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Massena recalls, sort of, Colonel Sanders 1976 visit


MASSENA — Until Massena’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant closed in 2012, the village had hosted the internationally known fast-food franchise since 1971, even receiving a visit from celebrity founder Harland Sanders in 1976.

Col. Sanders, as he was popularly known, visited Massena’s restaurant to present employees with his “White Glove Award.” According to an article April 13, 1976, in The Massena Observer, store manager Jerry Laurin accepted the award from the “colonel” in front of a crowd of dozens.

“This award recognizes the store for maintaining high standards of sanitization,” Mr. Sanders said at the time, noting he had previously stopped at restaurants in Plattsburgh and Watertown. These three north country locations were the first in the franchise to receive the honor.

This week, which saw the demolition of Massena’s last KFC/Long John Silvers restaurant to make way for a Tim Horton’s, rekindled nostalgia for the fried-chicken legend who once visited the north country.

A very young John Michaud III recalled the visit.

“I was only 2, but I remember it,” he said. “I met him, it is actually one of my first memories.”

Mr. Michaud said his mother took a picture of him with Mr. Sanders, although he has no idea where that picture is today.

“That picture is long gone,” he said, adding his impression of the patriarch was likely very different from others who may have been at the event that day.

“He was really tall and scary,” Mr. Michaud said. “When you’re 2, everyone seems really tall.”

Bob Smith, who has operated a barbershop in Massena for more than 40 years, said he remembers the visit, but didn’t get an opportunity to meet Mr. Sanders.

“I was down here working,” he said. “And the colonel never came in for a haircut.”

Now if it had been Barry Sanders instead of Colonel Sanders who came to Massena, Mr. Smith, an avid sports fan, said he would have closed shop and been there in a heartbeat to meet the retired Detroit Lions star running back.

Longtime Town Councilman Albert N. Nicola, who was teaching social studies at Massena High School at the time, said he remembers the visit but also did not meet the fast food legend.

Mr. Nicola did say that he misses having a KFC in Massena.

“I think my favorite fast food was Kentucky Fried Chicken,” he said.

While Kentucky Fried Chicken, now known as KFC, no longer has a presence in Massena, it still operates restaurants in Watertown, Evans Mills, Malone and Plattsburgh.

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