1950, Ford-Pugh proclaimed the company was “organized to bring into this area a tastier, crisper, better chip. From the first day they started making deliveries to retail grocers, the people in Lima vicinity showed their approval by buying more and more of the taste-tempting Chipper Chips. … Housewives have discovered that Chipper Chips are the answer to light lunches, night time snacks, party treats and are just the thing to make meals tastier.”
By 1952, Ford-Pugh had outgrown the Harrison Avenue plant. On Oct. 19, 1952, the News reported, “Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Co., 110 Harrison Ave., has purchased the two-story brick building at 201 S. Central Ave., from the Christian Diehl Brewing Co.” The Defiance brewery, which folded in 1955, had used the building as a distributing point for its beer.
The building had 18,000 square feet of space and housed the company’s production, maintenance and office departments.
The South Central Avenue plant in the 1950s often was a target for burglars, and often those burglars were adolescent boys. “Three teenage boys Wednesday admitted breaking into the Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Company, 201 S. Central, Ave., on Sunday night and stealing a quantity of merchandise,” the News reported May 20, 1953. “Most of the loot was recovered. It consisted of potato chips, crackers and candy … .”
On another occasion, on Aug. 27, 1954, four boys ranging in age from 10 to 16, were placed on probation after being apprehended attempting to break into the plant, according to the News.
A month later, on Sept. 28, 1954, a more mature thief skipped the chips and went for the dough. “The year’s most casual thief apparently helped himself to around $30 in cash at the Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Company, 201 S. Central Ave, yesterday afternoon,” the News wrote. “After the money was found to be missing from a desk drawer, according to the police report, it was remembered that a tall, dark gentleman had strolled through the premises!”
With the amount of grease used in producing potato chips, however, fire was a bigger threat than hungry teenage boys or tall, dark strangers. One of the more serious fires occurred on a windy day in early March 1953.
“Fire in a ventilating stack over potato chip machines at the Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Company, 201 S. Central Ave, at 7:31 a.m. today spread to the roof of the two-story building, doing an estimated $1,200 damage,” the News reported March 3, 1954. Firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to 2,800 pounds of liquid vegetable oil in the machines below the stack, which carried off fumes from the cooking vats.
In the 1950s, thanks in large part to a Lipton advertising campaign, dips for potato chips became popular. In 1956, Ford-Pugh included recipes for dips like deviled ham dip, sweet and fruity dip and almond-bacon cheese spread with its advertising.
As the 1950s ended and the 1960s began, Ford-Pugh underwent a major change. On June 19, 1960, the News reported that “Paul Ford, 1503 W. Market, last week became the sole owner of Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Company by buying out his partner, Russell Pugh, 1603 Lowell. Ford said the firm’s name has been changed to Ford Foods and will remain at its present location, 201 S. Central. The company, which manufactures and distributes Chipper Chips in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, was operated under a partnership here since its founding 14 years ago.”
Financial problems soon surfaced, according to stories in the News. On Dec. 1, 1960, a Dallas-based manufacturer of wax paper sued Ford and Pugh for $4,541.71 for an unpaid bill. On Dec. 23, 1960, Ford and Pugh were hit with a suit for failing to pay a bill of $957.50 from a Florida potato producer.
Things didn’t improve in 1961. On Sept. 22, the News reported that Lima’s First Federal Savings and Loan “yesterday moved to foreclose on a $30,000 mortgage in common pleas court” against Ford and Pugh.
The end came in the spring of 1962. “A $13,867 action for money was filed today in common pleas court against the beleaguered Ford-Pugh Potato Chip Company,” the News wrote March 27, 1962. “Today’s action was filed by Hoff and Co., Wellington, which claims it wasn’t paid for 4,419 sacks of potatoes delivered since April, 1958. Last week the Ford-Pugh firm, makers of Chipper Chips, was ordered to pay it creditors or sell it local plant. Bills unpaid by Ford-Pugh totaled $43,969.”
On Feb. 3, 1963, the building at 201 S. Central Ave. was sold to Lima Automatic Transmission Service.
Pugh, who went on to manage the L and K Restaurant on Shawnee Road died in May 1978 at the age of 61. Ford died at the age of 75 in March 1992. He retired as a manufacturer’s representative for S & K Metal Products of Coldwater.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.