POPCORN, ANY ONE?

Last of Ye Olde Popcorn Machines

Last of Ye Olde Popcorn Machines awaits motorists in Clare, Mich.

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Out on U.S. 10 in Clare, Michigan, there's a popcorn machine that's been pumping out pounds of popcorn for almost 50 years and shows no signs of petering out.

Ye Olde Popcorn Machine was built in 1913 by Creators, an Illinois firm that now makes the sleek, shining machines popping smugly away in theater lobbies.

Creators made only eight machines like Ye Olde, the bright maroon-and yellow belles of the popcorn-making world. Only Ye Olde is still in business, everyday from Easter until Labor Day, and on weekends until October.

'It's still got the original machinery, just as it came out of the Factory,' says Mrs. A. E. Rodman of Clare, wife of the popper's owner. 'The only thing we've done to it is to switch to bottled gas for heat.'

The Rodmans bought the popper in 1948 from its original owner, who claimed he paid $7,500 for it when it was new.

The popper can chug around on its four-cylinder engine at 15 mph-just about the speed at which popcorn comes perking from its pot when it's going full steam. But the Rodmans leave it right where it is, a lure to passing motorists.

Americans are popping an estimated 350 million pounds a year. 100 pounds of popcorn will fill 1,500 ten-cent boxes. That means that from Clare to both coasts things are really popping!