You Say ToMATEo, and I Say ToMATo
And Tillie Lewis Says “I’m the World’s Tomato Queen”
In 1916, fifteen year-old Brooklyn native Myrtle Ehrlich left high school after one year to marry a wholesale grocer and to go to work in his business. Noticing the high demand for the imported cans of firm-bodied, pear-shaped Italian tomatoes (pomodori) used by the best cooks to make the best spaghetti sauce, she had a plan. “Why not grow pomodori domestically?” She consulted with the agriculture specialists at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, who advised that pomodori could not be grown in American soil. Discouraged (and divorced) she moved on, studying business and briefly selling securities on Wall Street.
In 1934 the federal government raised the tariff on imported tomato products by 50%. Once again Myrtle decided to pursue the possibility of growing the pomodoro variety domestically. An upcoming vacation to Italy provided the perfect opportunity. There she met Florindo del Gaizo, an Italian exporter who was worried about losing his American customers. She procured pomodoro seed, and she talked del Gaizo into staking $50,000 on a project to grow them in California. Together they formed the Flotill Foods Corporation. They hired Stockton farmers to experiment. Needless to say, the experiment was a success — pomodoro tomato seeds grew beautifully in California! Myrtle’s next step was to talk the Pacific Can Company into building a plant at Stockton, with an option for her to buy it. On July 13, 1935, her 34th birthday, the first Flotill cannery in Stockton opened. By 1940, she had made San Joaquin County the top tomato-producing county in the United States. In 1951 Flotell Products, renamed Tillie Lewis Foods, Inc. was earning $30 million per year, making it one of the five largest canning companies in the United States. In the same year, Tillie Lewis (Myrtle’s adopted business name), was named “businesswoman of the year” by the Associated Press. That year pear-shaped tomatoes made up about 10% of California’s crop. By 1971, Tillie Lewis Foods had sales of over $90 million per year. During the Korean War, Flotill was the nation’s largest supplier of U.S. Army C-Rations.
August 2012 Calendar
Thursdays, August 2, 9, 16 & 23 • 5:30 - 7:30pm
THEATER IN THE PARK
ECAS (The Educational Center for the Arts and Sciences
Spanish-language and bilingual music, dance, and theater for all ages.
PLACE: Roger Williams Park Broad Street Entrance
COST: Free • www.arttixri.com/org/detail/152/ECAS_Theater
Sundays, August 5, 12, 19 & 26 • 6:00pm
SOUNDS OF SUMMER CONCERTS
Pawtucket Summer Concert Series
- Aug 5 Mel-Tones, big band
- Aug 12 Dixie Diehards, '20s - '30s New Orleans-style music
- Aug 19 Joe’s Backyard Band, Motown and blues
- Aug 26 Aurea Ensemble, music and poetry
PLACE: Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre, outdoors at the corner of Roosevelt and Exchange Streets, Pawtucket
COST: Free • www.pawtucketri.com • 401-728-0500 x251
Saturday, August 11 • 10:00 - 11:30am
WALKING TOUR: CAPE VERDEAN HISTORY
Rhode Island Historical Society
Guest guide Claire Andrade-Watkings.
PLACE: 109 India Street (next to the Community Boat Center), Providence
COST: $10 • Reservations email@example.com
Tuesday, August 14 • 10:00am - 1:00pm
IMAGINATION PLAYGROUND — PLAY AT THE PARK
The Providence Children's Museum and the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation
Imagination Playground features huge blue foam shapes and other open-ended equipment that inspire creative play.
PLACE: Burnside Park in Kennedy Plaza, Providence
COST: Free • www.childrenmuseum.org
Wednesday, August 15 • Tours at 10:00am and 2:00pm
VICTORIAN TIMES — A KIDS TOUR OF LIPPITT HOUSE
Preserve Rhode Island
An interactive tour for kids ten to fourteen, featuring the Lippitt House architecture, decorative finishes, and Victorian culture.
PLACE: 199 HopeStreet, Providence
COST: $6 per child (accompanying adults free) • Registration required at www.lippitthouse.org • 401-453-0688
Wednesday, August 15 • 7:00 - 9:00pm
Roger Williams Park Zoo
A family evening featuring a themed tour at twilight, a s’more smorgasbord, and story time.
PLACE: 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence
COST: Members • adults $27; ages 3 - 12 $22; free for ages 2 and under
Non-members • $37 adults; $32 ages 3-12; free for ages 2 and under
Register at www.rwpzoo.org.
Saturday, August 18 • 7:30pm
DOWNTOWN SUNDOWN SERIES
Roger Williams National Memorial
Featuring Lisa Martin with Brad Willard, John Fuzek, Mark Cutler, and Mary Ann Rossoni.
PLACE: Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 North Main Street, Providence
COST: Free • 401-521-7266 x203 • limited parking at the park
Through September 28 • Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 4:00pm
AFRICAN-AMERICAN ART EXHIBIT
Department of Administration
Human Resources Outreach and Diversity Office
PLACE: Atrium Gallery, 1 Capitol Hill, Providence
COST: Free • www.arts.ri.gov/special/atrium • 401-222-3880
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