It was serenditpity, pure and simple, when George and Versa Boyington invented the Pronto Pup, that tasty
and toasty hot dog on a stick that revolutionized America's fast-food industry and started the franchise craze.
It was back in the late 1930s on an Oregon beach about 60 mile south of here when the planets were in perfect
alignment for the birth of Pronto Pups and the merchandising magic that followed.
Webster's dictionary says serendipity means finding valuable or agreeable things by accident, and that't
exactly what happened that Labor Day weekend, nearly 70 years ago on the northern Oregon coast.
The couple set up their hotdog stand on Rockaway Beach - either in 1938 or '39 - and waaited in vain for
the holiday multitudes to buy their wares. But no matter how much they counted on those customers, the weather didn't
It turned cold and foggy and then it started raining, pouring down in buckets, spoiling everything.
Their backs to the wall, that was when the Boyingtons used their noodles and made the best of a bad situation.
Friends who knew them later, here on the Peninsula, remember Versa and George as people "who wanted to climb
the mountain" - and they pooled their talents that day at Rockaway to solve their immediate problem.
Faced with a virtual do-or-go-broke dilemma, they turned one of those "eureka moments" into a profitable
business featuring a food item with a catchy name. They called them Pronto Pups. It was a serendipity for sure,
combined with old-fashioned creativity.
The Boyingtons' son Baxter, who lives in san Luis Obispo, Calif., tells the story:
"Sitting on the beach feeding soggy hotdog buns to the seagulls, my Dad asks himself: 'why not cook
the bun as it is needed?' He got up off the beach, found a way to make a dry batter mix, created the product -
a classic American food - promoted it nationally and made a fortune for himself and others..."
The Pups are plump and tasty hotdogs on a stick, coated with the special batter and deep-fried to a golden
brown. Most of us have sampled and savored Pronto Pups at carnivals, county fairs and even at main street vendors here
in Long Beach. An off-brand version is commonly known to the uninitiated as corndogs.
When they invented Pronto Pups, the Boyingtons were on the beach all right, and they missed our Peninsula
beaches by only 55 or 60 miles to the south as the crow flies. The couple eventually moved here to the Peninsula, but
more about that later.
When it rained that day on Rockaway Beach, it kept the crowds away, spoiled the Boyingtons' mood, their son said, and
what was worse, it spoiled the hot-dog buns, too, thoroughly soaked them and made them mushy. You could save the hotdogs
by freezing, but what do you do with a bunch of mushy hotdog buns? Not much except feed the seagulls, as George and
Versa found out - but they had a better idea.
They eventually figured that by skewering the hotdogs lengthwise with a pointed wooden stick, coating them
with a tasty batter and then deep frying the dogs, they dispensed with the buns and presto, they had Pronto Pups. The
couple copyrighted the name Pronto Pup before they started selling the idea, the batter recipe and the franchise rights to
merchants to use the name and the product.