Sunday, April 11, 2021

A Famous Person Who Never Gave Up


A Famous Person Who Never Gave Up

Al Ritter


Harland was the eldest child of three children. His father was affectionate man his mother was a strict religious woman who didn’t believe in alcohol, gambling, or tobacco or even whistling on Sunday! Work was tough on their 80 acre farm and the whole family chipped in to do the work.

At a mere 6 years old Harland’s father passed away from a complication of a broken leg that kept him from working the farm. His mother found work at a local tomato cannery. Harland took the reins of the family and did what her could to raise his siblings and be the “man of the family.” He learned to cook and scrounge food where they could and cook for the kids and his mother.

When Harland was 9 years old his mother married Edward Park but within the year she was widowed for the second time. Because his mother was slightly better off financially Harland found work outside the family for the first time in his life. He found work as a farm hand and worked there for two years when his mother remarried once again and moved to Greenwood Indiana but his relationship with his new stepfather was tumultuous to say the least.

He dropped out of school in the 7th grade at once again took a job as a farm hand at age 12, he worked there for a while but later took a job painting wagons in Indianapolis. At age 14 he returned to working on a farm until with his mother’s blessing he moved to New Albany, Indiana to live with his Uncle.

His Uncle got him a job working for a streetcar company as a conductor at age 16. Harland was restless and after lying about his age enlisted in the Army at age 16 and stayed there until age 17 even serving in Cuba. Later that next year he returned to live with his Uncle in Sheffield Alabama and was reunited with his brother Clarence who was escaping his stepfather also.

His Uncle at this time worked for the Southern Railway and got Harland a job in the company blacksmith shop and later on progressed to cleaning out ash pans on the steam locomotives and was later promoted to fireman feeding the boilers on locomotives. It was a good job but he was later fired for insubordination after not reporting for work after a short illness.

He had a new job at Norfolk and Western Railway and it was at age 19 he met Josephine King and was married shortly afterwards. They would go on to have three children and live in Jasper Alabama... His career found him working through the Midwest on the Illinois Railway and finally ending up in Jackson Tennessee. He was yearning for a new career and took up correspondence school to study law at La Salle Extension University. He eventually took up law and was able pay his bills regularly in Little Rock Arkansas.

He worked for three years as an attorney but this was certainly the low point in his career as he had a low threshold for self-control and was in frequent brawls one of which with a client ruined his reputation as an attorney and was probably the cause for Josephine and the children to move back with her mother.

Following the incident Harland moved back with his mother and got a job on the Pennsylvania Railroad as a laborer. At age 26 he joined back up with his family and started selling Insurance for the Prudential Life Insurance Company in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Once again he was fired for insubordination and then moved to Louisville Kentucky to work for Mutual Benefit Life of New Jersey.

Later Harland founded a ferry boat company that ran a route from Jeffersonville to Louisville on the Ohio River and it was an instant success, but his heart was restless and later cashed in his shares ($330,000 in today’s money) in the Ferry boat company and started an acetylene lamp company.

Once again he failed as Delco had created an electric lamp shortly after wards making all acetylene lamps obsolete.

Harland was now in his late 30’s early 40’s and was bouncing around between jobs from a Michelin Tire Salesman to working for Oil Companies but failing at each because of his self-described “bad nature.”

At age 40 he was offered a Shell Oil Gas Station in Kentucky to which he added a small restaurant offering home cooked meals. The deal he worked out with Shell Oil was for a small percentage of the restaurant proceeds. As it turned out a competitor in town had forced things to a new level and one of Harland’s employees was killed in the disagreement. His competitor was convicted of murder and now his only competitor was in jail.

At age 49 he bought a Motel/ Restaurant 140 seat combo in Ashville North Carolina, but typical for Harland’s luck the place burned down by the end of the year. He rebuilt it and installed his mistress as manager, it did pretty well until RT 75 traffic dried up because of a new interstate highway. He was right back where he started. He later divorced Josephine and married Claudia his mistress.

Out of money and yet another failed business, he was faced with the prospect at age 65 of total failure, he had only his life savings and a $105 monthly Social Security check. But he did have two things going for him. He had his recipe for fried chicken and an honorary title given to him by his friend the Governor of Kentucky.

He decided to franchise his recipe into stores for just .04 cents per chicken part……….and now you know the rest of the story…..Col Harland Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken.



Bud S said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

Cool story!

Anonymous said...

I never knew he was a success so late in life