Thursday, March 15, 2007

Made in Madison: Remembering Red Dot potato chips

Red Dot Foods was founded in 1938. Most Central alumni probably remember Red Dot potato chips, which were made in Madison until 1961. That's the year the company was sold to H.W. Lay and Company -- and not long after that, many of us who used to pack Red Dot potato chips in our brown paper lunch bags started eating corn chips instead.

The Red Dot factory was located at 1435 East Washington Avenue. The building is still there, but the factory was closed in 1973. If you want to read more about this bit of local history, check out the Wisconsin Historical Society's online exhibit, "Chip Chat: Red Dot and the Potato Chip." Lots of fun. Lots of memories. No calories.

7 comments:

D Strand said...

Nadine,
As a youngster, I went on the tour of the Red Dot factory many times. It was the precursor to touring the brewerys in Milwaukee because they both gave extensive free samples at the end and that was the main reason you went. Red Dot had many very fine products and you would get a nice bag of each. I'm sure that you took the tour, Nadine, as well as everyone who ever lived on the Eastside. It was GREAT!!

D Strand said...

P.S. The Lays tour that started in the 60s as you pointed out was not nearly as good which resulted in a lot of slightly saddened kids!

cagy2@aol.com said...

Nadine,
My stepfather drove a semi for Red Dot from 1947 to 196o's. I remember the night that Fred Meyers, the owner killed him self over the sale of the company. When returning from Rhinelander bringing potatoes, I would get to swing thru the factory and see the fryers going. The ladies would pick out the brown chips and set them aside. The employees would purchased these for $2 for a 2 cubic ft. box. That was a very nice treat for us kids. I was a young teenager then and unloaded thousands of boxes of chips. One week I went along and we put on over 1000 miles on the truck. that was the longest he was ever gone from home.

rklotzspizman said...

My dad was a salesman for Red Dot when I was a kid. We lived in Rhinelander where there was a potato chip plant. On occasional Saturdays, I would get to go with my dad to the plant to help him clean his truck. I'll never forget the sight and the smell of fresh chips. The ladies on the assembly line would sneak a few warm chips to me as I watched. To this day, my favorite food is~~~~yup, you guessed it, POTATO CHIPS!

Anonymous said...

My dad, Rocky Neitzke, started as a route salesman for Red Dot in Wausau, Wisconsin (mid 1950's) and soon became a general manager responsible for opening up new markets. This resulted in family moves every year or so. From Wausau, we moved to Eau Claire, then to Omaha, then Saint Joseph, Mo, then Topeka, KS when Fred committed suicide. Participated in many Red Dot events. Remembering company picnics in Rhinelander, and factory tours in Madison. In local parades, as a youngster, I used to work from the back of a Red Dot route truck throwing out bags of chips. Also remember when Red Dot hosted the world champion Milwaukee Braves at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha for a game against the farm team, Omaha Cardinals. I still have the signed ball from that game. Relatives always looked forward to our vacationing visits because we would bring a big case of Red Dot product samples...chips, popcorn, Rold Gold pretzels, Donald Duck tomato juice. Still love tater chips! -Gary Neitzke

Anonymous said...

Haha I'm posting in 2016 so you guys will have forgot about your comments but my great grandfather was the owner of red dot potato chips I am here because I am doing research on him

Nadine said...

We haven't forgotten. In fact, this post and its comments have been the subject of discussions in several local history Facebook groups this past week. Contact me by email (or leave another comment with your contact information) and I'll be glad to help you connect with some people who know a great deal about Madison history.