By Galen Patterson
Charles Gilb was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1924, but raised in Twin Falls, Idaho.
He was pursuing a degree in business at University of Idaho, Moscow when WWII broke out and Gilb joined the Marines. He quickly rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant, a feat that generally takes 8-10 years in today’s Marine Corps.
After the war, he returned to Idaho to complete his education, where he met his wife Ruth.
Ruth grew up in the Azores islands, in the middle of the Atlantic, far off the Portuguese coast. She was also studying in Moscow, Idaho when she met Charles. They were married in 1949 and had three children together.
Charles moved his family to Arcadia where he began selling bags to produce and meat packers. According to The Produce News, a century-old bulletin for the produce industry, Gilb had a dispute over his paycheck and began selling potatoes for the George R. Craig Co.
Originally, he sold potatoes from his car, driving to Bakersfield three times a week during the harvest. By 1959, Gilb had become head of the firm and changed the name to the Charles E. Gilb Co.
The Charles E. Gilb Co. competed with 17 established and major potato sellers, all selling the same 100-pound bags of potatoes. Under his direction, he created several other companies to compete and the Charles E. Gilb Co. outlasted them all. By the time of his death in 2008, he was known as the “Potato King” within the produce industry. The company still operates under this name and has become a nationwide distributor of fruits and vegetables.
Gilb served in various offices throughout his life, including 16 years of service to Arcadia on City Council, including four terms as mayor.
Charles and Ruth Gilb provided both inspiration and funding for the Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage. Currently, his uniform and story is on display at the Gilb Museum, along with artifacts from his campaigns for City Council.
Charles died of malignant melanoma at the age of 83. Ruth passed away in 2017.