Do you know the story of Pronto Pup, the corn dog born on the Oregon coast?

By on June 6, 2022 0

Jhe mighty corn dog empire Pronto puppy was born behind the Rockaway Beach Natatorium after a rainy Labor Day in 1939, as ex-smuggler-turned-hot-dog seller George Boyington fed stale buns to the seagulls—the stampede he had been stocking up for hadn’t happened due to the weather. If only he could make the buns on demand, Boyington thought, then there would be no worries about overstocks going stale. So he decided to experiment with a cornmeal-based batter and a deep fryer, and perfected the recipe at Centennial Mills in Portland. Soon he and his wife Versa were throwing Pronto Pups out a window in Portland.

A post-war Pronto Pup location at NE 30th and Sandy posted ads for a griddle operator under “Help Wanted Men” and a car jump under “Help Wanted Women”. In 1949, the Boyingtons filed a trademark infringement suit against a couple selling a “fake imitation” called Pluto Pups (a name that lives on today mostly in Australia, along with Dagwood Dogs, which also inspired a trademark infringement case). Mark). Meanwhile, in the 1940s, the Boyingtons were also luring franchisees with live demos and classified ads promising exclusive territory in remote locations like Montana and Missouri. A handful of franchises from the 1940s live on around the Great Lakes, where Pronto Pup is a staple of beach walks and state fairs.

“Every few years I get a reporter from the Minnesota State Fair,” says Baxter Boyington, a son of George and Versa, who was a baby when Pronto Pup started but worked on some later projects from his father long after the family. had moved to California and sold the business. At a hot dog stand on a stick in Avila Beach his father started after a period of non-competition, Boyington recalls, they had a pinball machine, a jukebox and a dance floor.

“My dad was a really unusual guy in a lot of ways,” says Boyington, who was named after his dad’s bodyguard from his smuggling days back east; in turn, his parents named “Bananas Baxter”—a fried banana on a stick, rolled in powdered sugar—in honor of their son.

“He was always trying to invent or sell or make something,” Boyington continues. “When you’re a kid, you don’t understand that not everyone invented the hot dog on a stick.”

“George was a real promoter,” says Dave Sulmonetti, whose father and uncle (who had been George Boyington’s lawyer) bought the batter supplier Pronto Pup Co of Boyington around 1950. “He organized events across the country” to sell franchises. , says Sulmonetti, although most of them have collapsed. During the 50s and 60s, people put their Pronto Pup racks and trailers up for sale, assuring buyers that they only took two people to race. Theoretically, operators could raise money all summer and take winters off.

Alex Sulmonetti, Dave’s father, introduced the dough to Fred Meyer, Kienow’s and other grocery stores for home cooks, but stopped after a few decades when the packaging company they had used ceased. his activities. The Sulmonettis have never sold franchises like Boyington, says Dave Sulmonetti, but anyone who buys the dough can use the name, including the three Pronto Pup locations in Oregon at Otis, Rockaway Beach and Seaside.

Today, Sulmonetti sells primarily to mobile businesses: carnivals and dealerships across the United States and Canada, including a few at the Oregon State Fair. He regularly takes an old brand trailer (which he bought from a couple in Eugene he worked for) to the Tillamook County Fair, Pacific City Dory Days, and Portland International Raceway events.

Oregon Pronto Standby

When a Pronto Pup opened in Seaside towards the end of World War II, it was one of many new businesses that were part of a coastal boom sparked in part by wartime gas rationing which has prompted many travelers to stay closer to home. Just off the sidewalk on busy Broadway, the Seaside location today is crammed next to bumper cars and a tilt-a-whirl. The long-running Pronto Pup in Otis, on the way to Lincoln City, is one of the original franchises of the 1940s. It is now part of Otis Pizzeria.

The Rockaway spot, a few blocks from Pronto Pup’s birthplace, was opened in 2016 by a Portland lawyer who erected a giant fiberglass corn dog on its roof. It’s pretty cheesy, as is the front-riding corn dog, where “adults seem to be having more fun than kids,” says Diane Langer, who bought the shop with her partner in late 2021.

“It’s always been one of those things on your mind, owning your own home one day,” says Langer, who started joking about buying the Rockaway Beach Pronto when she saw news reports of it being put up for sale at the start of 2021. As the year progressed, however, the jokes became real. Soon, she and her partner were part of the big quit, quitting their jobs at a Tacoma auto company and trying to figure out how to keep Christmas lights attached to a giant corn dog in coastal winds. Langer’s brother also made antlers for the dog, and his brother-in-law helped set them up: “He’s a retired lineman, so he’s used to heights,” Langer says.

Michigan: Secret Puppy Hot Spot

About 2,000 miles east of Rockaway Beach on the shores of Lake Huron’s Tawas Bay, another new Pronto Pup owner was gearing up for the summer season when we spoke in May. Last year, Margo Larkin took over a Pronto Pup cabin with her sister and her sister’s fiancé. “Honestly, I never had a Pronto Pup until we bought this stand,” she says. The cart not only offers the classic dog, but other regular items and rotating experiences. There’s an eggplant option, drizzled with honey and topped with toasted sesame seeds, and they’ve used the batter with fried Oreos, apple rings, fried green tomatoes, etc., served with lemonades on the side. elixir and popsicles. “My sister and I have always been very artistic people. We both like to make things, either with materials or with food.”

The business that Larkin and his family took over was started by a man from Grand Haven, across the Lower Peninsula from Lake Michigan. The seaside town is home to one of the original franchises Boyington sold in 1947.

“For years everyone thought my dad invented it,” says Carl Nelson, whose father and great-uncle attended one of Boyington’s presentations and promptly spent $600 building a nine-by-seven-foot building in Grand Haven. Nelson started working at his father’s hot dog shack when he was 13 and never really left. The cash-only shack is still going strong after 75 years, though it lost customers after Nelson posted a 2020 tirade on the company’s Facebook page in which he claimed mask mandates and the fight against COVID-19 were “not a health issue” but a political one, suggested the Black Lives Matter movement “has nothing to do with racism” and compared the media to Hitler. The post sparked dueling protests at the hot dog stand. Nelson eventually issued an apology for putting the statement on the company’s Facebook page instead of his personal page, but he does not disavow the language used in the original post and says he stands by it.

The incident prompted other Pronto Pups to note on social media that they were all independent businesses with no connection to each other. One was a food truck 30 miles away in Grand Rapids, Michigan that pops up in the brewery parking lots with local beer beaten dogs, jalapeño cheddar sauce and deep-fried “pickle pups” made with Brickman’s own dill pickles from Michigan and served with a “house-made dill aioli.

Owner Andy Bogart bought the truck in April 2020 – at the time he was running a food delivery business that had just become five times busier, and he was looking for something else that seemed to be weatherproof. pandemic.

“People love their Pronto puppies,” Bogart says of the treat that has become a Michigan staple. He contracts local Kent Quality Foods on a custom turkey-beef-pork dog and sells Detroit’s own Faygo sodas, adding local flair to the Oregon-born item. Bogart, a beer lover, says he would like to drive from Grand Rapids to Oregon one day, try local beers and meet Dave Sulmonetti. He would definitely also visit Pronto Pup’s birthplace in Rockaway.

“I want to ride the corn dog.”