The Day Colonel Sanders Visited Kalamazoo
It was back in 1975 and I was a young kid, with a 35mm Canon camera and a dark room in my parents' basement, when I began to write and shoot photos for the Kalamazoo Review Magazine, a local monthly publication that focused on events happening in the Kalamazoo area.
Colonel Sanders was coming to Kalamazoo to honor a local franchise with the White Glove Award and I was assigned to the task of meeting the Colonel at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport and attending the scheduled press conference.
It’s been over four decades since that photo shoot and the memories of that day have dimmed when recalling the series of events that took place. Fortunately, Greg Gabry, administrator of the Facebook group Vanished Kalamazoo, was able to fill in the blanks concerning the Kentucky Colonel’s first and only visit to Kalamazoo.
The Colonel was 84 years old when he came to Kalamazoo the first day of December 1975. He was presenting the company's cleanliness award (the "White Glove" ) to 6 of William Alford's franchises in the area; 3 of which were Kalamazoo franchises and the others being in Hastings, Niles, and Benton Harbor.
The Kentucky Colonel Arrives In Kalamazoo
I do remember being in a room, at the airport, set aside for the press conference and taking various shots of the Colonel, in his distinguished bright-white southern gentleman’s suit and black western bowtie.
One photo may have been the local franchise owner, William Alford, witnessing the Colonel signing a document that could have been the White Glove Award. Another photo shows Colonel Sanders surrounded by local employees of the area KFC restaurants.
So Who Is The News Reporter Shown Interviewing The Colonel?
There is some debate, on the Vanished Kalamazoo Facebook site, as to the identity of the Channel 3 news reporter, shown interviewing Colonel Sanders. The two names that surfaced were Lee Dersham and David Howe.
Gabry notes that Lee Dersham worked for WKZO Radio from 1958 until 1988, but he doesn’t believe he did any television work. A nephew of David Howe believes that the reporter is his uncle, who worked for WKZO radio and may have had an 11 o’clock television newscast on Channel 3.
The Colonel seemed to enjoy talking with the young crew members of the local restaurants while posing with the bunch. On March 14, 2017, William F. Alford Co., Inc. closed one of the winning KFC restaurants located at 2026 West Main Street in Kalamazoo.