SMALLPOX AND CORN CHIPS
CATEGORY: GRASS VALLEY
PHOTO: 1930’S CORN CHIPS CAN
When I was about eight years old, I “came down” with smallpox. I cannot remember how this happened. It must have been in the same way that I got whooping cough and scarlet fever when we lived in Dayville: straight out of the night sky. Two marvelous blessings came with this malady: one was that I didn’t have to have a vaccination and the other was corn chips.
After I had smallpox, miraculously without resultant pox marks, both of my sisters had to be vaccinated leaving large ugly scars on their upper arms. So I was blessed by being scarless.
The other blessing was gustatory. Our whole household had to be quarantined for two weeks. My two sisters got out in time. They were evacuated to the ranch for the duration. During the quarantine our groceries had to be delivered to us by the town marshal: Marshal Garrett. Every few days he would show up at our door bearing a large cardboard box full of groceries. Perhaps my mother gave him a list of things we needed, but somehow we got some things in that box that weren’t needed. One of them was corn chips. I had never heard of corn chips. In my smallpox haze, I did not even know they were made of corn because there was a little peanut man on the outside of the container so I somehow associated the contents with nuts. I did not find out what those chips were until many years later, when I first tasted Fritos corn chips and realized that they were the same thing as that long ago treat. These early corn chips came in a round can that was about 8 inches high and 3 inches across. I do not remember how the can was opened, but I don’t think it was with a can opener. Maybe it had a key like the cans of Spam during the Second World War. All I can remember is that they were the most delicious morsels that had ever left an imprint on my tongue. Although I was very, very ill, It was worth having small pox just to be able to gobble down a hand full of this rare delicacy!
How did it happen that the marshal brought us corn chips? It is still a mystery. Maybe Marshal Garrett knew what they were and, out of the goodness of his heart, decided that I needed something special. Marshal Garrett was almost as broad as he was high. Maybe corn chips were a staple of his diet..