The Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation has something to crow about. They've just launched a brand new website in honor of founder Colonel Harland Sanders, and they're inviting his devoted fans to share their stories and memories of the man behind the brand.
“Sanders had an impact on people. They remember that interaction when they met him,” says Rick Maynard, public relations manager of the KFC Corporation.
The idea to start ColonelSanders.com came from a meeting with franchisees who have been with the company for many years. “One day they were all telling these amazing stories of the Colonel. Our goal is to capture the stories before they’re forgotten, “says Maynard.
“We just don’t want people to forget the Colonel and the very large figure that he was,” Topmiller says. “He was a man of confidence, and he lived his life with hard work and perseverance. He believed in following your dreams. He always said a dream is just a suggestion to you to get up and do something about it.”
Sanders was awarded an honorary colonel degree from the state of Kentucky in the 1930s for his charitable work, Topmiller says. There was an orphanage near Corbin, the town where he started his first restaurant. The colonel made homemade ice cream for the children there every Sunday.
The site contains quotes and old videos of the colonel working in the kitchen and speaking about his life’s work. In one video, Sanders preaches the value of hard work and shares his philosophy. “Have ambition to work, willingness to work, and integrity in what you do.”
That mantra elevated the colonel from his humble background as a man with a $105 Social Security check and a chicken recipe to the owner of a successful worldwide business.
The website allows people to submit photos and videos along with their text-based stories. Many of the memories are testaments to the Colonel’s generosity and character, rather than the man with the secret fried chicken recipe - which Topmiller claims is locked up in a vault at KFC Headquarters.
One fan wrotes, “In 1973 it was everyone for themselves when boarding planes. My mother, carrying a half-year-old me, was struggling across the tarmac when the Colonel noticed her. He insisted on helping her onto the plane, carrying my diaper bag and making me smile. My mother was always amazed that this important man, followed by bodyguards, took the time to carry a diaper bag!”
Another Sanders devotee shared, “When I was a grade school student in Louisville, Ky., the Colonel would stop by the school and gives us butterscotch candy from the pocket of his white jacket. I remember him doing this two or three times and as a 10 year old, I really did not have an appreciation for what was happening at that moment.”
One man recorded a video testimony to Sanders’ charitable nature. “We picked this kid up, and the Colonel found out he worked in a restaurant and was going to this little college, so we picked him up and took him to the college. The kid said, ‘Well, you can let me right on out here, and I can walk on back to my dorm.’ The Colonel said, ‘No, I know somebody up there in this office, and I want to talk to him.’ So we went up there, and the Colonel gave him a full scholarship right there on the spot.”
Visitors to the website are greeted by a minute and a half video introduction to the Colonel’s life and legacy.
The KFC Corporation expects that people associate the Colonel with the brand of KFC, which could help sales, but that’s not the aim. Maynard says the website is first and foremost about capturing special moments with the Colonel and points out that the website does not even provide a link to KFC.
When the website launched, nearly sixty people submitted stories and more submissions continue to roll in. Maynard says for now the plan is to maintain and keep up the site well into the future. Eventually, the collection may be turned into a book.
When asked what the Colonel would think about the website, Topmiller says, “He would love it. He was always interested in all things new and progression.”
One of the Colonel’s quotes featured prominently on the website suggests that perhaps he will be satisfied with his place in history, “People will rust out quicker’n they’ll ever wear out, and I’ll be darned if I’ll ever rust out.”