This tribute to my mother will not be filled with dates and may not be totally correct. The contents are from my dwindling and somewhat distorted memories.
My first conscious memory of my mom was when we were living in Ventura, California. Several small neighbors and I were playing on the swing set in the big yard behind this house. I was waiting, patiently I thought, for my turn but the little boy from next door was "hogging" the swing. I told him repeatedly that it was now my turn, but he didn’t listen. So I pushed him off the swing and he started yelling and crying. My mother rushed out, and after listening to my complaints, sent the boy home. However, she also sent me to my room, after several heavy spanks to my bottom, along with the wise words, "You don’t get your way in the world, just because you want it!"
Mother was a gypsy at heart and loved to drive around the country visiting family and friends. She would drive for hours and always take small roads off the main highway, just to see what was at the end. This was true here in the States as well as Mexico. Cars then weren’t as reliable as they are now and we were always breaking down or running out of gas. But mother was always able to find someone to help and they would always leave us with a smile on their faces.
Discipline was very important to Mom - there were rules upon rules (most of which I broke at least once) and there were always consequences to pay. She taught me well that our actions create other reactions - so we must carefully consider our actions before or pay the price afterwards.
She taught me the value of money and how to stretch a penny into a dime even when we didn’t have either one. It was always her and Dad’s philosophy that you give 110% in everything you do – a day’s work, a school project or helping a friend.
I can see Mom even now, standing in front of our big gas stove in the kitchen of our Montebello house. She would always have several BIG pots boiling on this stove. We learned early on not to let this fool us into thinking it was something to eat. More than likely she would be re-dying some article of clothing or material so it could be used again. Thank goodness she loved to sew as most all my clothes were hand made even into high school. From early on, we would curl each others hair each night in those hard rubber curlers. It was very important to Mom that she always looked properly dressed. She would put on earrings everyday and made sure her makeup was fit to meet the world.
Mother was the only person I have ever known who could drive down the main street of East Los Angeles and spot a dress in some window and even tell you the price! She had great vision in both the front and back of her head. She, like most mothers, could always catch me doing something wrong behind her back. I still don’t know the secret of this, but it seems to come to all women when they have children.
When I was in Junior High and High School in Montebello, I always went to Seminary each morning at 6:30. I think the teacher let us out early each day because all my friends would then troop into our kitchen where Mom would have a big pot of hot cocoa on the stove in winter or cool lemon aid in summer. And there was always toast and jam (homemade of course) or homemade cookies or turnovers. Mother would never part with her recipes though, even when she started cooking them up at the Kold Kist frozen food plant. She was very active in the Plant for many years. In fact I was raised – along with a cousin – in a crib and sandbox there and later worked on the production line along side her.
Every one in the family called her Virgie – Aunt Virgie, Grandma Virgie or just plain Virg. Everyone knew they could depend on her for just about everything. She was at peoples beck and call and really loved to help.
Now I don’t want you to think that Mother never had any problems or was a "Saint" all the time. She was a normal human being with lots of health problems and a temper that could be so sharp it could cut through steel.
She was the "life of the party" and loved to dance and sing. She was so out going at some events here and in Mexico that I can remember being embarrassed by her actions, but everyone loved her ability to have a good time.
Mother had four children that lived. One when she was 17 who was placed for adoption with Dr. and Mrs. Jacobsen. I have become acquainted with her Grandson Mark whom I am very glad to call my nephew and a part of my family. After marrying my Dad – Edwin Walter Jarvis – she gave birth to Edwin Wallace Jarvis [Eddie], Virginia Dean Jarvis Taylor [Sis], and me – Merrie Ann Jarvis. There were apparently several children who did not make full term, but she also raised other family members and always had an open door for anyone in need.
Mother and I had problems in later years and it is with deep regret that I was not with her at the end nor did I have an opportunity to say goodbye. Hopefully, she will know that she was loved by all her family and friends and especially by me.
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From her brother-in-law Hyrum Jarvis:
Virgie was the hardest working wife and mother and she was the sweetest person on earth to have given birth to my precious Merrie Ann.
From her brother-in-law Ernest Jarvis:
I have so many memories of your dear Mother, I really wouldn’t know where to start because they all are things she did for me. All the way through high school, she wouldn’t allow me to even iron my own white shirts, and it had to be a fresh one every day – that was the style at Whittier High in those days. My friend Harry, Eddy, and I normally studied on the breakfast table and Aunty Virgie, just at the perfect time, would bring us hot chocolate or graham crackers and milk, or some other goodies. Boy, was I ever spoiled! So, I hope you can understand what I am saying! Where would I start – where would I end? There was never anyone to equal her.
From her sister-in-law Pearl Jarvis Augustus:
Virgie was my best friend and we always got along. She always worried too much but a lot of it was for other people. She asked me to help after the births of Eddie and Merrie Ann and later to tend kids while she worked at Kold Kist. She was always bringing Sis [Virginia] to me to have her hair fixed.
In later years when she would visit Luke and me in Utah she would prefer to sleep on the floor because of her back pain. Whenever we went to Mexico she insisted on doing all the driving.
From her sister-in-law Bessie Jarvis Macdonald:
I remember how your Mom and I worked at Kold Kist, and what a marvelous worker she was. We would be in the "freezer room" and she would slice the little square steaks and I’d put them on the trays and into the 27 below zero freezer shelves. I would feel like I was freezing to death, but she would never complain or act like she couldn’t take it.
On her way to Durango once she was staying with us and happened to mention that she liked the towel robe I was wearing a lot so I took it off and gave it to her (it was definitely her colors in the brown tones). The next morning John came home from the grocery store and Virgie was leaning down to get some ice from the freezer (in the bottom of the fridge). When John came around the corner he leaned over and "pinched" her on the butt! Well, she yelled at him, "Damn you, John Macdonald!" I came in from the dining room at about the same time as all this was happening. John turned pale when he saw that it wasn’t me he’d pinched (or goosed)! Well, I started laughing and so did they. We ended up laughing for what seemed like an hour.
She always liked having the missionaries live there in her apartment. She was really quite a wonderful lady!
From her Son-in-law Lawrence H. Taylor:
My mother-in-law had a touch of artist in her soul. Her kitchen in Montebello was painted with one of her favorite colors, apple green. She was also the chief chef for the Kold Kist recipes.
One of my early visits to see Ginny [Virginia Dean], before we were married, I wandered into the kitchen. There was a great iron pot on the stove boiling away. It was boiling so vigorously that the pot cover was bouncing. My curiosity was aroused because the noise and the aroma from the pot was peculiar. It was near lunch time on a Saturday and being in that green kitchen my hunger was aroused. I wondered what delicious food was cooking so violently in the great iron pot. I was just about to sneak a look when in came Ginny. I turned and said to her, "What is your mother cooking - it sounds good but it smells peculiar." I said, "Maybe we should open the lid and take a sample test taste." Ginny found a pot holder and grasped the handle of the lid. She lifted the lid and we looked inside. Everything was blue! Inside the pot was a blouse boiling furiously. Virg was using her artistic ability to add new color to a fading blouse – probably belonging to Merrie Ann. She was using Rit – a blue dye to add new color to an old blouse. People don’t use Rit much any more. But Virg was not only adding color and beauty, she was being thrifty. Since that episode I was always a little wary when we ate dinner in that green kitchen.
From her grand daughter Laurie Taylor:
My memories of Grandma Jarvis are vivid. I recall very clearly what she looked like, she had piercing eyes, curled and dyed brownish red hair, a strong face and a big white smile. I also remember that it was a bad idea to make her angry. However, I was not afraid of her – she was my grandmother, after all – and in some respects it was easier to make mistakes with her than with my parents.
I remember how she would take me and my brother John to the ranch in Durango, Mexico for several weeks during the summers. Wow! What an adventure!! And it was an adventure, from the time we packed up the station wagon in Montebello to the time we arrived at the hacienda. Part of the adventure was getting there – barreling down deserted and dark highways. These excursions were executed with near military precision – routes planned and chosen, supplies packed with the motto of "hope for the best, prepare for the worst," delays were not an issue in Grandma’s mind. Despite the rough traveling of these roads in the late 1950's to mid 60's, through vast deserts and large uninhabited areas, we always got through, every single time, without mishap. This was and remains an enormous accomplishment and was achieved due to Grandma’s strength of character and intractable nature. Any obstacles were there simply to be overcome.
Getting there was the mission, the goal! As I look back, these journeys were a full frontal attack against time, distance and circumstance. And she won every battle. This was not a weak woman we were dealing with here.
My memories of Grandma are of a person in charge. Once we arrived at the ranch, it was pretty clear that the vacation was over for whoever worked there. Meals were served at a certain time and everyone knew to be there. Grandma had it all in hand. And this was comforting in a large and real way. My world with her was ordered and protected. At the same time, we were able to explore and have adventures away from her, knowing all the time that we were safe in her hands, because her hand reached far and was there when or if we needed it. We were in her space and under control, and therefore safe.
For her time and place, I think Grandma was a big star. She was a practical woman married to a dreamer who also had enough good business sense to be successful most of the time. A rare combination of traits. She was a pioneer as well.
I wish I could have known her better, I wish she was alive now, at a time when I know what I know and am better able to talk to her and maybe relate to her own experiences, and therefore have some adult common ground. But the ground I did share with her was precious, she did help shape me. I did have unforgettable experiences with her and my memories of her remain vivid, strong, loving and grateful.
From her Grandson Richard Taylor:
Many years ago, on our way to Durango by way of El Paso, Grandma was driving Wayne and I in her Mercedes. I can’t remember if she had air conditioning in her car or not but only the memory of the drive being unbearably hot is still a very vivid one. Both my brother and I would sit in the back and just swelter! For some reason that eludes me, Grandma kept the windows mostly rolled up with only a crack of relieving air flow coming from her driver’s side window. Thankfully we slept most of the time and were able to forget the heat.
On the second day of our trip into "hell", Grandma pulled the car to a stop and ceremoniously proclaimed relief from the heat in the form of a dirty river. Wayne and I looked at each other, looked at the muddy water flow, looked back at the car and the heat waves shimmering round the opened door and decided that mud would be more fun. There was only one catch ...neither Wayne nor I had swimming trunks! No matter, Grandma started to remove our clothes and instructed us how to make friends with the local natives. Swimming alone would have been preferred but swimming with others trying to escape from the heat would be welcome as well. The problem was those in the water were not swimming – they were washing clothes, and the friends we were supposed to make were all of the female variety.
You can picture this pitiful scene of two young boys, now completely naked, standing on the muddy shoreline, our white and skinny bodies a stark contrast to the brown mud, the brown skin and the brown eyes starring with complete amazement at us and our bleached blonde hair. It didn’t take long before we were the center of attention. In less than five minutes of exposure, women and girls of all ages surrounded my brother and I, groping and touching our white skin but mostly petting our hair. We were way past embarrassed – with only one course of action at our disposal. We ran back to the overheated interior of the car and slammed the door – enjoying the oppressive heat of the car over the heat of exposure.
Grandma was visibly upset at us for not taking advantage of the cool river but returned to the car after saying what sounded and looked like apologies to the crowd of milling females. For the next three hours not a word was said about the heat of the car or anything at all. We knew better than to ruffle already ruffled feathers and consequently fell asleep again to escape the heat of the car and the boiling anger of Grandma.
From her nephew Harold Jarvis:
One of the most wonderful things about your mom was what a marvelous cook she was! I remember all of the test cooking she did for the Kold Kist recipes and with that anticipatory pleasure as we’d take every new Kold Kist product out of our freezer to taste what wonders "Auntie Virgie" had dreamed up!
One of the most exciting times she had in Durango was when she was driving back from Torreon alone in the station wagon one evening. It was mostly unfenced rangeland in Mexico and the horses and cattle would come up near the highways at night. Well, a horse was running alongside and slightly below the car on the right hand side and decided to cut across the road. When Auntie Virgie hit him -- he catapulted up into the air, flew over the station wagon, and came down on the roof in the left rear. Auntie Virgie knew she would be a lot safer back at the Empacadora so she floor boarded the station wagon and made it back to Durango before the "Federales" caught up with her. Auntie Virgie was quite a gal!
From her niece Rosalie Jarvis Foster:
The main thing I remember about Aunt Virgie is the greeting we received when we came in the front door: "Come give your Aunt Virgie a big hug and a kiss".
Also the way she had of teaching us and our not knowing we were being taught. There was a piano in the front room and all sorts of pictures on it.
From her niece Doris Cowan:
Virgie liked to go out in secluded areas to think or just to meditate or whatever. When we lived in El Monte there was a river that ran, during spring and fall, about 1 ½ miles from us. So, one day she decided to drive a little camp trailer to this spot with Sis and Eddy in toe and camp out there for about a week. We could pop over to visit them, and they could pop over to visit us periodically. They cooked over a camp fire, waded in the river and she even had the kids pretending to fish, even though there were none. A good time was had by all for that week.
We saw a lot of Virgie and her family for quite a few years when all us kids were young. One time Virgie and her family came to our house to celebrate her birthday. Irma asked, "Just how old are you today?" Virgie said, "I’m only 30 years old." Irma stared at her in disbelief and said, "Boy, you are really old aren’t you!" Virgie really got a good laugh out of that.
Virgie volunteered to make Fred and my wedding cake. She decorated it beautifully. It was delicious as well as impressive.
From her grand niece Rhonda Cowan:
I saw your Mom only rarely, but I do have a vivid memory of her. I can actually remember the sound of her voice and exactly what she looked like. I remember thinking that when she talked to me she really was interested in what I had to say, even though as a child I was so shy I probably didn’t say much. She seemed larger than life to me for some reason. She always seemed to be having a good time. I remember her laughing a lot. I always looked forward to seeing her. And...I remember her being very tall. Was she? Or was it just because I was little?
From her niece Susan Rowe Young:
Aunt Virgie holds a special place in my life. She was the lifesaver that buoyed me up during those horrible teen years after the death of my mother.
She opened her home to this woeful teenager, making sure I continued with Church attendance (including Seminary). Her home was always open (literally – I never remember the doors being locked) to my friends as we walked from Seminary to high school every weekday. That meant half a dozen giggling girls in the kitchen, in the living room, in the bathroom every day – what was she thinking?!!!
She and Uncle Ed treated me as one of their own children. They made sure I fulfilled my mother’s wish that I attend Brigham Young University. And it was through them, on one of our many trips to Mexico that I met the man that would be my husband and the father of my children. So, without the lemons of life I would not have two terrific children (and one perfect granddaughter).
From her niece Claudia Blackmer/Freeeman Vance:
Aunt Virgie came to our home for many visits. She was always very pleasant and had some fun stories to tell us. My very favorite visit was when Aunt Virgie, Uncle Ed and their children came to spend Christmas with us in Twin Falls, Idaho.
I remember my mother cooked and cleaned for days before their arrival. We had a nice Christmas tree tucked in one corner of the living room. To me, it seemed as though the wrapped Christmas presents were piled a mile high and went far out into the living room. I remember the whole house seemed to be filled with the delicious odor of homemade candy, pies, baking turkey, and candied popcorn balls. Aunt Virgie had brought a big box of fresh oranges – their wonderful citrus aroma seemed to top everything that was the sight, sounds and smells of Christmas.
There were not enough beds and so we children slept on the dining room floor. Sis, Eddie, and Merrie Ann had never seen snow and so we prayed it would snow for Christmas Day. On Christmas morning Eddie was one of the first of the children to wake up. He ran over to the window and looked out. Our prayers had been answered -- through the night it had snowed! Eddie let out a war whoop, wrapped his bed of quilts around him and dashed out the front door without stopping to put his coat or shoes on. It was quite a sight to see him dancing in the cold snow and trying to keep the quilts around him, while making a snowball.
It was such a thrill when Aunt Virgie’s boxes of clothing arrived. I inherited many outfits as I was growing up which greatly supplemented my limited wardrobe.
Through the years Aunt Virgie on her many trips to and from Mexico and El Paso would stop in my home in Arizona. Sometimes she would stay several days. It was such a treat to have her. On one trip, she had decided to have her "Mercedes" repainted. She went to the paint shop in Phoenix and with just a small, painted, flat stick in hand, she had them mix the paint for the car until it matched her stick exactly. I thought she was so classy to have enough courage to tell them just what she wanted and then expected them to do as she said.
Aunt Virgie was very good to my mother. Shortly after my father passed away, my mother became ill. Aunt Virgie made several trips from California during those difficult months. My husband had passed away three months before my father – Aunt Virgie’s frequent phone calls and visits were most welcome. She drove Uncle Wally and Aunt Marie over from California when I needed to put mother into the hospital. I shall never forget their loving care and concern for my mother as well as for me and my family. Aunt Virgie gave me money to help with mother’s care and expenses. In my mother’s declining years Aunt Virgie paid for a tiny home in Buhl, Idaho for my mother to live in until she was unable to care for herself. I shall be eternally grateful for her generosity and unconditional love. To me, I always felt Aunt Virgie was an excellent example of the family motto: "Heaps of Love."
From her Daughter-in-law Babette Jarvis:
I wanted to tell you about the time I got on your mother’s roof in El Paso. I hate heights, but she had leaks around her A/C which needed fixing. I was crawling across the roof when I heard Virgie’s voice asking me from above me if she could help any. I calmly said, "No", and that I didn’t want to know she was on the roof with me, or how she got there either. I just wanted her to get herself down as carefully as she could and that we would not mention the occurrence ever again. I didn’t even look up at her and the next time I saw her she was safely on the ground, thank heaven! She really scared me being up there, but she had just wanted to help. She was so fragile because of the Osteoporosis, she would have broken into a million pieces if she had slipped.
Once in Paso Robles, we were all looking at the latest United Farm Catalog that had just arrived. We were discussing the properties. One property had over 2,000 trees – she said, "Yeah, 2 inches tall." We could just picture that and I am still laughing about it.
Something occurred at my Mom’s house that gave me a new perspective on the use of things. My Mom said she wished she had a lid for the pot she was boiling water in so it would heat faster. Virgie just took a plate and put it on top of the pot and Mom and I were both astonished. We did not ever expect or think to use anything in any way except how it was originally designed. It led me to rethink a number of things after that and to see what other possible ways things could be used.
From her grandson Adam Jarvis:
Perhaps the most important memory of Grandma Jarvis was the day of her death. We were all working around the house pulling weeds. She stood up to stretch her back and then went down. The ambulance would have taken 45 minutes so we put her in the back of the pickup truck and drove her to the hospital. I sat in the back and held her head in my lap and my arms around her. She was already gone from a massive stroke.
This was the most vivid experience – there was no fear, there was no distance in death. It gave me the understanding of death and allowed me not to be afraid of those who are passing away.
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[Attempts have been made to locate the publishers to receive permission to copy this information. So far I have not been successful. I received the little booklet containing the Kold Kist story from Merrie Ann Jarvis along with pictures, family group sheets and the compiled tributes of Virginia Heaps Jarvis. Claudia L. Vance, a niece and family historian.]
The Kold Kist Story
"The Kold Kist Story" is the first of a series of publications devoted to the industries and men who have achieved success and represent the dynamic spirit of American free enterprise. Their competitive efforts have made Americans the most prosperous people on earth and will continue to maintain world leadership for the United States. The Editors
AMERICAN SUCCESS SERIES
Joe Leighton & Associates
6253 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood 28, California
"To do what has been done offers no challenge."
– Ed Jarvis
America’s dynamic food industry has watched with blinking disbelief the growth of the newest family member from upstart child to commercial giant.
The Kold Kist Corporation’s dramatic rise from lowly birth just 19 years ago to one of the nation’s most successful producers of frozen cooked foods is rooted deep in the American pioneer tradition.
Presiding at Kold Kist’s birth in December, 1939, were Ed Jarvis, and ex-oil field engineer with a vast reservoir of imagination and $7000 in borrowed capital, and his wife, Virginia.
Their "plant" was a cramped, one-room building in Los Angeles’ homely Vernon district.
But the energy and imagination of Kold Kist’s creators carried the frail business venture to a position where it produces more than 25 million packages of frozen cooked foods for California tables alone and lists gross annual sales of some three million dollars.
The Kold Kist work force has grown from the hard-laboring and hopeful Jarvis pair to nearly 100, and Jarvis himself is uncertain when expansion will taper off.
Jarvis, president and still the prime mover in the Kold Kist organization, is the plain-talking son of a colonizer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The older Jarvis was sent by his church to Mexico near the turn of the century, and Ed Jarvis was born in a rude settlement in the wilderness of Colonia Morelos in 1906.
The stripling Jarvis developed much of his self-reliance in the rugged environment of the Mexican frontier. When insurgents swarmed over the country in 1912, young Jarvis was forced to flee to safety with his family.
What followed reads like an excerpt from the dated pages of a Horatio Alger epic; Ed Jarvis and his brothers, ill-fed and poorly clothed, became newspaper vendors on the streets of El Paso, Texas, to supplement the income of the disenfranchised family.
When peace returned to Mexico, the Jarvis family went south of the border again, carrying the teachings of the Mormon church to the state of Chihuahua.
Later, Ed Jarvis, now a young man, returned to the United States, working his way through Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. He landed in California in 1925 and went to work as a helper in the state’s booming oil fields.
Despite having completed only three months of high school, Jarvis, through long hours of study after working hours and careful observation of techniques used in the field, became a natural gas engineer. He moved with petroleum operations from the fields at Santa Fe Springs, Ventura, Santa Barbara and the San Joaquin Valley, always studying.
Men who know him from his oil field days recall that Jarvis often solved difficult problems that stymied more experienced engineers with formal training.
Jarvis spent 12 active years in the California fields, then moved on. He explains: "I had gone as high as I could, so I had to get out."
A visit to his brother, H.T. (Hy), president of the fledgling Recold Corporation, now one of America’s leading refrigeration and air conditioning firms, fired Jarvis’ imagination. He reasoned that entire meals could be packaged and frozen and delivered to the consumer without the faint "can taste" of existing prepared foods.
However, he faced a problem immediately. "No one had ever heard of such a thing, and we had no rules to go by."
Jarvis, forced to make his own rules in the "unheard-of" field of frozen cooked foods, first hired a nutrition expert.
Then, with he and his wife doing the bulk of the work, Jarvis packaged his first product – Kold Kist chili con carne, still a best seller in the Kold Kist frozen food lineup.
However, the nutritionist’s recipe flopped. Jarvis hired a skilled chef to develop a new formula. Then he relates:
"We sold a few packages, but anyone who bought it once wouldn’t buy it a second time."
Near desperation, Jarvis turned over the recipe problem to his wife on the theory that "good home cooking" might reverse the trend. It did. Mrs. Jarvis’ cooking scored so well with the public that her recipes now form the basis of every Kold Kist product.
In those struggling days, Jarvis recalls, "we spent two days cooking and three days peddling." And during that challenging period, the president of Kold Kist also functioned as its chief (and only) dipper, packager and "peddler."
Ernie Jarvis, Ed’s brother and vice president of the Kold Kist Corporation, describes the early days this way:
"Ed and Virginia would cook up a batch of chili and beans, package them and freeze them and then go out and try to sell them.
"One of Ed’s best campaigns was to go to the women’s clubs and offer to cater their luncheons and dinners if the members would fill out questionnaires for him.
"By using the questionnaires, he learned that the public would accept his product if he could get it into the markets."
Jarvis had created demand, and the hundred’s of women’s club members he had served from San Diego to Santa Barbara soon started asking their grocers why they were not stocking the tasteful, convenient Kold Kist food packages.
Inevitably, the grocers yielded and began tentatively to carry a few Kold Kist products. However, at that time there were no market facilities for frozen foods, and Jarvis’ items were stocked – almost hidden – in the grocer’s precious refrigerated space given over to ice cream storage.
Nonetheless, Jarvis’ exhausting battle to become the first to market frozen cooked foods had been won. Competitors rushed to emulate the Kold Kist success.
However, as Kold Kist increased its sales and added new products, more affluent companies which attempted to follow its lead unaccountably dropped the venture. Within a year after Kold Kist’s first successes, two rivals failed after losing more than one million dollars each in an effort to match their smaller competitor. They learned sorrowfully of the varied and complex problems required for success in the infant industry.
Where the others failed, Kold Kist expanded its plant facilities, added new employees and improved its distribution techniques to the point where it now services some 12,000 groceries and supermarkets in California alone.
But despite the company’s amazing growth, Kold Kist products remain the same "good home cooking" formulas – multiplied many times – devised by Mrs. Jarvis almost 20 years ago.
Although the large frozen food firms eventually broke into the pre-cooked dinner field, Kold Kist continued to prosper and to add new lines.
Kold Kist now supplies frozen Beef Steaks, Beef Stew, Chili Con Carne with Beans, Chili Size Twin Dinners, Creamed Chicken, Roast Beef Dinners and Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms for California tables. One product alone, Kold Kist frozen beef steaks, accounts for more than five per cent of all frozen food sales in the State of California.
As Ed Jarvis sees it, frozen cooked foods have freed working wives from the time-consuming drudgery of the kitchen and have enabled the most inexperienced of cooks to serve appealing, quickly-prepared meals.
Jarvis holds that the key to Kold Kist’s success is an uncompromising insistence on quality. He explains: "Our policy actually is quite simple; we believe there is no substitute for quality. Kold Kist was one of the pioneers in the development of frozen foods, and, with dependable quality and fair price, we believe it always will be among the leaders."
The Kold Kist plant (at 5329 East Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles) is regarded as one of the most modern and completely equipped food processing and packaging plants in the west, the envy of many larger competitors. It is capable of cooking, packaging and freezing over 35,000 tons of cooked foods daily.
Kold Kist’s advanced equipment reflects in large measure Jarvis’ refusal to accept engineers’ opinions that certain machines could not be built or improved. The Kold Kist president, a self-educated engineer, seeks constantly to improve his equipment and facilities.
Today’s Kold Kist operation often causes Jarvis to look back in wonder at the grim early days when he and his wife worked 12 to 16 hours a day dipping Chili Con Carne into hand packaged boxes. And the current humming production facilities and mass-distribution methods often cause Jarvis to recall the early days when he carried a small display case on a trailer towed behind his ancient car, making hopeful rounds of Southern California markets in search of a foothold for his products.
In those days, Jarvis remembers, "We found it encouraging if we sold six dozen packages a week."
Now, as any supermarket operator will tell you, frozen foods makeup one of his largest selling items, and frozen foods facilities must be revamped and expanded regularly to keep up with consumer demand.
Through Kold Kist’s continuing success in this fiercely competitive field, it remains a family operation; Mrs. Jarvis continues to develop the recipes, Ed supervises all company operations and does much of the purchasing himself, and brothers Hy, Ernie and Bud all hold executive positions in the firm. Bud Jarvis serves as plant manager and is charged with the vast responsibility of insuring the effective operation of all the complex phases of Kold Kist production.
His tasks include supervision of each step in the handling, preparation, freezing and storage of Kold Kist products. In the absence of the company’s president, Bud Jarvis functions in his place.
Simplicity is another factor in the Kold Kist success formula. For, as Ed Jarvis notes: "Any housewife could follow our recipes and turn out the same dishes – of course, she would have to divide our recipes by several thousand."
And, of course, she would have to learn the Kold Kist recipes, which are closely guarded secrets.
In his continuing efforts to produce better frozen foods at a reasonable cost to the consumer, Jarvis has outfitted his ultra-modern plant with mechanized innovations that – on a smaller scale – would be the envy of any housewife.
However, Jarvis admits ruefully, there is one problem that the nation’s finest industrial engineers have not yet conquered – peeling onions.
This still must be done by hand, and the tearful, onion-peeling housewife finds a mass counterpart at the bustling Kold Kist plant where man, harnesser of the atom, still defers to the onion.
Jarvis, as the head of Kold Kist, ranges far afield in quest of quality food for his products. He does much of the firm’s buying, which probably would take the full time of a less hardy executive. The enormity of the purchasing job may be grasped when it is learned that some 15,000 head of cattle are required each year to satisfy Californians’ Kold Kist appetites alone.
In recent years, Jarvis has established his own cattle ranches in an effort to maintain uniform quality of Kold Kist beef.
Because of the many variables present in the variety of vegetables used by the firm, Kold Kist maintains a continuing watchful program of sampling and research to assure uniform quality.
Another, more obvious, safeguard, is the elaborate air purification system which washes and cleans the air in Kold Kist’s huge kitchens, banishing dust and odors which could affect food under preparation.
As a further policing of quality, Jarvis has ordered random samples of each Kold Kist product broken open, heated and tested each day.
Jarvis himself is a dedicated family man with three children. He has a grown son, Ed Jr., a married daughter, Virginia, and another daughter, Merrie Ann, a college coed.
Most of Jarvis’ time is spent supervising the operation of his remarkable company and charting its destiny in tomorrow’s business world. As far as Jarvis is concerned, "My hobby is my work."
His infrequent vacations are spent on horse-back on his 45,000-acre ranch or sportfishing in Mexican waters.
Jarvis believes that America’s vast food industry will weather any recession for the simple reason that "people will always eat."
In keeping with this belief, Jarvis plans eventually to take Kold Kist from its still-increasing western market into the national field.
The frozen food industry, still in swaddling clothes, still offers virtually limitless opportunities, Jarvis believes.
Kold Kist’s expansion will be based on the same reasoning that made it a western phenomenon. Says Jarvis: "We introduced Kold Kist products as quality foods, and regardless of the desperate need in the beginning to conserve money, despite our necessary investment in physical expansion, we have never deviated from that course of providing the customer with the best.
"I would say the company’s success is just another example of the rule ‘there is no substitute for quality’."
"Through the years we have tried to sell more people on the consistently fine quality of our products, and, after trying them, they are sold and we make new friends.
"Kold Kist was first in frozen cooked foods and with dependable quality and fair price, we believe it will always be first."
What does it take for business success in these turbulent, fast-moving times?
"The same thing it always took – the desire to succeed."