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Posted By: the poor mans museum Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Sun Aug 14 2005 02:18 PM
This is an excerpt from a story that I wrote for my column in Valley Living. The story is about the history of Andersen's Pea Soup Restaurant which was started in 1924 by Anton & Juliette Andersen. By the 50's, their son Robert was running what by then was a very successful business.

I figured that most of you would be primarily interested in the Petroliana portion, so here goes...

Pea Soup Potential
By Curt Cragg

When the Coast Highway was paved through town in 1922 it put Buellton on the map. This event was significant to the founding of the town, but a good argument could be made that the town was actually built on a solid foundation of split pea soup. As foundations go, pea soup probably wouldn’t be your first choice, but in Buellton it was solid enough to outlast a major paved highway.

Pea Soup Power
There was something about the process of splitting peas that unleashed a tremendous amount of potential power. It was much like splitting atoms, in that it sent out a shockwave of intestinal energy. Unfortunately in some, this would manifest itself in enormous explosions of flatulence. This unintended byproduct of the powerful peas wasn’t necessarily the talk of the town, at least not publicly. It was however roundly discussed in motels and motor courts as unsuspecting victims fell prey to this non-petroleum gas.

In a town of gas station owners, this did not go unnoticed. The phrase, “Eat Here and Get Gas” was probably coined in Buellton, but not prominently promoted. The Andersen’s were old world proper and although Anton was known to have a sense of humor, he probably didn’t want to dwell on this byproduct of his split peas.

Jack Mendenhall, a local service station owner and race car driver did not miss the irony of Pea Soup power. Teaming with young Robbie Andersen in the early 1960‘s they constructed the first “Pea Soup Powered“ racing special and convinced Robbie‘s dad to sponsor their dragster.
Posted By: the poor mans museum Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Sun Aug 14 2005 02:21 PM

There would be many racing vehicles that bore the name “Andersen’s Pea Soup Special” , but the first was this drag car that is still enshrined at the Mendenhall Museum in Buellton. This flaming fast dragster was built to run the ¼ mile tracks in Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo, and promote pea soup. It was a traveling billboard, albeit a fast one, bearing the image of Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee, the Andersen’s cartoon characters.

When Vince Evans purchased Pea Soup around 1965 he saw the potential in promoting it as a racing fuel by sponsoring more “soup powered” specials. These gas powered racing machines were purportedly powered by the potential inherent in the famous split pea soup. In fact they were said to be “Souper Charged”.

More to follow...

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 08-14-2005).]
Posted By: ranchpump Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Sun Aug 14 2005 05:41 PM
Curt, You're doing it again. Great stuff. Our family always stopped at Andersen's. In fact, my wife and I still do but we no longer get the pea soup...woowee! These folks took the term "souped up" to a new level. Wouldn't it have been fun to check out the roofs of those gas stations for discarded signs?
Posted By: 5 quart Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Sun Aug 14 2005 06:21 PM
Great stuff Curt- love the old Dragster pics- thats where I come from-If you get a chance check my homepage under member profile on old gas- thanks don
Posted By: the poor mans museum Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Sun Aug 14 2005 06:47 PM

While you were tearing up the east coast, Jack Mendenhall and company were tearing it up on the west coast. The Pea Soup dragster was originally fitted with a hopped up Ford flathead V-8 the way it is shown now. Later they switched to a Cadiallac engine, which was taken out and put in something else. When it was restored as a tribute car, they put a flathead back in. Here are the specs for those of you than can appreciate them.

The race photo above shows the special on the right at the drag track in San Luis Obispo.
Posted By: Tom Stover Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Mon Aug 15 2005 02:20 AM
Keep 'em coming Poorman!!!! If we can get Fred to talk about his "bad old days" I think you guys would really like it also!!
Posted By: +Chris Holt Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Mon Aug 15 2005 12:16 PM
Nice Job Curt , keep it coming , I always enjoy these storys and Photos, Not to change the subject but do you have any photos of the bulk plants or the trucks that suppled the stations with fuel?
Posted By: the poor mans museum Re: Pea Soup Potential by Curt Cragg - Mon Aug 15 2005 03:24 PM
Chris, I do have pictures of the bulk plants and tankers in the area. Associated, Standard and Seaside all had bulk facilities locally. You'll see the Seaside bulk plant as the story continues...

Jack's Speed Shop

Jack Mendenhall’s “speed shop” would be the building ground for many of the Pea Soup Specials to come. It was officially called “The Buellton Garage” and housed the AAA Towing Service for the area as well as his Richfield service station. In addition to racing drag cars, Jack was also into circle track racing. One of his first circle track cars was called the “Piranha”. This first carnivorous fish car would spawn a II, III and IV version. The spawns were born out of their predecessors crashes when Jack got “eaten up” on the race track.

More “Pea Soup Specials” would follow the dragster and circle track cars, including Baja racing vehicles, stock cars driven by Slick Gardner and even a drag boat. Apparently pea soup could power vehicles on land and sea.. Evans and his team of racers invoked the irony of the gas charged peas and used them to promote Buellton and Andersen’s “Home of the Famous Split Pea Soup”.

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