It’s National Popcorn Day. Who better to recognize than Orville Redenbacher? (Looking over my shoulder, my husband was surprised that Orville Redenbacher was a real person. He thought he was more like Betty Crocker.) Redenbacher was indeed a real person and what’s more he was a fraternity man. In fact, on a visit to the former Alpha Gamma Rho house at SIUC, I spied a framed picture of him in the dining room.
Born in Brazil, Indiana, on July 16, 1907, Redenbacher grew up on a small corn farm. As a child, he peddled corn and used those earning to attend college. He graduated from Purdue University and was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho. In 1988, he was inducted into his fraternity’s Hall of Fame. Although he hit it rich in fertilizer, it was popping corn that was his passion and ultimately led to greater fame and fortune.
The city of Valparaiso, Indiana, where he spent much of his professional life, honored him with a statue near the gateway to Lincoln Park on the south side of Highway 130. The statue was created by artist Lou Cella. It was unveiled at the 2012 Valparaiso Popcorn Festival. The city’s first Popcorn Festival took place in 1979 and Redenbacher often served as Grand Marshall for the accompanying parades. In 1988, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater.
Although Redenbacher died in 1995, his iconic image and name is owned by ConAgra Foods, so he lives on in grocery store shelves and in commercials.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/