Unlike Ronald McDonald, Betty Crocker and Mr. Kipling, Colonel Sanders the mascot for everyone’s favourite fried chicken joint was actually a really person.
It’s a true story of craziness and hardship, it will make you exhausted just reading about it. Also it’s a story of never give up trying, because, boy did Harland “Colonel” Sanders go through hell and barely come out of it alive, but when he did it he was complete with a stunning white suit!
If you’ve ever had enough and thought about quitting because those dreams of yours are never going to be achievable then you should carry on reading this because the Colonel never quit and neither should you.
It’s a (very) long (hard) way to the top
Harland Sanders was born in 1890 in Henryville, Indiana, USA. When you know your destined to be a success, but do not know what you want to do or how you are going to do it, you just got have to keep trying anything and repeat and repeat.
You can’t fault him for trying because he pretty much did every job possible like he was the star of a crazy reality show on Netflix until KFC was a hit. Sanders got fired from more jobs than dummy f**king Johnathan out of the movie Mannequin and usually for some really, really stupid reasons!
Sanders was the family cook at the age of seven
Sanders father Wilbert Sanders passed away when he was only five, which meant that everyone in the family had to pitch in. Harland ended up drawing the short straw and having to cook the family meals everyday at the ripe old age of seven! I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t even make a school lunch at that age. It could have been worse though he could have gotten the job of cleaning the family s**t house.
At the age of ten he decided to move on from family chef slave and go to work on a local farm. While here Sanders mum remarried and they all had to move away, but Sanders did not get along with his step-father and was shipped back to the home town.
At thirteen years he went to work on another farm and decided tp quit school all because he hated algebra. While on the farm he worked as an odd-job man (kid) and fed the animals.
This is where everything gets interesting…
At the age of 16 Sanders started out as a streetcar conductor, but soon got fed up with that and lied about his age to join the army. After just a year he was discharged and became a railroad fireman of which he was fired for going to the toilet (yes, really!), an insurance salesman, a ferry operator which he had to leave because a bridge was built down the road which put him out of business… While doing these many different jobs he managed to meet and marry Josephine King, whom he had three children, Two daughters Margaret and Mildred and a son named Harland Jnr. The marriage wasn’t easy with Sanders playing job roulette and uprooting the family every so often. Life was tough.
While all the above was happening he was also studying to be a lawyer, of which he passed the bar and actually did work as a lawyer until he got arrested and barred from practicing law for definite. This was because he got into a fist fight with his own client while in court. You really couldn’t make this s**t up!
When will Harland Sanders get a God-damn break?
Now at the age of 30 Sanders picked himself up and wasn’t going to take any more s**t… Well, sadly that wasn’t the case because he went back to work as a toilet cleaner on the railroad. Then onto a being a midwife, yes you did read that correctly and many other jobs where he would end up having to give up. Either because of misfortune or being fired for something completely stupid like fighting, which he did yet again!
Yet another new job and new start
Eventually he found himself selling tyres. While in this brief career he ended up falling and surviving drop of 42 feet when a bridge collapsed while towing his son Harland Jnr’s car! He was knocked out, smashed his head open, and fractured his arm.
Onlookers wanted to call a doctor, but Sanders even though he was broken up, black and blue all over wouldn’t have none of it.
Sadly Harland Jnr. would die of complications caused by blood poisoning from a tonsillectomy.
The start of that famous fried chicken
Sanders once again picked himself up and dusted himself off and went on to run a Shell gas station.Here he started selling cooked food and got quite a reputation for it which would inevitably attract competition. Yet again it wasn’t long before the s**t hit the fan again when a rival gas station owner from up the road started to sabotage Sanders operation by painting over his advertising signs and directing business away. Sanders didn’t take this lying down and threatened the devious owner that he’d shoot him if he ever tried that shit again, which he did!
There was actually a shootout and the other station guy happened to shoot first and killed one of Sander’s workers. Sanders grabbed his dead workers gun and shot back, but only wounded the douche bag sign saboteur. Although everyone was arrested Sanders got off because it was an act of self-defense. Just think that if Sanders were shot and killed or went to jail KFC would never have existed!
It’s all gone s**t again!
You’d think that now his main competition was out of the picture it was plain sailing from now on. He was successful for a short while selling delicious fried chicken and was given Kentucky’s highest honour of the title ‘Colonel’ by two governors.
Then it all went to s**t again. You see a new highway was built and diverted all traffic away from Sanders gas station/chicken shop. He had to sell up and lost a lot of money. He was now at the age of 66. You’d think at that age he’d give up and retire, but that is not the Harland Sanders way.
Never give in, never give up
Once again Sanders was jobless and potless, but this time he’d give it one last try. Living in his car he would travel around the south offering his famous recipe of secret spices with a licensing deal to the local restaurants that wanted to give an old guy who lived in his car with a cooker and lots of chicken a chance. It paid off… Finally.
Is this finally the break Sanders needed?
After a lifetime of trying a million jobs until you find one that is the right one, Sanders hard work was finally starting to pay off. Now were into the 1960s and Sanders was now into his 70s and had managed to franchise hundreds of restaurants. Sanders knew about marketing too and used his own image as the mascot and logo for Kentucky Fried Chicken and would not step out in public without his trademark white suit and tie.
So was this the sweet happy ending you were expecting?
Of course not, this is Colonel Sanders remember, things aren’t that easy. It wasn’t long before two fat cat millionaires John Y. Brown and Jack Massey wanted a piece of the action. After weeks of pressure to sell, Sanders gave in and sold Kentucky Fried Chicken for $2Million and also took a yearly salary, but he was never truly happy with the deal.
Sanders vs KFC and the many rematches
Although Sanders had sold the company, Jack Massey believed The Colonel’s face was such a huge part of KFC and still wanted Sanders to be the spokesperson for the company. He would still do TV, interviews and be the face of KFC even though he wasn’t in control, which must have been pretty heartbreaking.
In the early 1970s the current owners had now sold the company to Heublein Inc. and this p**sed Sanders off big time because he was worried they would change the secret recipe. They didn’t but they relocated the KFC headquarters from Kentucky to Tennessee and begin charging a franchising fee and took a percentage of sales instead of the old-fashioned way of taking a nickel per chicken.
What did Colonel Harland Sanders do next?
He went ahead and opened his own rival fried chicken restaurant called Colonel Sanders’ Dinner House which p**sed off KFC so much they threatened legal action. So Sanders then renamed it Colonel Lady’s Dinner House, but KFC were mighty p**sed again and said they owned the rights to the word “colonel”. Then things got out of hand and Sanders tried to sue KFC for $122Million and KFC counteracted with a trademark infringement case. Both parties settled out of court in 1975 for an undisclosed amount. This time a brawl did not take place!
Oh no, not again!
KFC although still had much respect for Sanders, mainly because he was the living and breathing logo of their empire. In 1978 he was in trouble again by telling a newspaper he thought the gravy tasted like wallpaper paste, but the case was thrown out of court. Sanders continued to work with KFC after all the shit they had both gone through right up until his death in 1980 where he sadly lost his life to leukemia at the age of 90.
The KFC we know today and the b**tardization of the mascot
Since Sanders death KFC has since gone on to become one of the world’s most successful fast food giants with thousands of restaurants all over the world. Unfortunately they have kind of ruined the late great Colonel’s reputation by using his image for some rather awful marketing choices like dancing cartoons, fancy dress costumes and most recently as Robocop and DJing at the Ultra Music festival.
There is only one Colonel Harland Sanders. We truly respect and admired your spirit!