Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Early Days of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lorain County

I love chicken pot pies, and a discussion about them at work recently resulted in my having to stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken to pick one up for dinner that night. (That’s the power of suggestion for you.)

As someone who really pays attention to advertising and packaging, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the box the pot pie came in had a fun, retro design with the full company name. It even had a vintage illustration of Colonel Sanders himself.

Here’s a better look at the box lid.

That got me to wondering : “When did Kentucky Fried Chicken first arrive in Lorain County?”

Well, back when Colonel Sanders launched his fried chicken empire in the 1950s, he first enlisted franchisees who would put Kentucky Fried Chicken on the menu in their own established restaurants. One of the earliest and biggest franchisees was Kenny King of Cleveland.

Thus in Northeast Ohio, many of us were first introduced to the Colonel’s chicken through Kenny King’s. The restaurant also had other things on their menu, such as the “Big King” steak burger.

Vintage city directories and phone books indicate that one of the earliest Kenny King's offering Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lorain County was at 903 Telegraph Road (State Route 113). It first showed up in the Elyria phone book in October of 1961.

Here’s the ad from the 1962 Elyria directory.
Here’s a color photo of a bucket similar to the one shown in the ad.
And here's a Kenny King's newspaper ad from the Lorain Journal of August 2, 1963.

Here’s a later ad, from the 1967 Elyria directory. Note that the Telegraph Road address is still the only restaurant in the area.
Also of interest is the use of the same Colonel Sanders illustration that was found on my pot pie box.

Even as late as 1968, the only local Kenny King’s was in Elyria. Here’s a coupon that ran in the Lorain Journal on March 20, 1968.

It looks like Kenny King’s did not make it into Lorain until the early 70s, with a Kenny King’s Carryout listed at 4300 Oberlin Avenue in the 1971-72 Lorain Phone Book.

Here's a June 29, 1973 ad from the Lorain Journal. Note that a new illustration of the Colonel was being used.

A year later, Lorain had two outlets: 4300 Oberlin Avenue and 1725 Henderson Drive. Here’s a 1974-75 phone book ad listing both of them.
Although the Lorain restaurants were Kenny King’s in the early days, my parents didn’t refer to them as such when they wanted Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was always, “How about some Colonel Sander’s for dinner?”
Anyway, in recent years the corporation has embraced its original name, utilizing it in advertising and signage along with the shortened name KFC. I’m sure the Colonel would be proud.
UPDATE (March 12, 2018)
I enjoyed a big ol' bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken last week and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had a nice retro design, just like the pot pie box. It's a nice counterbalance to the goofy TV commercials with the celebrity Colonels.


Anonymous said...

It's funny how people refer to the same place differently. We said "how 'bout Kenny King's tonight"? If I remember they had a Tuesday night chicken dinner special for $1.99 or something like that...real deal. Later on(80's) we went to Chicken Galore more often, their ribs were great.

Dennis Thompson said...

My wife still calls it Kenny Kings. I meet Colonel Sanders in 1975 when we stayed at the same hotel in Louisville where he had his 85th birthday. Just walking down the main hallway in his white suit and cane. He smiled and shook my hand and invited us to the ballroom. "Come on down, there's chicken for everyone!"

Dan Brady said...

Great story! I kinda "met" him too at the 1976 Ohio State Fair when I was a member of the All-Ohio State Fair Band. A small 'ballyhoo' offshoot of the band played "Happy Birthday" for him (several weeks early) and I was standing only a couple feet away from him. I could have poked him with my trombone slide. I was surprised how short he was.

-Alan D Hopewell said...

When I was a kid, we generally got our take-out chicken from Chicken Delight; for about a year, we lived about two blocks from the restaurant.

Mike Kozlowski said...

...Fond memories of the Oberlin Avenue one - when I would work full days at ESCO, that was where I went for lunch. The french fries there are to this day still the best I've ever had.

Dan Brady said...

You’re right, Mike – those were terrific french fries – better than McDonalds.

Once, when my older brother Ken had just gotten his driver’s license, he was driving me around Lorain (in our old Buick LeSabre) so I could take pictures of various buildings/houses for Art class. We pooled our change and had enough to buy some french fries there at the Kenny Kings store on Oberlin Avenue. Ken proceeded to take the fries out of their little paper carrier and dump them loose in the brown paper bag. Then he opened up two or three salt packets, sprinkled them over the fries, and shook the bag vigorously for maximum coating coverage. The problem? Those weren’t salt packets – they were sugar! We laughed about it when we discovered his error – and proceeded to eat ’em anyway! They were STILL good!

Dan Brady said...

And that's how Ken invented Sugar Glazed® French Fries, now a menu staple at KFC.

Randall Chet said...

Wow - I had no idea that Kenny Kings and Kentucky Fried Chicken were only tangentially connected. We always called KFC "Kenny Kings". My best friend worked at the Oberlin Ave store in 1980 and he said cleaning out the fryers was the worst part of the worst job he ever had.