A lot of things happened about this time. One of them was something very nice. Our little Sandy was born. A little sister to grow up with little brother Joe. And she was a darling. Now a few words about the Dewey ranch.
Several years ago, Dad had bought out Feldman. He now owned the whole thing. He had gone into politics. Had been elected to the office of State Representative a couple of times. He drove a big Packard. The road coming from the highway to the ranch was paved after him. DEWEY ROAD. Also the road from the ranch to the packing shed at Little Rock was paved. He was a very successful man. And a lonely one. He wasn’t a church goer. He spent a lot of time hanging around the beer joints in Emmett.
Brother Ray was still taking Mother to church every Sunday. Then one day Dad told Dell and me. “Your mother and I are going to get a divorce. Someone has been telling her that I am out with other women all the time. Which is a damn lie. But I think it is best that we part.” He wanted Dell and me to build him a house up at the old Dewey Grove. Grandpa’s old place. Which we did. When Dad left the ranch, he gave Mother a clear deed to the whole thing. Plus a fat bank account
Sister Jenny had been sick. She had been hit with an attack of Multiple Sclerosis. But apparently, got over it. At least for a while. Then she got married. To a real nice guy, Joe Patterson. Brother Bob got married and moved into the old Bollinger place. This was now owned by the Dewey orchards. After we finished Dad’s house, he told Dell and me. “I have made out a will.” and he showed it to us. “This lot where you built this house, I have willed to you two. Sixty foot frontage and one hundred feet deep. Also, you will get your share of the rest.” He put the document in the back of a big old safe that he kept in his bedroom. “I don’t usually keep this thing locked.” he said “But it is fire proof.” Then he grinned. “In case something happens to me and the thing is locked.” He pointed down on the side. “The combination is scratched right here.”
Oh yes. Brother Ray was now in complete charge of the Dewey orchards. There would be some big changes made. Like him a big, beautiful new house. Now back to my family. We moved down to the house down by New Plymouth. The old Club House. We were completely out of business and I had to do something. My back still wouldn’t allow me to do hard work. But I knew that I must find something. Finally I got a job tending bar at a club in New Plymouth. I worked for Jack and Ilene Harwell. It wasn’t hard work, but this sort of life was not for me. I kept looking for something better. It seemed to me like this place had more than it’s share of plumbing troubles. Every few days a sink would plug up or one of the toilets. The old plumbers friend, sure got a workout. Then I began to study this thing. Surely there was a better way. I went to work on it.
The only action you got out of the plumbers friend, was from the cup itself. I thought I could make a great improvement on this. So I got busy and built one of my own. It was quite an undertaking. First was the rubber cup. I would need a mould. Dell had a little wood lathe, I borrowed it. From a piece of wood, I made a pattern. This cup I made looked like a regular suction cup. Seven inches across the face. In the top of the thing, was a hole an inch and a quarter in diameter. Into this hole, I would put a double action pump made something like a tire pump, only double action.
I took my wooden model down to the foundry at Weiser and had an aluminum mold made. I bought some raw tire re-sapping rubber, filled the mold, put it in the oven and baked it for a couple of hours. Then I took out my first rubber cup and it was a beauty. I bought a piece of aluminum tubing, an inch and a quarter in diameter and sixteen inches long. I used an O ring on a piston fastened to an aluminum rod. Cemented the barrel of the thing into the cup and I had my first model. And the thing really worked! All you had to do was fit that cup over the hole and pump the handle like a tire pump. It would suck up and blow down. And get the job done in just a few seconds. Of course, I run to show Dell my great new invention. I can still close my eyes and hear his voice. “On this, we will make millions!:
We still had the ground at the box factory. The four brick walls were still standing. We put a roof over part of it and we once more had a place to work. Before we would invest in machinery to make these things, we thought we had better make some sort of a market survey. We made up several models and headed for San Francisco. To demonstrate the thing, I put a sliding lock on the pump handle. I would put the face of the cup on any smooth surface, pull out the handle and lock it. There wasn’t a man in the world that could pull the darn thing loose. Table tops would come loose, refrigerator doors would come off, sinks would be torn loose, but that thing would hang on! The first and only place that we stopped was at a place that we picked out of the yellow pages of the telephone book. They were manufacturers agents. We put on a demonstration. They were really excited. “How many you got on hand?” they asked. “And how much a thousand are they going to cost us?” We told them we would come up with some figures, then come back later. We got out of there and headed for home.
By now the war had been over with for about a year. Hundreds of small defense factories were closed down. There was a lot of government surplus machinery that was for sale. Somehow or another, Dell got hold of a big list being sold back in Detroit, Michigan. All kinds of lathes, welders, etc. People that come representing schools would be given a very special price. We still had our Ford truck left over from the box factory days. Dell and Lillian got in it and they were on their way.
I believe that Dell is the most amazing fellow I ever met. In about ten days, they returned. And on the truck was a big piece of equipment. A huge Warner Swasey, turret lathe. It looked like new and must have weighed at least five ton. I had never seen one like it. I was amazed. “How much did you pay for that thing?” I asked. He grinned. “Fifty bucks. They were practically giving them away to the schools. I bought two of them. The other one is being shipped by railroad.” I couldn’t believe my ears. “How in the world did you manage all this?” “That was easy. I called the super here. He is an old friend of mine. Through him, I bought the two of them. Then I bought them back. Had to give the school fifty bucks profit. So they really cost a hundred each. Then there will be the freight.” I think the original cost of these lathes was about $20,000 each.
We were rearing’ to go! We bought drill and punch presses. Also an electric oven for baking rubber. We made a trip to Portland, Oregon and bought enough material to make up ten thousand of the things. Then we went to work. Those new lathes were really something. We finally figured out how to run them. They were almost automatic. In a short time, we had them all made up. But to conserve space, we did not cement the rubber cup on to the barrel. This was a simple operation and could be done anywhere. Now we knew exactly what it cost to make the things. 45 cents each. We bought a Dodge panel job, loaded it up and headed back to San Francisco.
Oh yes. On the barrel of each was a stick on label. THE HANDY GEM. In smaller words below, sink and toilet cleaner. We figured if we could get a dollar fifty each for the things, we would be sitting pretty. At least that was what we would ask. Then we got our first disappointment. The brokers that we had contacted before had gone out of business. At least they were gone. We contacted another, put on a demonstration. They were quite impressed. They asked our price. Then we began to learn a little bit about marketing a new product. First, there was the transportation charge. Then the brokers fee. Then a certain amount for advertising. Then a markup of about forty five percent for the retailer. When it was all added up, the thing would have to bring about five dollars. A plumber’s friend could be bought for around sixty cents. Quite a difference. One of the guys explained. “Suppose your sink got plugged up. You go to a store looking for a tool to unplug it. There is a tool for sixty cents and one for five dollars. Which one would you buy?” Of course there was only one answer. And we couldn’t figure out any way to make the darn thing for less money. Boy were we disappointed. But we didn’t give up. We contacted Sears, Western Auto and others. They all come up with the same answer. We finally give up and headed for home.
We had ten thousand of those darn things on hand. Surely there was some way of getting rid of them at a profit. I was not going to give up. Not just yet any how. I told Dell. “Maybe we can peddle them. Most any business place should buy one. Hotels, barber shops, restaurants, clubs, service stations and a lot of other places. They should have one.” Dell had lost all interest. Our million dollars had flown out the window. “You go ahead.” he said. “I am going to build myself a new house. Also one for Roy Arnstedt. I can make more money at that than I can peddling those darn things.” So I loaded up a bunch and headed for Boise. I hit all the above mentioned places. By the end of a long day, I sold about ten of them at two dollars each. This was about the limit. This was all they would bring. I worked around there for two or three more days. By the time I bought all my meals in restaurants and paid for a hotel room, plus the car expenses, there wasn’t much left by the end of the day. I was very discouraged. I would be better off holding down a good job.
I was just about to give up. Then I wandered into a garage. As usual, I was carrying one of those things in my hand. I knew one of the fellows working there. Paul Parks, a body and fender man. He was standing there, looking at a caved in door on a Cadillac that had been rolled. He spoke to me “Hello Ted, what are you doing over here? And what the devil have you got in your hand?” As I stood there staring at that caved in door, some cogs in my head fell into place. Why hadn’t I thought of it before! I grinned. “Paul.” I said. “I have here a great new invention. Bring the other guys around and I will demonstrate.” And that he did. I put that suction cup in the middle of that caved in door and pulled out the handle. It was on thigh. I took a firm grip on the barrel and gave it a mighty pull. With a bang, the dent turned inside out. Outside of a few scratches, the door was like new again. The fellows were amazed. Paul took the thing from my hand and looked it over. “How much?” he asked. “A special price for you.” I said. “Three bucks.” He handed me five. “Here, keep the change. And thanks for fixing that door.” The other guys dug into their pockets. Each bought one.
For the rest of the day, I called on nothing but the places that did body and fender work. I didn’t miss a sale. And each time, I raised the price about fifty cents. When it got up to around seven fifty, I quit. They were still buying but kicking about the price. By the end of the day, I had quite a sizeable roll in my pocket. I knew that I had found a way out of this mess. I went home. There was several things that I must do to help the cause. Number one, the label must be changed. Over the bottom part where it said; sink and toilet cleaner, I put another. It was now : THE HANDY GEM… dent remover. And there was something else that I did. I caved in both doors of the panel delivery. I worked on them until I had them perfectly trained. With my shoulder, I could cave them in. With the tool, I could pop them out. Now I was ready. I loaded up the thing and took off. I had never been a salesman before. But I must of been good at this. I rarely missed a sale.
It took me most part of two years before I got rid of them all. I was in every town west of the Mississippi river. And a lot on the other side. I wholesaled a lot of them to specialty salesman. Guys that called on garages and body shops. One time I traded a bunch for a Hudson straight eight. Near the last, in Cicero Illinois, I traded a whole bunch for an almost new, Chevrolet sedan.
I only had a few left when I ended up in the town of Ottawa Ill. The sand capitol of the world. A big sign said as you entered town. There was a huge sand processing plant there. The one that set the standard for all sands. Sand for making glass, foundry casting sands, sand for making sodium silicate, a widely used glue and many other uses. Train loads of it left there every day. The name of the company was Ottawa Silica Co. This place was of great interest to me. I knew where there was a whole mountain of sand near Emmett Idaho that looked better than this when it come out of the ground. I spent a couple of weeks there. They gave me guided tours of the place. I took them all in. I looked that place over from one end to the other. And the more I looked, the more I wondered about that big mountain of sand back in Idaho. I could hardly wait until I got back.
I could write a whole book on my experiences while I was traveling around selling those Dent Removers. But I won’t. However, there is one that I think I should write about. It was on that last trip home. When I had traded that car dealer in Cicero, my old Dodge panel delivery, plus a bunch of machines for that Chevy, I had one problem. It had no license on it. There you must pay your sales tax, then buy a license for the car. The car was valued at about a couple of thousand dollars. This meant, that I would have to pay about a hundred and fifty tax, then buy a license. Then when I arrived back in Idaho, I would be stuck buying another. This seemed like a waste of money to me. I took the Idaho license off the Dodge and put it on the Chevy. I figured I could make it home alright. There was just one problem. In Idaho, they issued a special license to people who lived on farms. That is, for trucks, pickups, panels, etc. Also they are much cheaper. On. the Dodge I had one of them. And they were different. On them was no potato. And over in one corner, were printed letters. F. R. Which meant this was a farm vehicle. I was headed for home, anxious to get back. I was coming through the state of Iowa when suddenly I was caught in a long line of cars. All of them being run through a checking station. Making sure everything was in order. I took out my pocket book. My driver’s license was for Idaho and up to date. I also had the title for the car. But it was an Illinois title. I began to sweat. And there were those Idaho plates with no potato and that F.R. in the corner. I could be in a lot of trouble. But there was no way out. I didn’t dare turn around and run. I just sat there and slowly moved along with the rest. Then an officer in uniform was there beside me. “Your driver’s license please.” he said. I handed it to him. He took a look and passed it back. Then once more, he walked to the front of the car and for a moment stood staring down at that license plate. Then once more he come back to my window. “Hey Bud.” he said “Where is your potato? And what does the F.R. mean?” My mind was in a turmoil. But I blurted out. “The F.R. is for Forest Ranger.” Then I gave him a big grin. “We state officials don’t have a potato on our plates.” I held my breath. Suddenly he grinned, then saluted. “Yes Sir. That will be all Sir. Go right ahead.” Talk about lucking out. And after I crossed the border into Idaho, I stopped at the first courthouse and bought an Idaho license with a potato on it! What a relief!