Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Reddi-Wip Man (and so much more)

If you've ever tied a maraschino cherry stem into a knot with your tongue, or sucked Easy Cheese from a nozzle, you've got my grandfather to thank.


The man helped invent aerosol foodstuffs. He put the "Reddi" into Reddi-Wip.

My Grandfather

Isn't this a great picture? (And shouldn't everyone have a photo of a grandparent peering into a giant pressure cooker?) When I asked him for the circumstance under which this photograph was taken, he was fairly vague on the details -- besides telling me it was a giant pressure cooker, that is.

But if you're in your late 90's, details do tend to get lost sometimes.

Today he's 99 years, 4 months & 8 days old. And, after a life unmarred by serious illness...well, he's not doing so great right about now.

So -- I felt like writing something now; not waiting until whatever I would write would be in the form of memorial. Just a story or two.

About five years ago, I began to (finally) take an interest in the family genealogy. Even at the age of 94, my grandfather was able to give me vital clues that helped me take the family tree back several generations. And learn so much I had never known about him.

Like -- he was raised a Quaker. (And I would easily trace his mother's family back to Quakers that came to Pennsylvania with William Penn.) But more than that, it explained his demeanor...the anti-war stance he took throughout his life...and the quiet dignity with which he has dealt with the limitations of his later years.

When asked about the past, he would tell the same stories over and over -- with nearly the same words used each time -- because he could not quite remember if he had told us before. But we never tired of them, because each provided a glimpse of the past, and a hint of the secrets we would never know.

One story oft told -- how he left college (after deciding not to pursue his doctorate in chemistry...which is another good story I shall save for another time) and sent out hundreds of resumes. Unfortunately, it was the height of the Great Depression, which I believe is the definition of a bad job market.

He got one - just one - response, and in turn was offered a job at Francis H. Leggitt & Co. (a food canner in South Jersey.) He found a room to rent nearby in the house of the postmistress - a widow living alone with her youngest/spinster (30-year-old) school-teacher daughter.

(Can you tell where this is going...?) Yes, that spinster would become my grandmother. Although when my grandfather tells the story, he seems just as impressed that the house didn't have indoor plumbing in 1932.

Any Q & A about the past would undoubtedly bring up how he "invented the cocktail cherry."

When I pressed for details (on his 95th or 96th birthday) he clarified it a bit by saying he came up with the method/machinery to enable the removal of the pit from a maraschino cherry whilst leaving the stem attached.

Mankind, and sugary girlie drinks, have not been the same since.

Whether the depitting mechanism was an individual invention or a team effort, I do not know for certain; but he seemed to imply it was a group assignment for which he devised the solution. I am unclear, even, as to what company he was working for at the time. Google has failed me in this regard, I'm afraid.

I do know that he is not a man prone to braggadocio. So I have no doubt that he did indeed have a hand in that fateful moment in bar drink history.

June 1966 Seaside Park
Grandfather & granddaughters

And then...there's food in a spray can.

My siblings and I grew up with the understanding that every time our fingers pushed on the slender white nozzle atop a can of whipped cream, that my grandfather was somehow responsible

See, after conquering the cherry pit, he wound up working for Crown Cork & Seal, and later the Clayton Corporation.

I'll avoid turning this post into "Valve Talk"...but, if you will, travel back with me to the mid-1940's and imagine a wondrous time in our nation's past when the scientific community could conceive of nothing more glorious than devising ways to make various foodstuffs sprayable out of a can.

Yes, it was during that fantastic era that my grandfather was a researcher/inventor in the field of "food aerosols." Working for a man named "Bunny," he developed a revolutionary way to package and dispense whipped cream.

And thus, Reddi-Wip was born (as well as the valve that would later happily deliver Cheese Food Product directly into the eager mouths of people with munchies all around the world.)

When he retired in 1968, an article in "Aerosol Age" referred to my grandfather as "one of the pioneers of the early days of the aerosol package." (That wacky aerosol terminology! So pithy!)

But before you sic Al Gore on the man for inventing the Evil That Would Destroy the Ozone Layer, let me tell you another defining characteristic of my grandfather -- he has always been 100% Democrat.

Oh, besides the period when he was writing socialist propaganda under an assumed name, that is.

But that's another story...


At October 26, 2007 10:50 AM, Blogger Gurpreet said...

:) did you know how cheese was invented? It wasnt necessity, it was an accident, read this

At December 03, 2009 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dad worked for Francis H. Leggitt until 1953. Monarch foods was the brand name of some of the things he got to bring home. I remember canned spinach. His name was Otto Schuttert.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home