Down in southeastern Kentucky, in a region called the Cumberland Plateau region of Appalachia, along Interstate 75 and U.S. Route 25 lies the city of Corbin where in 1931 a Standard Oil station service manager named M.C. Steward paused mid-paint stroke upon realizing the sound of a vehicle quickly approaching. The car was traveling from the infamous northern countryside; a region known for three exports: bootleg liquor, bullet holes and dead bodies. The locals referred to the northern county as “Hell’s Half-Acre.”
Quickly swapping his paintbrush for a pistol, Steward imagined this moment might occur and not because of any psychic abilities. Hostility had been building with rival Shell Oil over this particular railroad station wall. Both Standard & Shell had been painting over each other’s advertisement for months and should Steward ever be caught in the act of painting over their “North to Lexington” sign he knew he’d have trouble.
The Chevy AB National skidded to a stop and three men emerged. Stewart leapt from his ladder and fired wildly as he ran for cover. Amid the cloudburst of bullets Steward managed to hit the man who had been in the front passenger’s seat of the Chevy. As the man crumpled to the ground with a hole in his chest the driver ran around and picked up his friend and placed him in the front seat. He also took his gun and returned fire, hitting Steward twice in the shoulder.
The dusty roadside fell silent and Steward emerged from behind the rail station wall bleeding heavily. The man on the ground was Shell district manager Robert Gibson. Gibson would die before ever reaching the hospital. Steward survived and was sentenced at trial to serve 18 years. However, while out on appeal Steward would be killed by a deputy sheriff who had come to arrest one of Stewart’s employees. The details of the incident were dubious but the common belief was Gibson’s kin commissioned the deputy sheriff to do a hit.
For this particular area of the country and especially for that time in history a confrontation such as this was fairly commonplace. What gives this particular story its enduring legend is the identity of the driver: Harland Sanders. The man who put two bullets in Steward’s shoulder and was never charged with any crime would go on to become the world famous Colonel Sanders.
In contrast to other fast food characters such as the Hamburglar, The Noid, Grimace or No.1 Chinese Restaurant, Colonel Sanders was an actual person and his life story is considerably more tumultuous than the white trash-washed one their corporate tells.
Harland Sanders was born in the farm community of Henryville, Indiana in 1890 and grew up in a strict Christian home. Harland’s father died unexpectedly when he was five which left his mother (Margaret) to raise Harland and his two siblings alone. Margaret was highly superstitious of the devil and constantly warned her children to avoid the temptations of evil. She claimed the devil takes many forms of temptations: alcohol, tobacco, gambling and apparently whistling on Sundays. Because of Margaret’s role as the sole living parent she was forced to be absent from home all so she divided up chores among her children and by age seven, Harland was designated the house’s chef.
Eventually Margret would remarry and her new husband took on the dual role of beating up her box as well as her children. He resented the unwanted baggage of someone else’s responsibility. Margret, being too dickamatized to be concerned with her traumatized children, began to find places to pawn off her kids. These poor children had now lost both of their parents and would have to fend for themselves.
In 1902, Harland left for school one morning and never came home. He was twelve years old. For perspective, at the time only 11% of all US children between the ages 14 and 17 were enrolled in high school; even fewer graduated.
It was in 1902 that the US created a standardized format for a high school education (requiring 15 units to graduate). Also, life expectancy at this period of time was 49. By 12, Harland had ‘theoretically’ lived 24-1/2% of his life and though he was not yet a teenager Sanders could legally go to a bar and drink in 1902. For perspective, using today’s average life expectancy Harland would be 19 when he left home.
Sidenote: every wonder why the school year starts in the fall instead of January? No? Me neither. But the answer is that same old double-headed dildo of sex and money. Fiscally irresponsible fornicators incapable of forethought frequently would fuck over the afterthought of their sexual actions by sending their offspring out to work while they forgo handjobs and create the next inheritor of hand-me-downs. It is a cycle created by those who can meet between the sheets but can’t make ends meet without sending their children to work in the factories, mills or farms. Being that parents were financially dependent on the wages of their children; education was not a priority. After your eleven year old loses another one of his fingers trying to work a lathe he could then spend his evening in school learning how to read; like a manual on how to work a lathe.
In 1900, the US had half of the world’s manufacturing capacity and evening school for children was quite common. Across 165 cities and towns there were 808 evening schools with a total enrollment of 150,770 students. Despite having such a stronghold on manufacturing it was actually farming that dictated where children were needed most and that’s why schooling was pushed back until the colder months when the only seed being planted was in the bedroom.
The year is 1906, Harland was 16 and working as a streetcar conductor in New Albany, Indiana. One day two men strike up a conversation with Harland regarding US troubles with Cuba. These gentlemen were not your average pair of perverts out on the town chatting up a gullible teen; no these two were something far worse: Army recruiters. By the time they reached their stop they had convinced young Harland the Army needed him. Sanders, being a sap who never even heard of Cuba before that conversation went and enlisted. Later still Sanders was dispatched on a boat packed with both mules and men heading for Cuba.
Once in Cuba, a commanding officer equipped with common sense realized this Army recruit was 16 and shipped him back to the US; thus ending the full military history of the man who later be known as the “Colonel.”
Back in America, the country would somehow pull through without Harland’s help in Cuba, Harland now needed a job and though his sixth grade education was equivalent to today’s associates degree an associate’s degree has always remained worthless. Without any skills that would qualify him in business Sanders took work as an “ash doodler” for Southern Railroad. What does an “ash doodler” do, you ask? Ask fucking Jeeves or google it yourself.
It was easy to find work on the railroad in those days because of how dangerous the work was. 1 in 35 railroad workers were injured every year. 1 out of 117 rail workers died a year. The work was so dangerous railroad companies hired what became known as “railway surgeons.”
They were private staff at hospitals who were strictly on call for the railroad. They would either rush to the scene of an accident or be on standby to receive an injured worker. As I said, the railroad companies hired these men but they were paid by garnishing the injured person’s wages.
The sixth grade educated, 16 year old Sanders was now working near the locomotives boiler where the temperature was between 200 and 300 degrees. However, what Sanders lacked in formal education he did well for himself with a natural intelligence. Harland Sanders was very observant in his studies of fellow railroad firemen as they shoveled coal into the firebox. It did not take long for him to figure out a way of spreading fuel that maximized efficiency. He reversed engineered the occupation and won the respect of his peers.
By 18, Sanders was fully immersed in the railman’s lexicon which consisted of expansive profanity laced phrases. He also had his own quirks such as becoming obsessed with cleanliness. Sanders adopted the wearing of white overalls and white cotton gloves. In later years he would claim that despite working amid coal all day he went home spotless.
Between the ages of 18 and 21, Harland Sanders worked for various railroads and in those days all the railyards shared the same water towers in certain towns. At this communal spot, the legend of Sanders as a short tempered man; quick with the fisticuffs grew far and wide. Also during these years Harland married Josephine King and together they welcomed a child: Margaret Sanders.
While employed by the railroad Sanders saw his share of abuse the poor were forced to endure at the hands of wealthy railroad companies and it inspired him to take a law correspondence course which led to his employment working for a justice of the peace in Little Rock, Arkansas. However, Sanders’ time working in law was short lived. After several courthouse warnings that Sanders refused to heed, Harland was fired for beating up his clients. He would represent them in front of a judge and then take them outside and beat them up if they failed to pay his fees.
After his law stint, Sanders became an independent entrepreneur and launched several ventures with varying degrees of success. His biggest financial loss was investing in an indoor lighting system based on acetylene gas. Harland tried going door to door to sell his invention but as soon as he explained the part involving acetylene gas he was quite often asked to leave. Acetylene is such an extremely flammable gas that just the mere presence of air or oxygen can create an instantaneous explosive atmosphere.
Sanders’ biggest success was investing in a much-needed steamboat that was used as a ferry crossing in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He made a small fortune and took a portion of the profits and set up a Young Businessmen’s Club in town.
At some point this new club designated a particular Saturday for all the town’s businesses to close for a park picnic. Signs and preparations were all made in advance. The Saturday of the picnic Sanders adorned in a new straw hat bought especially for the occasion was strolling along the closed storefront of the town square that bordered the park where the picnic had been designated when he happened upon a barber shop that was open.
A Sanders shaped silhouette draped the doorframe of the shop to inquire why. “I damn well won’t have anyone tell me when I should close my business. When I feel like closing I’ll put MY own sign on MY door,” was the response from the barber. A customer, seated in the chair before the barber, face full of foam turned to add, “All you fellows is doing is getting all the money out of the town you can for yourselves.”
Sanders, who fully abstained from taking others shit, promptly invited both the barber and customer outside to further discuss. The customer immediately sprang from his chair, not even bothering to wipe the shaving cream off. Once out on the sidewalk and in perfect view of all the town folk who were in attendance across the street Sanders proceeded to beat the piss out of both the barber and his customer. The picnic attendees loved the free show and cheered Sanders on. Afterwards, they took up a collection to buy Sanders a new straw since the one he had was trampled in the melee when an unconscious barber landed on it.
In 1926, the Sanders family, then living in Camp Nelson, Kentucky, were getting along well enough on the wages Harland made as a salesman for Michelin Tire Company that they were able to purchase a new top-of-the-line Maxwell automobile. After purchasing the new auto he tied a tow rope to his old car, an old Ford Model T1, in order to return home with both cars.
The Model T was a persnickety thing, especially in the cold, and sometimes it had to be pull-started to get the engine to turn over. Sanders’ 18-year-old son Harland Jr. took the wheel of the Model T1, and Sanders Sr. towed him toward the bridge over Hickman Creek. The bridge was known as a ‘swinging bridge’ and designed for horse-drawn carriages, but the Sanders boys frequently crossed it in a vehicle without issue but this time when they crossed the expanse; the combined weight of two cars proved to be more than the creaky bridge could bear.
When they were about halfway across, one of the main cables snapped which made the entire bridge twisted thus flinging father and son along with their two cars 40 feet below into a gully. Luckily both of the Sanders’s boys missed being crushed by the vehicles that both landed upside down; crushing in the canvas roofing on both cars. The younger Sanders somehow escaped with only minor cuts and contusions. The older Sanders was not so lucky. He had fractured his arm and was a mixture of bruises, mud and blood.
People gawked as they walked back home where they finally arrived and Harland collapsed in exhaustion in a chair while his wife, Josephine, use sterilized needles to sew a large loose flap of his scalp that hung down off the back of his head and then doused his wounds in turpentine before bandaging him up. He had survived, but lacking a working automobile, his employment did not.
Harland Sanders next found work managing a Standard Oil service station in nearby Nicholasville. He made two cents profit per gallon of gasoline plus he earned interest by selling farm equipment to locals on credit. Unfortunately a severe drought descended upon the bluegrass region and ravaged the crops taking many people’s livelihood. The demand for gasoline steeply declined and customers defaulted on credit and then came the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
Sanders contacted some acquaintances at Shell Oil and leveraged his reputation to lease a new location where fuel demand was higher. They gave him a little station in the town of Corbin, Kentucky. There was no electricity yet, and it was a rough area, but the station had a convenient apartment in the back, and it was near busy U.S. Route 25.
This was the “Hell’s Half-Acre” where Sanders later engaged in advertising-related gunplay with M.C. Stewart. One night, in the wee hours, Sanders was jolted awake by multiple gunshots outside. Two rival alcohol bootleggers were exchanging bullets and insults out on the road in front of Sanders’ place. The shootout was interrupted by the sound of a door crashing open from the nearby service station.
A middle-aged man attired only in his underwear was aiming a large shotgun in their direction as he ran towards them yelling “Line up, both of you sons of bitches and throw down your guns!” Being called a son of a bitch was no trifling insult to people around them parts but Sanders was known as a man not to reckon with so the bootleggers complied. When the sheriff arrived and collected both suspects he asked Sanders to come back to the county seat with him to serve as a witness. As the four of them began to drive away a figure suddenly emerged in the rearview and chased after them. It was Margaret Sanders with clothes clutched in one arm shouting, “Father! Wait, you forgot your pants!”
While pre-KFC Sanders had already established his two piece (no biscuit) he also had another rep. Actually, two others but I will just tell you about one for now. Harland Sanders was known for his extreme generosity. Back in his brief law days he’d often volunteered to represent injured black railroad workers against railroad companies and on several occasions was able to win large financial payments for them and their families. Sanders was thought of as an angel among the poor Appalachian communities where he’d bring families free food including full Thanksgiving spreads for entire towns. Beyond food Sanders regularly would also deliver medical supplies.
One of Harland Sanders most memorable humanitarian runs occurred in late 1930. Harland had been summoned because one of the townswomen had gone into labor. Sanders, a father of three, took his experience assisting his wife during childbirth to self-stylize himself into an amateur midwife. Sander’s wife and eldest daughter helped Harland gather supplies; filling an old lard bucket with bandages, scissors, antiseptics and rubber gloves then watched as Harland rode off in a torrential downpour on the back of a mule up the mountain to an Appalachian community that lacked electricity, roads and indoor plumbing.
Many hours passed and Harland’s wife and daughter Josephine were now starting to worry. Suddenly the door bursts open and Harland, soaked to the bone, strides across the apartment apologizing for his wet prints as he’s explaining that the doctor needs some “persuasion.” Harland then emerges from the bedroom with shotgun in hand to head out once more in the rain.
The baby was not in the proper position in the womb which required a more experienced intervention but between drunkenness and a biblical downpour the doctor was refusing to go. Harland, now with his shotgun and riding once more on his mule was now headed to the doctor’s home. Harland, short on time and in temper, skipped the formalities of knocking and instead kicked open the doctor’s front door to see the physician, who had been dozing off in a chair by the entrance, nearly jumped to his feet due to the noise. The shotgun aimed in his face helped sobered up the doctor quickly. Harland, from the other end of the shotgun told the doctor, “grab your medical bag and let’s go doc.” The doctor manually adjusted the baby’s position, and the delivery proceeded smoothly. The parents named their new son “Harland.”
In 1935, in recognition for all his communal efforts: midwifery work, food donations and his regular shuttling of townsfolk to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings the governor of Kentucky, Ruby Laffoon commissioned Harland Sanders as a “Kentucky Colonel,” the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Among all his entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors the one activity the Colonel really seemed to enjoy however was experimenting with cooking. He decided to put a big oak table in a former storeroom used for equipment rentals and reopened the space as “Sanders’ Servistation and Café.”
Travelers were drawn in by the big advertisements Sanders painted on roadside barns north and south of town. Sanders hired some waitstaff, and made a point of paying them a living wage and strictly forbid them from accepting tips. Using the kitchen from his own apartment, Harland and his wife, Josephine would cook steak, country ham, potatoes with red-eye gravy, grits and hot biscuits. Chicken was not on the menu because customers would never agree to waiting the length it took Sanders’ to cook it to his satisfaction.
It was around this time that Sanders met Claudia Price. A young minx, freshly divorced whom he hired as a “waitress” because writing “in the hopes of hitting it” seemed too crass. Regardless, it was not long before Claudia was regularly having her back blown out, Colonel style. The affair became widely known but escaped the wrath of becoming a full blown scandal because of the overwhelming success and popularity of the restaurant.
Harland’s wife Josephine knew. Everyone knew the colonel was coo-coo for coochie. Early on Josephine grew exhausted from frequent trips to pound town. She recognized that she alone could not satisfy the insatiable Sanders. So his philandering became an unspoken acceptance between them. The ever licentious Sanders would get tired cruising around for some Appalachian ass so he developed an enterprising and resourceful solution: he opened a small luxury motel on his property in 1937. According to Sanders this was the first one east of the Mississippi.
Sanders’ reputation for his food grew so quickly that soon he was being reviewed by the renowned food critic Duncan Hines (of cake mix in the red box fame) who gave Sanders’ place a glowing review in his travel book.
For entertainment, Sanders would take customers around back to listen to a braying jackass thus proving that some stereotypes got “legs” for a reason. Doubling down on the archetype, Sanders also had a pet crow named “Jim Crow.” While a braying jackass was cool before people had pubes Sanders had some amusement on tap for those of a more refined palette.
We are talking “state of the art” or today’s equivalent of going to a Lisa Loeb Laser Show. Motel guests would drop a penny in their pant cuff and stroll around the yard while a crow named after laws that legitimized segregation and the second class citizenship of black people would hop up behind them, pecking and probing until “Jim Crow” got the penny out. Ah, the south!
Though the pressure cooker, then known by its porn name “Papin’s Digester” had been invented since 1679 by the French physicist Denis Papin it was not until 1937 that anyone really did shit with it. That man who by 1937 was legally known as “Colonel” Harland Sanders acquired his own pressure cooker and christening her “Bertha.” Sanders purchased this looking for a way to try and speed up frying chicken without sacrificing quality. Adding pressure relief valves for safety he spent the next couple of years experimenting with various marinades, oils, temperatures, types of flour, and seasonings.
Finally, in July of 1940, Sanders had developed a system to fry chicken to a golden brown in about eight minutes as well as perfecting a spectrum of eleven herbs and spices for its seasoning.
On the morning of December 7th 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the US took action and entered the war. At 52, Harland Sanders, was too old to serve but still wanted to be part of the war effort. Through his connections he was able to gain a position at a top secret, state-of-the-art military lab tucked away on a sprawling farm in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Due to security concerns all employees were told to never speak about the work being done so it was not for many years that it would be known what was happening at this lab: the development of uranium-235.
Uranium-235 is the only naturally occurring isotope capable of sustaining a nuclear fission reaction and would be used in the atomic bombs that were later dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing an estimated total of 214,000 people to say nothing of the effects on the mortality the increased rate of radiation exposure would have on all those who survived or the generations that followed. However, to offer some idea of that effect: those who survived the atomic bombing had a 46% chance of developing leukemia.
Of course there are other cool tidbits from cancers and growths to how studies done 50 years later by The Radiation Effects Research Foundation found that the children who survived the bombings which occurred on August 6th & August 15th of 1945 would grow up and have children with a noticeably smaller head size and other impairments of physical growth along with a 25% increase in mental disabilities versus the previous generation. The point I am trying to make is … USA! USA! USA!
Enough of the Land of the Rising Sex with Octopus videos. It is amazing that Japan escapes talk of vicious they were in war and the inhumane war crimes they have committed from cannibalism, the slaughter and starvation of prisoners of war, rape and enforced prostitution, the murder of noncombatants, and biological warfare experiments. Like Godzilla said, “fuck those people” we are talking about the Colonel who was no more of a colonel than Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Parker or Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith was a doctor but still they did some cool as shit. For instance, did you even know that Dr. Dunkenstein and Michael Jordan are tied for having the highest vertical (48 inches) in NBA history?
For the duration of WW2 (December of 41 until September of 45) Colonel Harland Sanders lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee while his wife and children lived 84 miles south in Corbin, Kentucky. Coupled with the physical distance between husband and wife it was Sanders continued affair with Claudia Price that created a divide. While Josephine understood Sanders had his urges beyond her lazy vagina was willing to accommodate, it was the fact that Harland had a continual seven year affair with an employee that Josephine had to work with and pay that made this affair become too much to accept. Unwilling to make any effort in the sack, Josephine pissed away 39 years of marriage; divorcing Sanders within a couple of months after he returned from nearly four years in TN.
In 1951 Sanders ran for the Kentucky Senate and was narrowly defeated. As a consolation, Harland was recommissioned the honorary role as a “Kentucky Colonel” in honor of his cuisine. This time Sanders fully embraced the honor and began introducing himself as “Colonel Sanders,” along with developing a new signature look: growing a salt-and-pepper goatee and wearing a black frock suit with a western bow tie.
While he was trying to adapt to his new public persona as Colonel Sanders he realized he really needed to stop cursing so frequently. Unable to quit on his own, Colonel Harland Sanders, traveled to a large religious conference being held in Australia in hopes of finding a holy man who could cure him of cussing.
First he would make a pitstop in Utah.
The year is 1952, a 62 year old man with a salt-and-pepper goatee and hair wearing a black frock suit with a western bow tie steps off the train in Salt Lake City and heads to the Do Drop Inn, a newly renovated hamburger stand owned by Pete Harman. Sanders met Harman at a restaurant convention in Chicago, and took a liking to Harman because he was the only other participant at the conference who abstained from alcohol.
Out in Salt Lake City, Sanders has Harman chauffeur him around to some local stores so he can pick up some chicken and spices to make his signature fried chicken that he developed way back in the summer of 1940. Sanders at the time was 62, unemployed, divorced with alimony payments to make has come to Utah’s capital on a mission. The mission being to have Harman try his chicken and fall in love with it enough that he would sign up to franchise the recipe.
Franchising was still a novel concept and Sanders came up with the idea of going into established restaurants and offering them the opportunity to add his chicken and gravy to their menu. They would subscribe to a premixed herbs-and-spices service, paying a nickel a bird to gain access to the recipes and techniques.
Fried chicken was not a common entrée in Utah so when Sanders presented a large serving dish of his signature chicken; Harman and the people who worked for him remained ambiguous. Feeling confused, Sanders headed on to San Francisco for his flight out to Australia where he hoped the Holy Spirit would help him stop saying “Holy Motherfucking Shit.”
Sick to death of hearing a didgeridoo night and day for two weeks, ole’ horndog Harland ordered his wife to meet him in San Francisco; sending her a telegram that read “need ass stat! [stop] get your brown eye to the city by the bay [stop].”
After laying Claudia back and making her Tims tap, Sanders decided on the eastbound trip back home he wanted to take Claudio Price to old Pete Harman’s place. Arriving at the Do Drop Inn, Sanders is confronted with a massive sign painted in the window, “Kentucky Fried Chicken Something New, Something Different.”
That is right! That Shirley Temple sipping shitbag cataloged the Colonel’s eleven secret ingredients while they roamed the markets and then reverse engineered the pressure frying process. The name “Kentucky Fried Chicken” came from the sign painter, who suggested it to Pete Harman who exhausted his originality in coming up with the idea of stealing the Colonel’s creation.
Sanders walked in and gave Pete Harman the choice to put his head through the painted glass front window or officially become his first franchisee and that kids is the true motherfucking story how Utah became the first place outside of Kentucky you could get the Colonel’s “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” Later Sanders franchised the name along with Harman’s invention of selling the chicken as a “bucket meal.”
Pete was smart to take the opportunity in franchising versus walking around with a glass embedded face; within five years he saw his restaurant’s revenue multiply twenty-fold.
Now if you’re like me, while this is an interesting story, you have wasted more of your lifetime than you ever imagined you would ever be capable of learning the ins and outs of KFC’s mascot. I mean the guy is in his 60s at this point. At most, any accomplishments made by people this age AT BEST garner those last ten seconds as the the nightly news fades out before it’s final commercial break. So believe me I wish I could just sum this up with everyone bought into this fuck machine’s fried chicken invention and and the Colonel made bank bro, thee end. Unfortunately, this guy has more dips in his fortune than Freak Nasty.
While this isn’t 1997 and whether your hands on your hip or if you even still dip is none of my concern … lets just try and power through the rest of this.