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TV Dinner Inventor Gerry Thomas Dies

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Burma Jones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:11 PM
Original message
TV Dinner Inventor Gerry Thomas Dies

The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 20, 2005; 12:13 PM



PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Gerry Thomas, credited with inventing the TV dinner more than a half-century ago and giving it its singular name, has died at the age of 83.

Thomas died Monday, Terry Crowley at Messinger Mortuary said Wednesday. He had a long bout with cancer, relatives told The Arizona Republic.

Thomas was a salesman for Omaha, Neb.-based C.A. Swanson and Sons in late 1954 when he had the idea of packaging frozen meals in a segmented tray.

"It's a pleasure being identified as the person who did this because it changed the way people live," he said in a 1999 Associated Press interview. "It's part of the fabric of our society."

He recalled that the inspiration came when he was visiting a distributor, spotted a metal tray and was told it was developed for an experiment in preparation of hot meals on airliners.

"It was just a single compartment tray with foil," he recalled. "I asked if I could borrow it and stuck it in the pocket of my overcoat."

He said he came up with a three-compartment tray because "I spent five years in the service so I knew what a mess kit was. You could never tell what you were eating because it was all mixed together."

Since interest in television was booming, he added: "I figured if you could borrow from that, maybe you could get some attention. I think the name made all the difference in the world."

The first Swanson TV Dinner _ turkey with corn bread dressing and gravy, sweet potatoes and buttered peas _ sold for about $1 apiece and could be cooked in 25 minutes at 425 degrees.

"We had the TV screen and the knobs pictured on the package. That was the real start of marketing," Thomas said.

Ten million dinners were sold in the first year of national distribution.

They drew "hate mail from men who wanted their wives to cook from scratch like their mothers did," but they got him a bump in pay to $300 a month and a $1,000 bonus.

"I didn't complain. A thousand dollars was a lot of money back then," he said.

However, he didn't want to call himself the father of the TV dinner.

"I really didn't invent the dinner. I innovated the tray on how it could be served, coined the name and developed some unique packaging," he said in the 1999 AP interview. "If I'm the father of the TV dinner, who's the mother? I think it's ludicrous."

After the Campbell Soup Co. acquired Swanson in 1955, Thomas became a sales manager, then marketing manager and director of marketing and sales. He left the company after a heart attack in 1970. He later directed an art gallery and did consulting work.

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Shoeempress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:15 PM
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1. Will he be wrapped in foil and frozen?
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DeposeTheBoyKing Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:16 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. LMAO!!!
:rofl:
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Burma Jones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Yes, with some peach cobbler
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jedicord Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:17 PM
Response to Original message
3. I still eat Swanson TV dinners...
on purpose, imagine that. My mom made them all the time (she worked long hours) and there is just something about that "what in the world am I eating?" taste that brings back memories.

Ah, good times, good times...
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underpants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:21 PM
Response to Original message
5. Sadly the undertakers can keep the peas from falling in the casket
RIP sir
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Initech Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:24 PM
Response to Original message
6. Will his casket be covered with that hard to get off plastic?
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Algorem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:27 PM
Response to Original message
7. Maybe they should drive a Salisbury steak through his heart,make sure
he doesn't get warmed up again in his aluminum and cardboard coffin.
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