News and Tribune

April 18, 2013

MAY: Hope delivers

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

Si had always had high hopes for the success of his family farm in Pennsylvania. Si was a hard worker, but hard times seemed to always weigh more on the balance scale than work. Farming in the Keystone State was certainly a challenging and difficult task. The growing season is only about three months long, a little less time than the Pirates take to meander through the baseball season.

Pennsylvania farmers mostly grew mushrooms. It was the state’s number one cash crop, and Pennsylvanians produce more than any other state — an annual yield of about 443 million pounds. Si dabbled in mushrooms, but also worked barley, winter wheat and potatoes. The effects of the economy during World War II were taking its toll on the family farm. Si was barely keeping his head above water, and the tide was rising with each year. His hopes — and his love for his wife — kept his spirits going and his work ethic fueled.

Effie Musser had strong hopes for Si as well. She hated to see her husband struggle so. Effie stirred the hope deep within her that afternoon in the kitchen as she continued a family tradition. Her mother had taught her to take the farm’s leftover potatoes and turn them into deep-fried fun for the children. Effie finished sprinkling seasoning on the chips and thought that perhaps she could bag some and sell them for extra cash at the nearby farmer’s market.

“Nearby” was Lancaster and the “farmer’s market” was not a small card table on the side of the road. Central Market in Penn Square in heart of Lancaster is the nation’s oldest, continuously operated farmer’s market. Founded in 1889, the market became known for its unique Amish goods. Effie’s chips were a hit and she sold out every time she delivered the bags to the Square.

An entrepreneur in Baltimore loved them so much he contracted Effie to deliver the chips in bulk to him. He repacked the chips into his branded tin can and renamed them Charles’ Chips after Charles Street in downtown Baltimore. While the potato chip business thrived, his other ventures did not. Owing Effie a great deal of money, he sold the brand to her to avoid bankruptcy.

By 194, production had grown from the kitchen in Effie’s home to a large warehouse in Lancaster. Si was only growing potatoes and had to hire workers to handle the farm as he assisted Effie in marketing and sales. Effie was producing private label chips for Fritos and A&P Groceries while developing the concept of the home delivery of the chips. Warehouses and truck delivery units were set up in several states. Effie’s hopes were fulfilled beyond her wildest imagination.

To a 10-year-old boy on the west side of Indianapolis in the mid-60s, every other Thursday brought bright rays of hope and a big can of barbeque potato chips to the door. During the summer, baseball games and bicycle rides had to be over by two o’clock in time to greet the delivery truck that looked just like the can of chips. During the school year, there was the assurance of hope that the large can of chips would be on the counter when the 30-minute bus ride was over.

Hope fuels our lives - whether to keep us going at work when things get difficult, to be the glue to hold the marriage together, or for a small boy longing for his favorite snack. Hope buoys our spirits to dream dreams and chase them, to envision greater things than are currently available, and to find meaning and purpose for life. Hope becomes the anchor when we hear bad news from the doctor, when we are shaken by a terrorist’s bombs, or when we stare death in the face.

And hope delivers.

 

  — Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.