Let’s hear it for the real thing

Have you seen the new commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken? I hope they bug you as much as they do me.

The commercials feature comedian Norm McDonald as Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of KFC. McDonald took over the role from comedian Darrell Hammond. Both McDonald and Hammond are alums of Saturday Night Live. In fact, the current commercials have the feel of an SNL parody.

Now I need to be careful here. The real Harland Sanders (1890-1990) was himself a showman and a tireless entrepreneur. Sanders was given the title of “Kentucky Colonel” in 1935 by Ruby Laffon, then governor of Kentucky, in recognition of his successful restaurant business. Sanders adopted the “Colonel” persona to promote the business. (In the interest of full disclosure, my wife Jana and I are both “Kentucky Colonels!”)

Sanders was 66 years old in 1956 when the new Interstate 75 bypassed his restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, forcing it to close. Sanders had to sell the equipment at auction to pay his bills. He was left with some savings and a monthly $105 Social Security check. But he still had his chicken recipe, and the unique process he’d developed for frying chicken under pressure. Sanders began to franchise in earnest, often sleeping in his car. Within eight years, KFC had 600 locations and was rapidly expanding worldwide. He sold the corporation in 1964 for $2 million.

Sanders had plenty of foibles. He would threaten restaurant owners with his cane or take away their franchise if they failed to meet his uncompromising standards.

But it’s just wrong for KFC to portray Harland Sanders as a parody to a new generation who never knew the real thing.

Sanders should be portrayed as the real flesh-and-blood man he was. At a time when others expect to retire, Sanders reinvented himself, and helped pioneer a new industry.

But there’s even more. Sanders came to saving faith at age 77. He tithed to the Salvation Army the money got from selling his business.

Do you think you’re a failure in life? Think it’s too late for you? Look at Harland Sander’s life and think again.

I love the real story of Harland Sanders. His life is proof that God is never done with you. You’re never too old to make a difference.