Fresh & Hot!

"Hey, that's a pretty neat old popcorn machine."

"Yeah, we've been trying to get rid of it. Nobody will take it."

"Really? I wouldn't mind having it."


And that's how I inherited a vintage 1950s movie-theater popcorn machine.

I was on one of my research trips for the upcoming book Weird Oklahoma and was visiting the Shortgrass Playhouse in Hobart, a community theater that's reportedly haunted by the spirit of a man whose 1918 headstone was mysteriously discovered upstairs during renovations.

While I was being given a tour, I spotted the art-deco-style machine collecting dust in the corner. I was joking when I said I'd take it off their hands, but the owners were genuinely excited that someone was actually interested in hauling it off. So, last weekend I returned with a friend of mine to roll it out and lug it down the fire escape.

After I unloaded it at my father's workshop here in Texas, I scoured the Internet for any information I could find on the machine. I shouldn't have been surprised to discover there are quite a few people out there interested in restoring old popcorn makers, all of whom are eager to share what knowledge they have.

Turns out, mine is a Model 32 Manley Aristocrat, produced in Kansas City, Missouri. I even found an owner's manual.

Over the next few months I'll be cleaning it up and converting it to a TV stand for my living room. Why not restore it to its original function? Well, to be honest, I don't really like popcorn.

In the meantime, enjoy a tour of the machine in its current condition.


May. 8, 2009 | 1:59 pm
Ross wrote:

I think it would be better to restore it and use it to make popcorn. The Manley machines make the best popcorn. But, I guess it would make a very interesting TV stand.

Ross from

May. 12, 2009 | 8:22 pm
Wesley Treat replied:

Funny thing is, I don't even like popcorn. :)

May. 14, 2009 | 4:39 pm
Ross replied:

Not liking popcorn???---is that possible? :) I guess that just leaves more for me. :)

May. 14, 2009 | 9:56 pm
Wesley Treat replied:

If it's put in front of me, I may have a few handfuls, but it's nothing I go out of my way for.

Caramel corn, on the other hand ... :)

Aug. 26, 2011 | 2:49 am
silvio bentivoglio wrote:

tv stand????!!!!!....that is a shame it a vintage popcorn machine....if i saw this post before two years ago i would of took of your hands for nothing, but to turn it and destroy the popcorn machine would be a crime....and i like popcorn.....never destroy something that im sad real sad :(

silvio from vaughan,ontario,canada

Aug. 26, 2011 | 8:22 pm
Wesley Treat replied:

What gave you the impression I wanted someone to take it off my hands?

Besides, I in no way plan to "destroy" it. I'm restoring it. It's just not going to make popcorn.

And if it makes you feel better, I've decided against putting a TV in it. It's going to be a bar instead.

Aug. 27, 2011 | 4:51 pm
silvio bentivoglio replied:

Restoring it means keep it the item for what it is a manley popcorn machine, not for a TV or for a bar as long as your not touching the structure of the item buy changing it in any form would make me sleep better at night because vintage things like the manley popcorn machine should never be altered just restored to it original state :)

Silvio from woodbridge,onatrio,Canada

Aug. 28, 2011 | 3:58 am
Wesley Treat replied:

Then this little tidbit should keep you up a few days: I own a few dozen vintage cameras and I don't take photos with a single one of them. (Gasp!)

In my opinion, vintage items can be restored without violating the integrity of the item, even if the end result isn't used for its original purpose. Finding a new use for an item that has outlived its practical purpose is a great way to ensure that said item's aesthetic will continue to be enjoyed for many more years. After all, more often than not the real value of a vintage item is in the design aesthetic, since technology has almost always advanced to make the original functionality obsolete.

For example, someone can restore a beautiful vintage radio to its original function, but it doesn't do much good just sitting on the shelf, since no one -- at least no one I know -- would listen to the thing. Integrating MP3 input or Internet radio capabilities would give it new life.

In my case, I frankly wouldn't need to produce industrial quantities of popcorn even if I liked the stuff, and most existing theaters would go with far cheaper and more efficient poppers to make actual popcorn. So, I'm going to restore my machine to its original beauty and give it a new job I'm sure it would be happy to have.

Besides, there's too much of the original equipment missing, including the oh-so-important popping kettle, that it would be cost prohibitive for me to make it work again, especially for it just to sit there taking up space. The existing parts that I don't use, I'll sell to restorers for their machines.

Really, the alternative was to let it rot in an old building in Oklahoma, quite possibly being trashed eventually. I'm sure you'd say I should give it to someone who'd turn it into a working popcorn machine, but frankly I didn't drive all the way back out there, break my back extracting it from the theater (down two flights of stairs, mind you) and transport it back to Dallas so someone else could have it just because they like popcorn more than I do.

I love vintage stuff, I love my popcorn machine and I plan to enjoy my insanely awesome windfall for many, many years as it holds my liquor bottles -- and quite possibly a chilled keg of delicious beer -- with the majesty that only a 1950s Manley can.

Aug. 29, 2011 | 3:43 am
silvio bentivoglio replied:

Gasp too much words......I'm never like touching the integrity of a vintage item like a old radio and turning it into a mp3 player if it wound not work, than I would leave it alone and even more of an example is turning nice vintage rock ola jukebox into a cd player that would be the greatest insult to that company, yes we have the same love is for vintage stuff but different ideas, that why I'm so passionate about this because the vintage manley popcorn machine their not a lot out their,I know you said that your not going to get rid of it but if u really wanted to, u could sell it on ebay for pick it up only and make good money, since u didn't pay for it you would be making a 100 percent profit

Oct. 19, 2011 | 4:47 pm
Michelle replied:

Oh goodness! LOL Some people can get worked up over something that has NOTHING to do with them! LOL wow! Touching the integrity? I think a few may be jealous of your good fortune! I own it, you can do whatever you want with it!! I hope you post pictures of the bar! :)

Dec. 17, 2012 | 10:10 am
David Knight replied:

There is a Manley popcorn machine up for auction Dec 17 2012 at Bronson, Mi Online if your'e interested...

Comments for this page have been closed.