For a generation, Jerry Standridge was a fixture in the life of South Logan County. He was raised at Lake Village in southeastern Arkansas, met Elaine at a business college in Little Rock, and moved to the Booneville area. They lived here until he retired.
Jerry is going to enliven any activity in which he is involved. He has a severe allergy to “dull.” I worked for eight years at Today’s Kids (formerly Wolverine Toy), and for a portion of that time I reported to Jerry. Since he was in charge of sales, and my responsibilities included marketing, we made a number of trips together. Some of them were memorable, to say the least.
The annual Toy Fair in New York City is the big event in the industry. In 1985, after he had been put in charge of sales, we attended Toy Fair. The first evening we ate at Rosie O’Grady’s, a famous Irish pub. They had a small musical group singing Irish tunes.
Suddenly Jerry called the waiter to our table, gave him some money for the band, and requested that they sing “Dixie.” And, of course, nothing would do but that we all stood and sang along with them.
I was thinking, “Jerry, this is not Atlanta; this is New York City.” I started looking over my shoulder for guys in double-breasted suits with bulges under their armpits moving toward our table, but thankfully nothing happened.
One of our responsibilities was to show prototypes of proposed toys to buyers in order to get input before we committed to tooling. On one occasion, Jerry borrowed a pick-up truck with a camper, loaded the toys into the bed, and we set off to visit three of our customers. Our first stop was in Nashville at Service Merchandise. We were there in the afternoon, then headed out for Kansas City for an appointment first thing the next morning at Western Auto.
I start thinking about what I know of the geography of the area, and I say, “Jerry, how are we supposed to get to Kansas City in time for an 8:00 appointment?”
“Oh, it’s just over there in the next state.”
“Yes, but have you thought about how long Tennessee is, and that we are going to have to drive all the way across Missouri, and that there is no good way to get from here to there?”
He scratches his head and says, “Well, I might have underestimated that a little.” We finally stop in Columbia, Missouri, in the wee hours of the morning, grab two or three hours of sleep, and manage to drag our bleary eyes to Western Auto in time for the appointment. And then, of course, we still have to drive all the way back across Missouri to see Venture Stores in the St. Louis area. I can tell you that I was “wore plumb smack dab out” by the end of that trip.
One year he and I attended a convention in Chicago to learn more about licensed properties (e.g., Smurfs, Mickey Mouse) that we might use on our toys. The afternoon of the second day he said, “Let’s play hookie and go to Wrigley.” So, we climbed on the elevated railway and headed out to watch the Cubs play. On the way, there was a kid in the car running the shell game, complete with his “shill,” who was trying to lure people to make a bet. (We passed.)
We had to take Standing Room Only tickets, although eventually we did get to sit down. Stepping into Wrigley Field was like stepping back 70 years in time. The Cubs were playing the Phillies. Both of them were mired toward the bottom of the standings, but the stands were still packed to the gills. We even got to see Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt muff an easy infield pop-up. (The Cub fans loved that.) Travel with Jerry was never dull.