J.R. Simplot's Legacy

Simplot's energy, enthusiasm was legendary when it came to business

Shortly before the United States entered World War II, Simplot drove to Berkeley, Calif., to collect $8,500 he was owed for shipments of cull onions. While he was there, he met a Chicago buyer of dried onion products.

They had lunch together. Simplot picked up the tab and walked away with a 500,000-pound onion contract, scrawled on the back of an envelope.

That was the beginning of the Simplot food processing operation in Caldwell.

Simplot's energy and enthusiasm were legendary, especially when it came to finding new ways of making a buck.

His grandson John Otter recalled a time when his grandfather "got up and swam 15 laps in McCall and then flew to Boise. He took me to the cheese factory, the meat plant, a couple of farms, the Caldwell plant and a car dealership in downtown Nampa.

"On the lot at the car dealership, there was this obscure little building. He opened up the door and here was some guy in there with beakers and test tubes and crucibles and things. He was testing some ore from different mines.

"The guy was working for my grandfather. He was well over 90 then and still pushing the envelope. He was always looking for the next big deal."