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Tully Scott’s Popcorn Wagon

Kalamazoo’s First Confectionery Store on Wheels


During the years between the two World Wars, a sure sign that springtime had arrived in Kalamazoo was the appearance of Tully Scott’s bright red popcorn wagon on city streets. For more than thirty years Scott and his crew served up copious amounts of popcorn and other choice confections for passersby of all ages.

popcorn-wagon-wmu-2-1600
“The Popcorn Lady,” at Bronson Park. Photo by Ward Morgan. Courtesy, Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections.

Cretors Popcorn Wagon

Born in Illinois in 1885, Tully Scott worked as a sales agent for Charles Cretors & Company, a well-known manufacturer of popcorn machines and concession equipment in Wood Dale, Illinois near Chicago. In 1914, Scott sold one of the company’s lavish custom-built gasoline-powered popcorn wagons to Edgar Blackmer, who drove the fancy new machine to Kalamazoo and set up shop. Blackmer wasn’t Kalamazoo’s first popcorn vendor by any means, but he did introduce Kalamazoo residents to “the first and only motor-driven, gaily-painted, electric-lighted confectionery store on wheels.” Blackmer soon became known as Kalamazoo’s “Popcorn Man.”

Blackmer’s popcorn wagon was one of only nine such machines manufactured by the Cretors firm. It was built from the ground up with a custom designed steel chassis and powered by a chain-driven Buda four-cylinder engine like those used in the first Checker cabs. The bright red truck body was highlighted with exquisite mahogany woodwork, brass trim, and stunning glass signage.

But operating such a machine on the streets of Kalamazoo wasn’t always easy. Blackmer petitioned the city council for permission to park his vehicle near Bronson Park, but that request failed. Instead he frequented the busy Burdick Street theater district but was often ordered by the police to keep his vehicle moving. Arrangements were finally made allowing him to park the machine in front of the County Building near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Rose Street.

Tully & Maude Scott

Following Blackmer’s death in 1917, Tully Scott left Cretors and became “The Popcorn Man” in Kalamazoo with Blackmer’s widow, Maude. Tully piloted the ol’ popcorn wagon as the couple continued to serve up a selection of tasty confections like fresh hot popcorn, peanuts, and Cracker Jack during the warm weather months. In October 1919 Maude and Tully were married.

In addition to the presents bought, Mr. Tully Scott and Mr. Lloyd Cantrall, Kalamazoo’s pop-corn merchants are again donating 2500 bags of crackerjack.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 2 December 1934

The Scotts were especially committed to the Kalamazoo community. Each year at Christmastime Maude and Tully contributed hundreds of bags of popcorn and Cracker Jack to the Kalamazoo Exchange Club’s annual Christmas benefit, which helped make the season a little brighter for local children who were less fortunate.

By 1940, Tully was finally given permission to park their vehicle along the west side of Rose Street next to Bronson Park. The Scotts operated their popcorn wagon until 1946, when a paper shortage due to the war effort forced them into early retirement. Maude Scott, “The Popcorn Lady,” became ill soon after and passed away in 1951. Tully sold his beloved popcorn wagon in 1955 to parties from Claire, Michigan.

popcorn-wagon-museum-photo-1600
Maude & Tully Scott’s fully restored 1914 Cretors popcorn wagon. Courtesy, Museum of Automobiles, Morrilton, Arkansas.

Tully Scott passed away in May 1971 at the age of 85. The couple’s fully restored 1914 Cretors popcorn wagon is currently on display at the Museum of Automobiles in Morrilton, Arkansas.

 

Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, July 2021. Revised and edited January 2023.

Sources

Articles

“Tully Scott, ‘Pop Corn Man,’ and wife known to local thousands”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 October 1946, page 15

“Maude Scott, Popcorn Lady, long ill, dies”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 22 August 1951, page 4

“A mobile popcorn stand”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 September 1967, page 51, column 1

“Popcorn stand operator Scott dies at age 85”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 May 1971, page B-8, column 5

“On a visit to the popcorn wagon in ’47”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 2 October 1988, page B-4, column 4


Websites

The Museum of Automobiles, Morrilton, AR
Antique vehicles on display, including Tully Scott’s fully restored 1914 Cretors popcorn wagon.

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