2013-08-23 / Community

A Window on the Past

Fond memories of Circus Time Potato Chips
By Craig Skelton
South Portland Historical Society


The Circus Time Potato Chip building on Circus Time Road. (South Portland Historical Society, from the Mike Eastman Collection.) The Circus Time Potato Chip building on Circus Time Road. (South Portland Historical Society, from the Mike Eastman Collection.) Anyone who knows me could say that I’ve probably eaten way too much popcorn over the years. The smell of popcorn drives me absolutely crazy. That smell evokes a fond memory of a place better known for potato chips than popcorn; however I can’t get the childhood image out of my mind of my visit to the Circus Time Potato Chip building in South Portland.

I was one of five children and back in the day, my dad supplemented the family income any way he could. He had a sort of honor snack business before I remember there being anything like that. One afternoon, he took me along on his snack-buying errands, and one of those stops was on Circus Time Road. As we walked into the building, the image I remember was that the popcorn popper reminded me more of a cement mixer popping corn as it spun. There is nothing like fresh samples! The bagging equipment was clacking along and churning out bags as my dad was loading a big box with packages of popcorn and potato chips.

George Robinson, who previously co-owned Humpty Dumpty Potato Chips with Norman Cole, which was started in the early 1940s, left to start Circus Time Potato Chips with his wife after a decade or so in that business. The Robinsons were in their 50s at the time. The company first began in Portland on Anderson Street and the growing business moved to a building they built in a newly established business park near the mall in South Portland. The Robinsons operated the business until they retired in the 1970s.

The Foden Road name was extended across Western Avenue during a National Semiconductor expansion project. The potato chip maker is now perhaps long forgotten and the Circus Time Road name has been lost. However I fondly remember its placement in history, especially when I smell fresh popcorn.

Craig Skelton is a guest columnist and member of South Portland Historical Society.

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