Wednesday, April 12, 2023

How World War II launched Golden Flake Potato Chip Company, and other Sloan Bashinsky family skeletons


How World War II launched Golden Flake Potato Chip Company, and other Sloan Bashinsky family skeletons

Yesterday, March 13, 2023, someone told me that her son had been a Golden Flake route salesman for 20-something years, and he had really liked his job until the company was bought by Utz Quality Foods in 2016. Utz told him that he would have to buy his route truck and be responsible for its upkeep, and he declined and quit. I said I had run routes for Golden Flake, and I would have quit, if I were him. 

She asked me to tell her how Golden Flake got started. I said that is a long story, which will have to wait for another time. I didn't think where we were was a good place to tell what I knew, and I wasn't sure she would care to hear it. Most of it was told to me by other people.


During World War II, my father enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was sent to Boca Raton, Florida, where the Air Corps had an airbase and B-29 bombers. My father took his family with him: my mother, me, and our black maid and cook, Charlotte Washington, who had come to our home in Birmingham looking for work on the day I was born in Hillman Hospital, in Birmingham, October 7, 1942. I could not pronounce Charlotte, and simply called her, Cha, pronounced Sha, and that's what my mother and father called her, too.

My father got his pilot wings to fly B-29s. Then, we all went with him to an Air Corps base in Iowa. My father was very good at math, and perhaps Iowa is where the Air Corps decided he would be more useful as a B-29 navigator-bombardier, than a pilot.

After a while in Iowa, we came back to Birmingham, and my father was sent to an air base in California, I don't know exactly where, perhaps San Diego. From there, he would ship out with the Air Corps to Guam, where B-29's were based and flew night bombing missions to the Japanese isles. My mother left me and Cha with my father's parents, Leo and Cora, and went to California to see my father fly off to war.

My grandmother did not like the way I ate, and she tried to force me to eat what she wanted me to eat. I was eating what Cha cooked for me, and I loved what she cooked for me. To force me to eat her way, my grandmother banned Cha to the servants' quarters in the basement. I refused to eat what my grandmother served me. She took me to doctors, to try to get them to make me eat what she wanted me to eat. They told her she was nuts. She kept tying. I still have screen memories of screaming, "I want my Cha! I want my Cha!"

When my mother returned from California, I was skin and bones. She fetched me and Cha and took us home. Cha told my mother what had happened. My mother told Cora that she would never have a relationship with my father's and her children.

All of that I would be told by my first wife, Dianne, who had been told it by Cha.

My mother had never told me why Cora took the sons of my father's older brother, Leo, to the beach for two months every summer, but she never took Major or me. Instead, my mother told me that Leo's oldest son, Leo, was born with a bad heart, which was true, and that's why Cora favored my cousin Leo and his younger brother.

But what does all of that have to do with how Golden Flake got started? It has everything to do with it, which I also learned from Dianne, who was told it by Cha.

My mother wrote my father a letter describing what his mother had done to me, while his father did nothing. My mother insisted that, after the war, they would move away from Alabama, to get themselves and me away from his mother and father. 

I don't know if my mother also said, to get herself away from her Puritan mother and father, who had let her older brother run wild, but had treated her like a convent whore num, which had made her a prude, to the point (she much later told me), she could not walk naked before my father in their bedroom. (I loved my mother's parents, and they loved me.)

Imagine what it was like for my father to get my mother's letter not long after he arrived at Guam and began flying night bombing missions to Japan, while Japanese anti-aircraft guns were trying to shoot down his plane. (Isaw the black and white photos he took of Japanese cities on fire, and anti-aircraft flack all around his plane.)

I doubt my mother told my father in letters to him during the war, that she had been physically violent with me. 

I had a spring-loaded rocking horse. I was riding it hard one day in my mother's bedroom, where she was doing something. It was making lots of noise on the wooden floor, and I was making lots of noise with my mouth. She told me to stop making so much noise. I kept at it. She yanked me off the horse and grabbed her hair brush and started hitting my fanny with her hairbrush, which broke. She yelled, "God durned you, you made me break my good nylon hairbrush and I can't get another one because of the war!!!" 

She started raining blows down on my head and shoulders with her hands, which I tried to fend off with my hands and arms, as I kept yelling for Cha, standing in the doorway, to save me!!! I imagine if Cha had tried to intervene, she would have been fired and I would have been in far graver peril.

My father was very good at math, electronics and mechanics. He had earned pilot wings for the B-29, and now he was a navigator-bombardier. He secured the promise of a job with an aircraft manufacturer in Ohio, Akron, I think. We would live there after the war.

Only then did my father's father get involved. He wrote my father a letter, in which he promised that he and his brother-in-law Cyrus would buy a company in Birmingham and make my father a junior partner, if my father and his family remained in Birmingham after the war.

My Grandfather Bashinsky and Cyrus had been in the newsprint business, and when World War II started, they converted the factory to a munitions plant, where they made 37 millimeter and smaller cannon shells for American fighter planes. (I saw some of those shells in my grandfather's home, and in the home of his mother in Troy, Alabama.)

My father and mother accepted my Bashinsky Grandfather's offer, and he and Cyrus, whom my mother, and thus everyone else, called "Uncle Cy", went looking for a company to buy. 

Uncle Cy had married my Bashinsky Grandfather's younger sister, Helen, who had tragically died of some kind of galloping pneumonia or tuberculosis not long after they married. 

I much later learned, from whom, I can't recall, that my Grandfather Bashinsky had insisted Uncle Cy not remarry and dishonor Helen, and Uncle Cy complied. My mother loved Uncle Cy, I had named my Bashinsky Grandfather, Poppa Granddaddy, and that's what everyone in my family called him.

Anyway, Leo and Cyrus found a company they liked, called Magic City Foods. It made potato chips and a few other packaged snacks, such as perhaps peanuts, popcorn, fried pork skins, peanut butter and cheese crackers. It had been established in the 1920s by people in Birmingham, Alabama, in a grocery store basement

The company now had a manufacturing plant and warehouse on Lomb Avenue, in west Birmingham, near the Rickwood Field baseball park and the Alabama State Fairgrounds. The company had several routes in Birmingham, and, I think, a route or two in Montgomery and maybe one in northern Alabama. 

A deal was struck.

I was told there was a great surprise! We were going to see it. I think by then I was 5 years old.

My father drove. We were on the road for a while. We reached a building with a quonset hut next to it and stopped. It was a cool, cloudy day, like maybe in March. 

I was told, this is the surprise. My father's new job. I felt awful inside. Like, doom.

My father learned the business from the ground up. 

He started out in the manufacturing plant, as a mechanic on the cooking and packaging machines. He got to where he could take them apart and put them back together.

He ran a sales route for a while, I recall him coming home nights in a route truck.

He became the potato buyer for the company. He traveled a lot to Florida, south and north Alabama and North Dakota, courting potato farmers, getting their confidence, buying their spuds. 

He wanted to make Golden Flake grow, while his father and Cyrus wanted to keep it like it was.

When I was in high school, my father bought out his father and Cyrus, after they had the company appraised. They did not give it to him.

After that, Golden Flake began to grow.

Perhaps that story is best left for another day.

Perhaps what needs to be told now is the rest of the letter from my mother to my father in Guam story, which was provided to me by Poppa Granddaddy himself.

I had worked summers at Golden Flake, in the plant, in the warehouse, and running vacation routes for route salesmen.

I had attended and graduated from Vanderbilt, and was in my senior (3rd) year at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa.

My wife's and my first child died of sudden infant death syndrome.

A law school buddy a year ahead of me, now practicing law in south Alabama with his father and his father's law partner- they were trial lawyers, meaning they got paid if they won- persuaded me to try my hand at being a country lawyer. 

My lawyer buddy and his father loved to hunt and fish and play golf, and go down the gulf coast. As did I.

They sent me to a very respected defense lawyer in Troy, Alabama, to have a chat. Pi Brantly had grown up with my father in Troy. Pi's son had died tragically.

Pi had a spare law office, and a very good legal secretary. He said he was referring to other Troy lawyers the kind of cases he did not handle, and I could have the spare office, use of his legal secretary, and he would refer cases he did not handle to me.

We walked over to the drug store on the town square, where Pi introduced me to several lawyers, who welcomed me, said they looked forward to seeing me in Troy.

Dianne, now pregnant again, and I agreed with a developer to rent an apartment in a new apartment building under construction. 

Out of the blue, I received a letter accepting me as a member in the Troy Country Club.

It was a done deal.

I told my father about it. He asked why I wanted to do it? I said, I loved to fish and hunt, and go to the gulf coast and fish, and I could do lots of that, if I lived in Troy. He said that was no reason to do it.

I told Poppa Granddaddy about it. He reached into a drawer of his desk and pulled out a letter my father had written to him from Guam, saying, "As things now stand, we will not live in Birmingham after the war."

Poppa Granddaddy said, my father once wanted to leave Birmingham, but he changed his mind and that turned out well. Poppa Granddaddy did not say WHY my father had changed his mind, nor what had happened to cause my father and mother to want to live somewhere else after the war ended.

My father sent me to his and his father's lawyer, John Gillon, whom I knew somewhat. John said, let's go to the law library, where there is more room. Most of the lawyers in the firm were there.

John asked me what I knew about living in a small town? 

I said, very little. 

John said, "All you have to do is drive out to the golf course on Saturday night and drive around it to find out who is fucking who's wife."

John was a devout Christian and Bible scholar, and a very smart, shrewd attorney.

The other lawyers burst out laughing.

The death of our baby boy had really disturbed my relationship with Dianne. I might well have been susceptible to being one of the men on the Troy golf course on Saturday nights.

My Great Grandmother Bashinsky died and was to be buried in Troy. Dianne and I drove from Tuscaloosa to Troy. When we reached the cemetery, we saw Pi, who greeted us warmly.

I saw my father and Poppa Granddaddy standing some distance behind Pi. I walked over to them with Pi, who offered my father his hand to shake. My father and PoppaGranddaddy turned their backs to Pi and me, and said nothing.

I looked at Pi, he looked at me.

I was really embarrassed.

Dianne and I drove back to Tuscaloosa.

My criminal law professor, himself an Alabama law graduate, who, I learned much later, had gone on to join the US Army and prosecute Nazis at Nuremberg, told me a federal judge in Birmingham had lost his law clerk and was looking for a replacement.

I hand-wrote United States District Judge Clarence W. Allgood a letter, asking for an interview. He hand-wrote back, inviting me to come. 

I went. 

Mostly we talked about hunting and fishing. He said I had the job if I wanted it. I said, I wanted it.

I drove to Troy and told Pi. He said he was not surprised, after how it went at the funeral. I said I felt awful. He said for me not to worry. Clerking for a United States District Judge was a great honor and opportunity. 

I clerked for Judge Allgood for a year and a half. By agreement with the other two federal judges, he presided over all criminal prosecutions in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. 

I watched really good criminal defense lawyers and federal prosecutors lock horns in trials and in Judge Allgood's chambers. I got a priceless legal education my fellow law students at Alabama could not possibly imagine.

About a year into the clerkship, I woke up one morning and my bowel was locked. There was no warning sign. Medicine had no answer. I lost my confidence. I went to work for Golden Flake, which felt safer.

My bowel did not like that, either. 

My bowel hasn't liked anything since. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Hey Trumpers and Bidenites, the currencies of this world are a slippery slope

Text chat yesterday with an old friend in Appalachia, who voted for Donald Trump.

Him to me:

You’re right, the real spirit of Christmas seems to be losing its true meaning. Although I believe that one day Judaism and Christianity will be reconciled. 

I was just reading a really scary article about Biden following sluit of the Chinese by taking the first steps in changing our monetary system to digital currency system. That way the government could be able to control the entire population. They’d have power over everyone’s money. If you thought wrong, spoke wrong, voted wrong, etc., they could cut off almost everything that was online directly or indirectly. .God and silver might be a way to keep your wealth away from evil empires, but China already has it.

Take care brother. 

Me to him:

Our friend S is the only Jew I know of to reconcile to Christianity.

When I asked our Methodist minister friend where the Devil would hide that no one would think to look?, the minister said he didn’t know. I said, in a church.

I saw plenty of the Devil in his church. And in many other churches.

And in politics - both left and right.

Jesus in the Gospels is a heap easier to worship, praise and claim salvation through, than to live as he lived and taught.

In sci-fi books and movies, all money is digital. I expet digital money to replace paper money eventually. When that happens, maybe gold and silver, diamonds, etc. will become backstreet currency and bartering will be widespread. 

Free speech already is in peril. Trump certainly doesn’t and didn't tolerate disloyalty.

I’ve upset lots of right and left wing people, but by far, the right flagged my podcast far more than the left, and You Tube sanctioned the podcast because of the complaints, which were baseless, so we started publishing the podcast on Torrent, instead, where people seek off beaten path views. 

Our audience numbers increased greatly on Torrent in America and world wide. As did the watch from beginning to end numbers increase greatly on Torrent. We have about 6,000 complete watch views per podcast in Israel alone. 

We were banned from Russia and Belarus, and Red China and parts of India, when we published on YouTube. There is no way those countries can stop their people from accessing Torrent. 

I hope to see a thorough investigation of Hunter Biden. His father needs to get out of the way of that.

Old friend, if you don’t see Donald Trump wants to run America like Vladimir Putin runs Russia, like Adolph Hitler ran Germany, then you need to see an eye doctor.

Him to me:

Enjoyed your message, we’ll talk soon. Going to bed!

Me to him:


I woke up around dawn with more thoughts:

Trump's son Donald Jr. and his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner got very rich off Trump being president. Hunter Biden got very rich off Ukraine when his father was vice-president.

Today, Hunter is a consultant for and on the board of directors of crypto currency companies, whose crypto mines greatly contribute to over-stressing and imperiling TVA turbines and dams and nuclear power plants in Appalachia. I see no way Hunter's president father doesn't know about that, too.

If the Trumps and the Bidens actually knew Jesus in the Gospels, they would behave very differently. 

Recently, Trump issued a fake coin with the likeness of his face it, and lots of his supporters bought it and it then decreased greatly in value as Trump laughed all the way to the bank.

As I recall, Jesus in the Gospels took a Roman coin with Caesar's likeness on it and said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's.

Jesus in the Gospels said he did not baptize in water, but his baptism was in fire and spirit. And, many are called, but few are chosen; the work is great and the laborers are few; the road to life is steep and the gate narrow and few enter. 

I see zero indication of Christendom and that Jesus ever merging.

Below is a link to the most recent Appalachia doomsday  podcast we used YouTube to create, so we could launch it onto Torrent. The podcast is not viewable at YouTube.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

A sucker is born every minute: Trump's border wall


When presidential candidate Donald Trump, in 2015, raised defending America's southern border by building a border wall, I said, amen; do it by bringing home America's troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and other hell holes and stationing them on America's border with Mexico. One of my friends agreed with me. Nobody else I knew seemed to  take me seriously. Yet, about half of Americans took Trump seriously. They even believed he was going to get Mexico to play for the wall. They apparently did not know that Trump knew very well that a sucker is born every minute.

From Business Insider, which ain't exactly a friend of the Democrats:

A timeline of unfulfilled promises Trump made about his border wall, a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign which has faded from view in 2020

Mia Jankowicz Sep 6, 2020, 6:58 AM

  • Since long before his presidency, Donald Trump has made the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico his keystone issue. 
  • Since it was first suggested — to rapturous applause — in 2014, the issue has arguably propelled Trump into the presidency.
  • The Washington Post reported that Trump mentioned a wall more than 200 times in his 2016 campaign, though it has played only a bit part in 2020.
  • Trump has made a dizzying array of claims about it. However, there is still no manmade physical barrier along much of the US-Mexico border.
  • Here are some of the key claims he has made about the wall that have not come to pass.

Donald Trump's vision of a "big, beautiful wall" between the US and Mexico arguably did more than anything else in his 2016 platform to propel him into the White House.

Border security experts, and many of Trump's allies, have pointed out that a wall alone is too blunt an instrument to help much with US border security issues. 

But the architect of the policy, Sam Nunberg earlier explained to Business Insider that this lack of subtlety is exactly the point. 

"The wall in 2016 was symbolic of Donald Trump: common sense, practical solutions, simplified answers — as opposed to long nuanced, detailed policy speak," he said

Trump recently told a rally that the wall is "almost complete" — while his campaign website says 216 miles have been completed. It does not mention that the US-Mexico border is almost 2,000 miles long.

Here is a run-down of the major promises the president has made about the wall.

April 2014: "I would build a border like nobody's seen before."

In April 2014, as Trump prepared to begin his bid for the Republican nomination, he made his first mention of a wall — or at least a fence — at a New Hampshire conservative event. 

In preparing for his speech to the Freedom Summit, advisers Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone struggled to remind Trump to center immigration in his speech. Trump was resolving to be "the hardest on the Right" on these issues, Nunberg later told Business Insider, but struggled to stick closely to prepared notes.

The simple idea of a wall appealed to Trump.

"We either have to have borders, and I mean strong borders ... and I mean strong. And you know I'm a builder, I build great buildings," Trump told his audience.

"Building a border, you know they talk about 'oh I don't know, how could we possibly build a fence that nobody can climb over?' I would build a border like nobody's seen before. Nobody's climbing over."

June 2015: "I will make Mexico pay for that wall."

As Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination, a new promise arose — and it appears to have been totally off the cuff.

"I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall," he said. "Mark my words."

According to Ian Volner, who has chronicled the Trump wall in his book "The Great Great Wall: Along the Borders of History from China to Mexico," the claim wasn't in the briefing notes circulated to journalists prior to his announcement speech. 

His campaign quickly wound it back, qualifying the promise as it made headlines. 

Whether Mexico was paying literally or figuratively didn't turn out to matter that much. According to The Washington Post, Trump would go on to talk about a border wall more than 200 times on the tumultuous 2016 campaign trail.

August 24, 2015: It will have a "very big, beautiful door"

"This will be a wall with a very big, very beautiful door, because we want the legals to come back into the country," Trump told CBS News. 

A big door to welcome documented immigrants hasn't been given much attention since. In a 2019 roundtable discussion on border security, Trump remarked on the doorways in an existing section of wall and suggested not having any.

"Because putting the doors on cost more than the property is worth," he said. 

January 25 2017: He orders "a contiguous, physical wall" (or similar barrier).

Anti-immigration executive orders came at speed after Trump took office.

The Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements set in officialese exactly what Trump meant by the wall — a definition that left room for the many, many visions the president has described since.

"'Wall' shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier," read the order. With numerous natural barriers along the way, the amount of new construction has been reckoned at around 900 miles.

June 6, 2017: "There is a chance that we can do a solar wall."

With this environmentally-friendly vision, proposed at a White House meeting with Republican congressional leaders, Trump suggested the costs of the wall could be covered by solar-power-generated electricity.

"We are seriously looking at a solar wall," said Trump, pointing out that the sun-drenched border would offer obvious opportunity. 

As Business Insider's Leanna Garfield reported at the time, a solar-powered array could conceivably recuperate construction costs, but only over decades. 

It was never mentioned again.

July 7 2017: Mexico will "absolutely" pay. This time, said with the Mexican president sitting next to him. 

It's not possible to list all the times Trump has repeated his claim that Mexico will foot the bill for the wall, but The New York Times made a fact-check of the different ways that this could be done. These suggestions have ranged from cutting foreign aid to waiting for a literal check. 

Trump said it again during a G20 press conference in Hamburg with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto did nothing to bring that closer to reality. 

As of time of publication, an official Trump campaign page called "Promises Kept" makes no mention of ways in which Mexico has, or will, contribute.

April 2017: The wall will cost $21.6 billion

In 2017, the Department for Homeland Security priced the wall at $21.6 billion, Reuters reported

Others disagreed. The Democratic Party asserted it would be at least $70 billion — plus maintenance costs — while a non-partisan oversight committee simply said the DHS costing was far too low.  

January 2018: He'll build it for even less than that, in a year

After another estimate suggested the wall would cost $18 billion, Trump ramped up expectations still further. 

During an immigration policy negotiation with Democrats, he said: "I can build it for less than that  ... We can build the wall in one year and we can build it for much less money than what they're talking about," according to MailOnline.

He went on to talk about the Wollman Rink, an ice rink languishing under failed municipal repair and a spiraling budget until 1986, when he offered to take over the refurbishment. He completed it in four months and 25% under budget. 

However, with the scrutiny of Congress, he has not been able to repeat this success with his border wall. 

December 21, 2019: Government shutdown

In mid-December, as Congress was wrangling with the president over the next year's funding bill, Trump made a late-notice demand for $5 billion for his wall — much more than the $1.6 billion that the Democrats countered with for general border-security funding.

The standoff triggered a government shutdown that lastest well into the new year. 

Trump begrudgingly agreed to a package including $1.4 billion for barrier construction on January 15, ending the shutdown. 

January 10, 2019: No wall, renewed talk of Mexico paying

A year after his self-imposed deadline, there was no completed wall. Instead, there were more attempts to salvage the idea that Mexico might foot the bill.

On January 10, Trump said: "When, during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check."

Instead, he said, Mexico will pay "indirectly," through renegotiated trade deals. As Business Insider's Bob Bryan explained, that's not how it works

February 15, 2019: Trump declares a national emergency

After the debacle of the government shutdown, Trump's next move was to declare the situation at the border a national emergency, enabling him to bypass Congress and approve billions in funding for his wall. 

As he announced it, he told reporters: "I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster."

Another $3.8 billion was raided from the Pentagon's budget for the wall, which was considered a "higher priority item," NPR reported.

June 2020: Trump says Biden will finish the wall if he gets elected

With the project clearly not going to plan, and an election looming, Trump told Fox 10 in Phoenix that the wall would continue even if he loses.

He predicted that Joe Biden would have to continue the project or there would be a "revolution." Biden soon said the opposite: if he is elected, construction will stop.

August 18, 2020: "Almost complete" — even though it is far from it.

Trump, and his campaign, have made many different claims about how done the wall is. On the campaign trail on August 28, Trump told New Hampshire that the wall is "almost complete."

Yet on the Trump campaign website "Promises Kept," the wall's completion is discussed in the present tense

"Pres. Trump is fulfilling his promise to build a border wall, with large portions finished or under construction," says the site. 

The Trump campaign states that 216 miles have been completed, "with an additional 339 miles under construction and 183 miles under pre-construction." It is not clear what "pre-construction" is.

But what we do know is that most of that was a replacement wall. As of May 2020, only three miles has been built on fresh ground, The Washington Post reported.