It was 1958, we were in the middle of the baby boom generation, suburbs were being built on the horizon, and Jiffy Pop was invented. The Church was full every Sunday and very few people saw the seeds of the destruction of the Church or moral values would be tied to an invention created in La Porte, Indiana that year.
Nevertheless, society changed, the Church changed, and it was the beginning of a culture of throwing away values, products, and morals that was left in its place.
Jiffy Pop was unique for its time as it offered a fast and easy way to cook popcorn on the spot. The revolutionary packaging that Jiffy-Pop used allowed someone to have popcorn fast and easy, all they needed was something to heat the pan. Jiffy pop was originally invented in 1958 by the entrepreneur, businessman, and inventor Frederick C. Mennen. In his home town of LaPorte situated in Indiana he began developing this easy to make popcorn. He finished the product a few months later, after tinkering with the speed taken to cook it, adding various flavorings to his new popcorn, all to obtain the perfect texture and taste required for the success of the Jiffy Pop on release.
Luckily Frederick had balanced the ingredients in his product perfectly in his aim of making the popcorn, a fast to cook product had been achieved. The Jiffy Pop had seen amazing success in the food market and was quickly causing interest amongst many big food producers. This then led onto the product being snapped up within a few months of it being released by American Home Products. However the name "Jiffy Pop" caused controversy amongst other popcorn brands as they also utilized similar names. This led to Benjamin Coleman who had designed the product "E-Z Pop" a few years before Frederick had released his product, to sue the brand under civil law for copyright infringement, and for using the name Jiffy pop, as Benjamin had already obtained a patent regarding his own product E-Z pop. This case was eventually accepted by the court, however Frederick pleaded with the courts in an appeal, which led to the case being made void.
The design of Jiffy Pop was a very unique one as it consisted of a thin pan made of the metal Aluminum. This pan was very light and could expand under high temperatures. The physical properties of the sound of the popcorn popping also was very beneficial to the product, as when the popcorn heated up in the pan a distinct pop was heard which also gave way to the "Pop" aspect of its name. The color of the Jiffy Pop was changed over years of development. Originally Jiffy Pop was originally a yellow color, which was extremely appealing to many customers, and evidently caught the undivided attention of shoppers. The issue with yellow as a color was extremely inefficient at accomplishing Fredrick's aims of producing quick to make popcorn. The color yellow meant that the popcorn took a bit longer to make as it reflected some heat back out into the air. This then meant that Fredrick redeveloped the color into a matt black color which is very efficient at absorbing heat radiation, which meant that the popcorn was made faster. The taste of the Jiffy Pop was also made to give a strong taste of butter, which is derived from the combination of flavorings used in the popcorn. The various ingredients of Jiffy pop include such things as Popcorn seeds, and various oils to keep the seeds lubricated and easier to cook.
Now, with this lead in, you may have a question: what is the relationship between Jiffy Pop and the Church? Here are three connections for digestion.
First, Jiffy Pop is much like the modern Church. It was designed to produce a product quickly that appears to be like something it is not. Jiffy Pop was trying to mass inmate the real taste of movie popcorn. By the 1950’s America had become glued to the TV set. Hollywood had hit its heydays in the 1930’s and 40’s and TV had become America’s passion. What they missed was the taste of that movie popcorn. They wanted to bring the popcorn to home so they could watch TV and do so without the mess of using a pressure cooker. This quick speedy process of using Jiffy Pop met the new rubiks of American society. It offered speed, ease, and they offered you somewhat of a taste of what they remembered.
Second, Jiffy Pop actually caused a revolution in the popcorn industry. They started a process that turned into microwave popcorn, microwaves, popcorn poppers, gourmet popping corn, etc. The Church in the late 1950’s would have had a Mass that was in Latin, it had communion rails, and no Deacons or Eurcharist Ministers. The Mass itself would last 1:15 minutes or 1:30 for each Mass. Since 1958, we have had Vatican II and the changes of the Church with the reestablishment of Deacons, the use of Lay Eucharist Ministers and discontinued use of Latin as the main language of the Mass. These changes along with discontinuation of communion rails, the merger of Churches, has allowed average Mass to be held inside of 45 minutes. This meant that multiple Masses held on the hour could now be used. You can have a Church Service, empty the Church, clear the parking lot and have time for the next service to begin. Pressure was put on the Priest to shorten his homily, and pressure was put on the Church to shorten its time of service.
Third, Jiffy Pop led to a great many imitators. The Church of the 1950’s was in the same shape. Churches and schools were being greatly expanded to accommodate the growing population, and organized religion was in its heyday. On a typical Sunday morning in the period from 1955-58, almost half of all Americans were attending church – the highest percentage in U.S. history. During the 1950s, nationwide church membership grew at a faster rate than the population, from 57 percent of the U.S. population in 1950 to 63.3 percent in 1960. According to the data, pre Vatican II were the glory days of Catholicism here in the United States Rev. Ellwood, an Epispical Priest, explained it this way in his book, The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict, “Religion flourished in the ’50s for several reasons, partly because of the ever-expanding spiritual marketplace. There were a lot of different options available that would appeal to different kinds of people. Before the war, organized religion was much more restricted.” So the 1950’s began the concept of the open air drive in movie Churches, the large Mega Churches, and the storefront Churches.
Now, why is this important to know?
First, the Church is like real popcorn- do not accept an imitation or settle for something like it. You need to go real or go home. Substitutions are not acceptable. When you want the real deal- go to the Catholic Church. It is based on the beliefs that have come down from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which was established by Jesus Christ through the Holy Apostles.
Second, look for a Mass that does not short change your religious experience because of conveyance or conviction. Seeking to find Christ through another Church other than a Church that came from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church would be very much like trying to say that Jiffy Pop Popcorn tasted the same as real classic popcorn made in the movie theater.
Third, some people may be offended by the use of Jiffy Pop Popcorn and not realize the real significance this product had on the Baby Boom generation. Today the grocery stores still carry Jiffy Pop if you can find it. They are normally on the nuts and popcorn aisle. The problem is that they at one time were the masters of the market and now are relegated to a mere presence on the shelf. Is this what is happening to the Church? Are we not doing the same to the Church by not not attending Church, by not giving money to the Church, and by not obeying the rules of the Church?
Let us remember that Jesus came to this earth to establish his Church. He did not establish many Churches. He also taught us that Church was a verb- an active way of living. We are not doing Him any good by just sitting there in the pews or on our couch and not doing anything to help Him. We must provide the fire that will ignite us to do His work here on earth. Now is the time and now is the place to make this change. We can not nor should we accept a substitute- go back to Church, be active in your Parish, and make a difference in this world and the next. Amen