By CHARLES FERRUZZA
Wilkerson may have secured the patent for the 52-year-old frozen novelty, but he didn’t invent it. That honor goes to the founder of Merritt Foods, James S. Merritt and his most legendary employee, D.S. “Doc” Abernathy who went on to create the Dole Frozen Dessert bars and the Mutant Ninja Turtles ice cream treats. Merritt died in 1970 at age 54; his namesake company closed in 1991 when its then-owner, Dallas-based Morningstar Group, Inc. decided to get out of the icy-treat business. Iowa-based Wells Dairy bought the Bomb Pop patent after the century-old Merritt plant (originally built as a brewery) on Guinotte Avenue was shut down.
The original six-finned Bom Pop was introduced during the height of Cold War paranoia and atomic bomb testing in the United States. (Another summer innovation inspired by the A-bomb was the bikini, named for the Bikini Atoll nuclear weapons test site.) The three-color -- red, white and blue, of course – popsicle was created in a three-stage process in a trademarked shape. It’s grown longer and thinner over the years, and added color and flavor combinations.
Currently Wells Dairy (which sells over a million of the frozen treats annually) offers tenvariations on the theme, including Fudge Bomb Pop, a Jolly Rancher Bomb Pop, a Sour Power Bomb Pop and a sugar-free version – all of which are wildly popular with a generation of tykes who have no concept of what it means to live in terror of a nuclear war. For those who do -- there's a different kind of treat: The Bomb Pop cocktail.