Do you know anyone who doesn't like potato chips? I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I suggest that almost nobody dislikes them. Sure, some may avoid them if they're watching their waistline or sodium intake, but that doesn't count.

Chips are America's snack, and they've been a part of our lives for as long as practically everyone on the planet can remember. But you may be surprised to learn we got CORN chips before we got POTATO chips. That's because, in the beginning, Frito and Lay were separate companies.

Kentucky and Tennessee Figure Prominently Into Frito-Lay's History

It was in 1932 when C.E. Doolin purchased the recipe for corn chips from a small manufacturer in San Antonio TX. That same year, Herman Lay began selling his chips in Nashville TN before purchasing a flailing snack manufacturer in 1939 and renaming it H.W. Lay & Company. It wasn't until 1961 that the two companies merged to form the snack empire we know today. The story was documented in a fascinating episode of The History Channel's The Food That Built America:

What that episode did NOT document was the employment of a man named Harry Leon Collins.

The Kentucky Salesman Who Became the Official Frito-Lay Magician

Harry Collins--a Glasgow KY native--was a marine who served in World War II and performed a magic act while touring with a USO show called "This Is the Army Now." When his service ended, Harry moved to Louisville, was hired by the Frito-Lay Corporation, and eventually worked his way up to the position of sales manager.

By 1970, Harry was the toast of Louisville, performing as "Mr. Magic." Later, his day job and his side hustle merged as Frito-Lay realized what a celebrity they had on their hands. Soon, Harry Leon Collins went from being "Frito-Lay Man" to the "Frito-Lay Magician." Yes, it became his official corporate title. He had even taken to uttering "Frito-Lay" in place of more familiar terms like "ta da" or "abracadabra."

Harry's career as a magician would continue, and in 1980, her married Maxine Lewis, and she became his assistant. Every magician needs one.

When he passed in 1985, Maxine commissioned statue to be built at his gravesite in Cave Hill Cemetery.

Maxine later remarried and passed away in late 2022 at her home in Florida.

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Gallery Credit: Liz Barrett Foster