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Elvis Couldn’t Wait, Kennedy Too Late

Bill Warner
April 30, 2020
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Virtual Tour of Nappanee Kitchen Homes

Good day, welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner. Hope you are safe and in good health. Here is something for you to do while you are passing the days/weeks/months till we can feel safe going about with our daily routines.  The Nappanee Public Library is responsible for THIS VIRTUAL TOUR of Nappanee’s Historic District and the houses that are associated with the kitchen cabinet industry in Nappanee. I first learned of this virtual tour with a notice in my weekly email newsletter from INDIANA LANDMARKS.

Indiana Landmarks

Indiana Landmarks is a fantastic group; besides monitoring all kinds of historic sites, they help fund restoration projects all over the state, from covered bridges to the “CENTURY OF PROGRESS” houses that were at the 1933 world’s fair in Chicago. Remember, I wrote about this before, one of the houses had a Coppes Kitchen installed when it was on display at the 1933 fair. Those houses were moved to Indiana, and you can find more information with a google search.

Missing Pieces

On a different topic, we here at Coppes Commons are always hunting for information that will help round out and fill in the gaps in the known history of the Coppes company. It seems that the company personnel were more concerned with keeping the company operating than preserving the day to day history of the company. For example, the names of employees that worked here is sketchy. There are  photos of employees, but without names. At the time, I imagine they were thinking they could just ask someone on the factory floor who that person was in the 2nd row of the employee picture. Now, one hundred years later, that thinking will not work. There are only a couple people on the factory floor in 2020, and their memory does not reach back that far.

As far as we know, the company did not purposely keep employee records, such as a listing of all the employees. We have found some interesting lists of small groups of employees. For example, we have a short list of who received a turkey or box of canned goods for Christmas, but only for one year. We have a list of some employees’ sick leave requests and if it was approved or denied, but, again, only for a short time period. The company management not only failed to keep records, but, in the 90s, directed company personnel to throw away valuable company records. This job is akin to putting together a large jig saw puzzle knowing a lot of the pieces are missing.

“The World’s Finest Kitchens”

There have been rumors that the Coppes Inc. company installed kitchens in famous peoples’ homes. There are no actual (company) paper records of this. President Kennedy’s kitchen and Elvis were but two of the street legends. How do I go about confirming these rumors? I asked long-time employees and their answer was “sure I remember people talking about Elvis, I think he got a kitchen”. Is that enough proof? Or is that just reciting the legends?

I love NEWSPAPERS.COM. In my opinion, the vintage news that made the papers had some factual basis for it being in print. Of course, in the modern era of “political news reporting” we need to read everything carefully and ask what their motive is for saying what they say and or write. I used NEWSPAPERS.COM to search for “Coppes kitchens made for famous people” and found only a few things.

In THE SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 28 Oct. 1963, I found this short notice about President Kennedy’s new kitchen. He was assassinated before he could enjoy “THE WORLD’S FINEST KITCHENS.” I think this is proof of one Kennedy kitchen, but not as the street rumors suggest: a Coppes kitchen in the KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE or at CAMP DAVID. Wonder if the President and First lady had any input in the selection of a Coppes Kitchen, or was the decision to install a Coppes Kitchen made by an architect or designer?  

Another interesting newspaper item I found talks about the installation of Coppes Kitchens in the Governors’ Homes in the states of Wisconsin, Missouri, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. This article was also in THE SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 30 July 1968. Interesting sidebar: the Pennsylvania governor’s “mansion’s china, glass and silverware will be in 45 Coppes-Napanee Maple cabinets in a French Provincial décor.” That’s quite a large kitchen, wonder if there was a smaller kitchen for the personal use of the Governor’s family. On a personal note, I distinctly remember looking at the high-water mark on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Mansion after the hurricane Agnes flood of 1972. The high-water mark was at the height of the top of the 1st floor. At that time, I had no idea I would later be interested in the brand of kitchen installed in the mansion. Wonder if the kitchen was saved or needed to be replaced after the flood.

The only reference to Elvis and a Coppes Kitchen I have found so far (still searching) is in an article that was published in THE STAR PRESS (MUNCIE, INDIANA) 28 Aug, 1958. Written by the New York Socialite, June Allison, she stated that Elvis did not get a Coppes Kitchen because he was unwilling to wait for the normal length of time it took for the Coppes Inc. Co. to build a kitchen. Seems Elvis wanted a kitchen delivered in a couple weeks instead of the usual months in the normal way kitchens were made. “Elvis couldn’t wait for Indiana kitchen”  was the story, while several “famous” people were already enjoying their “World famous” Coppes Kitchens. If all this is true, one could assume that Elvis did come to Nappanee to discuss the purchase of a Coppes Kitchen. Wonder if Elvis would have signed his name in the Show room guest book; inquiring minds want to know.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this kind of information were recorded for use to find today? If interested, you can find this article with NEWSPAPERS.COM. Search for Elvis in the The Star Press on 28th of Aug in 1958.