Can You Stop?

What do Al Capone’s Speakeasies, horseracing, and tuna have to do with potato chips? Read this story to find out!

Get Behind National Potato Chip Day
Get Behind National Potato Chip Day


By Colleen Walsh Fong


What’s your favorite potato chip? Almost everyone I know has one. And there are so many brands and varieties to choose from it can be hard to pick a #1. Things were simpler in the “olden days” when I grew up. Living in metro Chicago our local Jays brand was synonymous with potato chips. Jays were so prevalent there that, as a kid, I didn’t realize other brands existed.



National Potato Chip Day is March 14th. That is a day I can really get behind! But if I don’t control myself, it could turn the tables and get a “behind” on me. So I usually eat some of the healthier alternatives available now. Some days, though, the thought of those Jays can only be satisfied with the real deal.


Saratoga Springs, NY resident, George Crum, is often considered the daddy of potato chips. In 1853 he is thought to have been the first to slice them in the thin fashion that we call chips today. But Jays was one of the first commercial brands to catch on in a big way, and for a long time it “owned” the Chicago and Midwest markets. And since it’s Throwback Thursday, I decided to take a walk down memory lane.


Starting in 1927 Leonard Japp sold potato chips from an old jalopy truck around the Windy City. Most of his product went to Al Capone’s speakeasies, a burgeoning business during prohibition-era Chicago. Japp’s business tanked after the great stock market crash of 1929, but was resurrected in the 1930’s when he partnered with George Johnson and began selling to small corner grocery stores throughout the Chicago area. Their operation expanded after purchasing an automatic potato chip maker and they opened their first factory not far from the old stockyards. The dueling aromas permeating the air must have been interesting!


During World War II potato chips were the only dehydrated and ready to eat vegetable, so that industry was labeled as essential, and as the demand for chips grew, so did the newly named “Jays” brand. 


Today there are loads of alternative flavors, and much healthier options for chip lovers. But I can still remember the taste of those delightfully salty and crunchy chips and their special aroma.


Our sense of smell is considered one of the most powerful memory triggers. Whole towns and neighborhoods have been known for their own special scents of chocolate, breads, or whatever is produced within them. The Cottage Grove Heights neighborhood lost its mouth-watering scent a few years back when the Jays factory there closed.


What about horseracing and tuna? Read more to find out what they have to do with potato chips, and find lots of free recipes, food information, and creative cooking ideas from Colleen.



Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals

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