Monday, June 29, 2020

The History of Mrs. Japp's Potato Chips (Jays Foods, Inc.) of Chicago.

In 1927, Leonard Japp Sr. and his friend George Gavora put $5 down on a rickety Ford delivery truck and bought $22.50 worth of pretzels, nuts, cigarettes, and what saloons needed for sandwiches.

When Japp began in 1927 (the Great Depression didn't start until August 1929), his Japp & Gavora Food Co. took off almost immediately by delivering snacks to saloons, some owned by Al Capone. Al was a hands-off owner and had managers running his businesses. All these drinking establishments needed smokes and something to nosh on. 

According to legend, When Al Capone came home after a trip to Saratoga Springs, New York—the potato chip's birthplace—and requested that Japp bring the salty potato snacks to Chicago. (Salty snacks resulted in more beer sales.) In December of 1927, Capone moved to the property he owned in Saint Petersburg, Florida, to escape the heat, no, not that heat, coming down on him in Chicago.

The 'Urban Legend' is that Al Capone gave Leonard Japp enough money to start his potato chip business is not true.
I sent a text message to my friend, Deirdre Marie Capone, Al Capone's Grandniece. 
Deirdre called me:
"I heard that also," said Deirdre, "My family helped lots of people start reputable businesses, some  that are still going," but she had no knowledge or had ever heard the name or product called, "Mr. Japp."

Within two and a half years, Japp had built frying vats, assembled a fleet of 15 new trucks, and peddled a full line of snack products. But the bubble burst when the Great Depression struck in August of 1929. When they went broke, everyone went broke with them.
During the Depression, Japp, an all-state football and basketball player, sparred with Buddy Baer, the heavyweight who twice lost to Joe Louis for the championship, to pick up a little spare money. But then Japp got back into the snack business.

''I got an old vagabond truck, and I can't tell you how. Started buying chips, taffy apples, pretzels.'' Japp was buying chips from Mrs. Fletcher's Potato Chip Co. In 1934, he said, he began putting his name on Fletcher's Potato Chips.

In 1938, he partnered with George Johnson, a salesman for Kraft. Their firm, Special Foods Co., peddled potato chips, noodles, popcorn, spaghetti, jelly, salad dressing, and Rival dog food. ''The grocery stores were all Ma and Pa then and only a few A&Ps. You could park the truck and make three deliveries at once,'' Japp said.

But Japp and Johnson weren't happy with how Mrs. Fletcher ran her plant. Around the same time, the partners heard about a new automatic plant that produced a better chip in Madison, Wisconsin.

''It was nice and light, 1000% better than what we were selling. We decided to go that route, and we were doing great in no time at all,'' Japp said.

The Madison operation went out of business, and the partners began buying a similar product from Blue Star Foods Inc. in Rockford. But as the business grew, Blue Star said the partners would have to go elsewhere because they were gobbling up too much of Blue Star's chips.

''We had been adding trucks, going like crazy and concentrating on chips, getting rid of other items like dog food, jellies, and candy,'' he said.

Forced into manufacturing, the partners bought an $18,000 automatic potato chip maker and installed it at 40th Street and Princeton Avenue in Chicago.

''That's how it got started in 1940. We called it Mrs. Japp's. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, during WWII, the grocers started calling us immediately, demanding that we remove our Japp chips from their stores,'' said Leonard.
So they sat down and, within a week, came up with more than 30 names to submit for trademark registration. ''We wanted Jax, but it was taken by a brewing company. The name 'Jays' was available, and we renamed the company Jays Foods, Incorporated. It took a couple of weeks, but we started putting tags on plain bags with the Jays name on them,'' he said.
''We had to buy second-hand cartons during the war. Without stamps, you couldn't buy anything. My wife, Eugenia, and I would travel all over the MidwestNebraska, the Dakotas—to barter and exchange gas and oil for cooking. We'd buy up all the nylons and trade with those,'' he said.

Some family members changed their last names during or after WWII from Japp to Jepp.

Mrs. Japp, a vice president when she died in 1983 at age 72, was also responsible for starting a practice embraced by the food industry. She began putting recipes on the potato chip packages.

''My wife had run a chain of bakeries and was a fine cook. She kept telling us we had a fine product but had to tell people how to use it. She came up with a recipe for tuna fish casserole with potato chips,'' he said.

Japp was hard to convince, and so was Blue Star in Rockford. But, as Blue Star's biggest customer, Japp talked them into it, as he put it, ''to get my wife off my back.'' Then everyone put recipes on potato chip bags.

''About 18 potato chip companies were in Chicago when the war began. The ones that didn't wheel and deal fell by the wayside,'' he said.

Just before D-Day, Johnson and Japp agreed that they would make a bid to buy the other one out.

''We wrote our bids on paper and agreed the higher one would win. I wanted to bid $120,000, but Eugenia said that if we wanted to keep the company, we should bid $150,000. When we turned over the bids, George had bid $145,000,'' Japp said.

At that time, Jays was doing about $750,000 in business a year, only in the Chicago area. They changed the name to Jays Foods and continued expanding its distribution for the next five years.

The leading chipmaker at the time was Mrs. Klein's, Japp said. ''Mrs. Klein's only worked the main streets, and we worked the side streets. One day, Mrs. Klein's walked out and found we were at her front door. By 1950, we were the top potato chip company in Chicago,'' Japp said.

At about this time, Jays came up with the slogan for which it is almost as famous as Schlitz was for ''The beer that made Milwaukee famous.''

''At food shows, people would write their comments about our potato chips. The most frequent comment was, 'Can't stop eating 'em.' So we began using that,'' he said. Arch rival Frito-Lay, now a subsidiary of giant PepsiCo. Inc. liked the sentiment so much that it started daring the public in 1963: ''Bet you can't eat just one.''

Flushed with success and demand, Jays expanded throughout the 1950s. In 1957, Japp's son, Leonard Jr., joined the firm after six years in the Marine Corps.

''I had always worked at the plant at various jobs, and I started when I was 13,'' said Leonard Jr., the firm's president. When he was in the Marines, he said he would work at the company on his leaves.

In the 1960s, Jays switched from tin cans of potato chips to less expensive boxes.

''They used to deliver those cans to the back door, and we'd fill 'em and load 'em out the front door. There's no way you can store that many cans, and they just became too expensive,'' the younger Japp said.

Over the years, Jays has added to its snack foods, but potato chips constitute 70% of its sales. Pretzels, corn chips, cheese dips, and other products are made elsewhere. Only potato chips and popcorn were made at the South Side plant, at 825 E. 99th Street, But that keeps Jays' 400 employees busy on three shifts a day. The company grew to 850 workers.

''We make potato chips and popcorn for the first two shifts. Then the whole place is scrubbed down during the last shift. We like to say that the place is clean enough to eat off the floor. One television reporter did,'' Leonard Jr. said.

Besides the Chicago plant, the firm has 14 distribution plants and 5 distributors in Illinois and parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.

Jays constantly battled to get the right amount of shelf space at grocery stores. ''I don't want more shelf space than I can sell in a store, but I want it where I can be representative. Generally speaking, I think we could do more. If you have too much, you have too much spoilage,'' said Leonard Jr.

Competition always is lurking. Years ago, General Mills Inc. introduced Bugles and Whistles; Procter & Gamble Co. served up Pringles.

''We fought them by stressing that our potato chips are all-natural ingredients, made with no preservatives. We use pure polyunsaturated corn oil,'' said Leonard Jr.

John Cady, the Potato Chip/Snack Food Association president, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade group of snack firms, knows Jay's story.

''Jays had expanded its original markets into other states to increase its growth and set up distribution centers outside Chicago to reach out farther than if it was in the Chicago market,'' Cady said. And it's working, he said. ''Overall, consumers must think they've got a pretty good product because they have grown. There's a certain amount of brand loyalty, and people are apparently loyal to Jays, grown up with Jays, and keep buying that brand.''

  • Japp & Gavora Food Co. 1927-1929
  • Leonard Japp's Depression 1929-1934
  • Selling Rebranded Fletcher's Potato Chips 1934-1938
  • Special Foods Company 1938-1940
  • Mrs. Japp's Potato Chips 1940-1941
  • Jays Foods, Inc. 1941-1986
  • Borden, Inc - Jays Foods 1986-1994
  • The Japp Family Reacquired Jays Foods 1994-2004
  • Purchased by Ubiquity Brands - Jays Foods 2004-2007
  • Snyder's-Lance of Hanover - Jays Foods 2007-Present
Snyder's-Lance of Hanover bought Jays in 2007 and promised not to change Jays Foods' methods for manufacturing their snacks, and so far—so good!

Leonard Japp (1904-2000) was buried at Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois.
Irene Day Japp (1905-1938), the 1st wife, died 11 years after marriage in 1927. Irene is buried at Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois.
Eugenia Peszynski Japp  2nd, wife married in 1939 - died in 1983.
Janice M Japp - 3rd wife (Dates unknown)

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Deirdre Marie Capone is a writer and producer known for Al Capone, the Untold Story, Capone: The Man That Knew Too Much, and The Making of the Mob (2015) IMDb.

Deirdre Marie Capone authored; "Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story from Inside His Family."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Holocaust Memorial Statue Vandalized in Skokie, Illinois, Early Monday Morning on June 3, 1987.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias that creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. Historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and people instigating arguments or fights.

When I write about the INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, I follow this historical terminology:
  • The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED are explained in this article.
Writing about AFRICAN-AMERICAN history, I follow these race terms:
  • "NEGRO" was the term used until the mid-1960s.
  • "BLACK" started being used in the mid-1960s.
  • "AFRICAN-AMERICAN" [Afro-American] began usage in the late 1980s.


Completed Memorial.
SKOKIE, Ill. — Less than a day after residents of Skokie and others reverently dedicated a bronze monument to victims of the Nazi Holocaust on June 2, 1987, they returned Monday to the village green to ponder why the sculpture had been defaced with anti-Semitic symbols.

The monument—which includes a bronze sculpture of a Jewish resistance fighter, a mother holding her slain child, and a little boy clinging to an elderly rabbi—was sprayed with silver-painted swastikas and the words ''Liars'' and ''Jews Lie.''

Police said vandals sprayed the graffiti on the statue and its black marble base between 4 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., barely 12 hours after hundreds of Holocaust survivors, their relatives, neighbors, and elected officials had unveiled the monument in the green space between the public library and the village hall.

Shortly after radio stations started reporting the vandalism Monday morning, people began to visit the park. Others stopped by to see the monument because they had read about its dedication, only to find it had been defaced. Some cursed under their breaths, some touched the monument trying to rub the paint away. Many wept. Light rain did not keep away a constant stream of old and young people of all religions.
Tema Bauer, who lost her right arm in the Auschwitz concentration camp, weeps in front of the defaced Holocaust monument.
Charles Lipshitz, chairman of the Holocaust Monument Committee, said he visited the scene, and “the whole monument was defaced with swastikas.”

The monument`s sculptor, Ed Chesney, was just turning his blue van into the library parking lot when he saw the paint on the statue he had spent the last year creating. ''I didn`t believe it,'' said Chesney, 65, of Detroit. ''I had planned a morning of photo-shooting. Inside, I am just torn apart. I didn`t cry, but it is like giving birth to a child. It took an entire year. And to see what has been done to it, it makes me sick.'' Chesney took a can of paste wax and a ladder from his van and climbed high on the memorial to begin removing some of the paint. But he stopped after a number of people told him not to, suggesting that the symbols should remain for at least a day to remind people that anti-Semitism exists in the U.S.

''Let the people know that we have Nazis right here,'' said Avram Szwajger, president of Sheerit Hapleitah (Remnant of the Holocaust), the Chicago area Holocaust survivors` organization that raised $150,000 ($342,000 today) for the monument.

''This is nothing new to us,'' Szwajger said. ''We have seen it in Europe.''

Harvey Schiller, another Skokie resident, said, ''I think they should leave it for a few days. Otherwise, people will say it really did not happen. I want to bring my children here to see this, so they`ll know these things can happen.''

The entire Skokie police force had been on duty during the dedication, and the monument area had been patrolled by squad cars on Sunday night and Monday morning, as well as during the week before the unveiling, said Officer Ron Baran, of the Skokie police crime-prevention unit. Still, he said, vandals ''had plenty of cover from the trees and bushes around the statue.'' A police officer discovered the graffiti first, Baran said.
Details of the Memorial Figures
A police technician sent to the scene could find no paint cans or evidence linking the defacing to a specific person or organization, Baran said, and no one had called the department to threaten the action or to claim responsibility for it later.

Skokie Mayor Albert J. Smith—a Catholic who had been praised Sunday for his opposition to a planned neo-Nazi march on the green in 1978—was visibly shaken by the overnight events. ''Everything that we have learned about this type of event says we should clean it up as quickly as possible,'' he told several dozen people near the monument.

When a number of people objected to the immediate removal of the paint, Smith called a meeting for Monday afternoon with local leaders involved in the monument project as well as the village manager, the police chief, and federal authorities to decide what should be done.

''We are talking about a couple of idiots, a couple of punks who come out only in the middle of the night,'' Smith said. ''Look what happened yesterday. It was a beautiful brotherhood. What happened overnight was terrible.''

Bert Gast, 62, an Evanston artist who drew the original designs for the monument, said Skokie should install lights around the statue as a preventive measure. ''People who would do this are like rats and cockroaches,'' he said. ''They only come out in the dark, they run from the light.''

''This action demonstrates that the attitudes that led to the Holocaust are not dead,'' said Michael Kotzin, Chicago regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of B`nai B`rith. ''This monument was highly visible and well-publicized. It was a target, and [the vandalism] was an easy act to commit. It is an effective way to upset people.'' Kotzin said similar vandalism had been committed to Holocaust monuments in San Francisco, Denver, and other cities.

Rev. Daniel Montalbano, who represented the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago at Sunday`s dedication ceremony, said, ''We can only express anger and horror that the monument was defaced and desecrated so soon after its dedication.

''Cardinal [Joseph] Bernardin, on behalf of the Catholic people of Chicagoland, grieves with our Jewish brothers and sisters at this offense,'' said Father Montalbano, assistant director of the archdiocesan Office of Human Relations and Ecumenism (promoting unity among the world's Christian Churches).

Those upset most may have been the people who lived through the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II. Village officials estimate that 7,000 of Skokie`s 69,000 residents are Holocaust survivors. They and their relatives made up the majority of the dedication audience Sunday.

Chicago Tribune, June 3, 1987
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

VISIT - Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, Illinois, 60077