The Kemmons Wilson Holiday Inn Story


- Kemmons Wilson, Founder of Holiday Inns
-With Robert Kerr

Copyright 1996, Hambleton-Hill Publishing, Inc.  First Edition.  From Chapter Two "Popcorn and Pinball"

Excerpts from pages 14-16 .  (Printed here with Permission from The Kemmons Wilson Family)


"I decided I had to quit school to try and make us a living.  My mother thought I should stay in school, but she couldn't stop me from dropping out.  At the time, it was more important to me to eat than it was to get an education".

At the age of 17 Kemmons made up his mind he would never be poor again.

If Kemmons wasn't going to work for someone else, he was going to have to think creatively.  He had always loved the movies, and often did odd jobs at the Memphian Theater in return for admission to see the feature film.  But in 1930, his thoughts moved beyond what was happening up on the screen.  Realizing that the theater offered no snacks for moviegoers to munch on, he saw the opportunity to create a market for himself.

"I got to thinking that I could sell popcorn there.  So I talked to the manager, and he talked to his boss, and they finally decided I could put a popcorn machine out front.  Then I went down to see Tom O'Brien at United Fixture and Scale Company.  I told him I wanted to buy a popcorn machine and he showed me one he had for $50". 

His hunch about the untapped potential in theater concessions proved correct "...so much in fact that his profits soon far outstripped the theater manager's income", Kemmons recalls.  "I started selling popcorn for a nickel a bag, and I did well.  But I got to where I was making $40-$50 a week, while the theater manager was only making $25.  He kept counting the sacks I was selling.  Finally he came to me and said he was taking the job away from me". 

"I remember telling my mother then that I was going to get myself a movie theater, and nobody else was ever going to take my popcorn machine away from me".   Several years later, Kemmons did just that.



Webmaster's Note:    ...Kemmons Wilson bought the DeSOTO


 Please visit the website that sponsors this page

Historic Memphis Website