Archive for Thursday, April 13, 2006

Greatest thing since sliced bread

April 13, 2006

Sliced bread and I were born the same month and year, July 1928. I was born in Lansing and sliced bread was born in Chillicothe, Mo.

Everyone in town baked their own bread, but you could buy it at the local grocery store, although it was not sold sliced. I was in Miss Sallie Zoll's third-grade class the first time I actually saw sliced bread. We were all amazed at how it could be cut so evenly and look so nice.

In 1928, Otto Rohwedder was an Iowa inventor who was trying to get someone to use his invention, and most bakery owners scoffed at the idea because that just wasn't done. The original unit was 5 feet by 3 feet. A Chillicothe baker, Frank Bench, gave Otto a chance to try out his invention.

This turned out to be an instant success. Frank Bench's bakery increased his sales by 2,000 percent in just two weeks. From that moment on, sliced bread became a part of history. Chillicothe is known as "The Home of Sliced Bread."

According to Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia on the Internet, the popular use of the phrase, "the greatest thing since sliced bread," appeared to derive from the fact that Wonder Bread, the first mass marketer of sliced bread as a product, launched a 1930s ad campaign touting the innovation. After that, other new inventions started using the phrase in their ads.

In the 1930s, there were two weatherproof wooden "bread boxes" in town, one outside Campbell's Grocery Store and one at the Thomas Cafe. The bread truck drivers would come through and fill those boxes early before the stores opened. The boxes were about 3 feet high and the tops had a slanted roof, really great to sit on top and slide off. I did that many times. It was like a short slippery slide.

To this day the smell of fresh-baked bread drives me crazy.

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