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Saturday, January 20, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Frank Dorsa, Inventor Of Frozen Waffle

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Accompanying the encyclopedia entry for tinkerer, there should be a picture of Frank Dorsa, who died Wednesday at age 88.

An automatic continuous potato peeler. A fryer that doesn't curl bacon. A large rubber squeegee for cement. Even in his 80s, Dorsa loved to retreat to the machine shop in his Saratoga, Calif., home to toy with a lathe or drill press.

And although it gained him little fame, one of Mr. Dorsa's inventions would change America: the Eggo frozen waffle.

Mr. Dorsa and his brothers Anthony and Sam created the business that became Eggo in the basement of their parents' home. They began in 1932 with mayonnaise - hence the company name - and with an infusion of $50, branched out into waffles.

Always, the Dorsas sought a better way. When the popularity of their waffle batter reached beyond the region to which it could be transported fresh, they developed a dry mixture to which restaurants and homemakers needed to add only milk.

After the Dorsas bought a potato-chip plant in 1938, Frank invented the continuous potato peeler, which made hand-peeling obsolete. And when America wanted its waffles frozen rather than fresh, Frank found a way, using a real merry-go-round motor and dozens of waffle irons.

Not all his inventions were hits. Following the success of his frozen waffles, Dorsa experimented with frozen pancakes but he could never develop an adequate recipe.

"My dad liked gadgets," Mr. Dorsa's son Frank Jr., the founder of the Classic Car Wash chain, recalled. "He was always tinkering."

Dorsa had few outside interests, tending almost exclusively to his wife, his three sons, and his inventions. "He had no hobbies," Frank Dorsa Jr. said. "His hobby really was inventing."

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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