When I was a kid living just 7 miles away and pouring Mullen's imitation French Salad Dressing on my salads, I had no idea where it was made. My Dad, Ross O. Wood, just loved this dressing and always griped about other French dressings when he would eat out at restaurants. Well, all it took was for me to grow up, return to this area to discover the Mullen's imitation French Salad Dressing story. I'll share it with all of you.
John D. Mullen, from the age of 14, wanted to be a chef. While serving in Word War I, he was a cook in Tours, France. There, he discovered a special French dressing in a cafe, and because he liked it so well, he would spend his own free time working at that particular Cafe so that he could discover the recipe for the dressing. He came up with a recipe...you guessed it....it's the Mullen's imitation French Dressing. That recipe has stayed the same since 1927.
John D. Mullen returned to Illinois after the war, and he owned a succession of restaurants. He always served the special dressing that he created in France. Restaurant goers would inquire about the delicious dressing. In 1948, Mullen opened the manufacturing/bottling plant that is located in the storefront on Main Street in Palestine. He worked tirelessly running the company [very successfully] until he sold it in 1963
It was renamed J.D. Mullen Company, and John was retained as a consultant. Roy Shaner came in as general manager. Then Mr. and Mrs. Shaner and their son Jeff bought the company in 1985, and they kept John Mullen's secret recipes. At one time, the French dressing recipe was challenged by U.S. standards, and instead of changing the recipe, they chose to change the name to "imitation".
Even though J.D. Mullen's Company has added new products such as Thousand Island, Creamy Italian, Mullen's Special Salad Dressing, Mullen's BBQ Sauces, and Mullen's Ham Delight [a ham baste], it's still that original French dressing that I think of when I hear the name Mullen's!
Palestine is an active community who loves to celebrate. Here are some of the celebrations and festivals that I discovered:
There is a Crawford County Arts Spring at the Fife Opera House
The Lion's Club Fish Fry is held on Memorial Day at the Lion's shelter in Leaverton Park.
The Betsey Reed Festival is held on Main Street in June [see tip about the book store]
Pioneer City Rodeo & Labor Day Festival (Carnival, Parade, Street Fair & more at Leaverton Park, Main Street, and Pioneer City Arena.
Wabash Valley Wine & Arts Festival on the first weekend in October on Main Street.
Christmas Open Houses and Cookie Walk in Mid-November on Main Street.
(Local businesses offer holiday treats for shoppers.)
Leaverton Park Christmas Lighting Festival on the Friday evening after Thanksgiving at the Park. There is music, Santa Claus, and Fireworks. There is also a Dinner.