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Can A Tomato Pay The Bills?

The Mortgage Lifter

Marshall Cletis Byles, or as he preferred to be called, M. C. Byles thinks so….or more accurately, knows so!

In the early 1930’s in Logan, West Virginia M.C. was the proud owner of a Radiator Repair shop. His shop was located at the foot of a mountain leading to the mines and forestry enterprises in the area and when one of the “Mine or Timber Trucks” would blow a radiator they’d coast back down the mountain right into MC”s shop. There was a real estate agent’s anthem personified right there…location, location, location! As time went by MC became known as “Radiator Charlie” in the area, I’m guessing because most of the truckers didn’t really know his name, so the moniker Radiator Charlie told the story! In any event, MC had developed a love of tomatoes and wanted to grow one with all the best attributes of various heirloom tomatoes. So ol’ MC set out to develop his own tomato. He used the German Johnson tomato as his “Parent” tomato. Ultimately MC decided on 4 other tomatoes to cross pollinate with the German Johnson and he finally developed the tomato he wanted after seven years of stabilization. The “Mortgage Lifter” became a very popular tomato in the early 1940’s and folks drove vast distances just to purchase MC’s Mortgage Lifter at a dollar a pop, pretty hefty for those days.

The “Mortgage Lifter” was named such because according to MC a good portion of his $6000.00 mortgage was paid with the proceeds from selling his tomato plants. The tomato boast of a 1 1/2 to 3lbs weight range and is pinkish-red in color. The Mortgage Lifter is a tasty specimen and gets my wholehearted endorsement…as if it needed it!

M.C. Byles is really a piece of Americana, and we’re lucky to still have a piece of him around. MC lived to the age of 97. He never stepped foot in a schoolroom, nor did he have any formal education of any kind. He was an inventor, a pilot (self taught and flew for the Post Office), a mechanic (also self taught), a botanist…yes, through observation and experimentation, and according to all that knew him…. a great person.

Posted Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 by by admin, under Tomato Varieties.

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