Jottings: Remembering the days of 'Scooches'
In the 1958 school year, a college friend convinced me and my college roommate we could make money by constructing and selling toy hobby horses he had designed. It consisted of a plush-fur horse's head with reins, a long dowel body connected to a wooden cross beam with two wooden wheels. A child straddled the dowel to "ride" the horse. We purchased an almost complete bolt of black, plush, fake fur for the horse's heads to optimize the cost-per-unit. When we showed a few samples of the hobby horse to campus friends, we were encouraged to produce the toy. Friends said they would purchase one for a younger sibling or nephew.
We wondered how we could market the hobby horses? My roommate, who was from Kansas City, said a friend of his family was a purchasing agent for Montgomery Wards. My roommate arranged a meeting. We took a weekend and days off from classes to go to Kansas City, sample in hand, to meet the agent. The agent was very encouraging and asked how much we would charge for the hobby horses. Satisfied with his wholesale cost, he said he would purchase them for sale at Montgomery Wards. There was a catch. He would need 10,000 horses by the end of November to make them available for the Christmas season. There was no way possible to meet that quantity in such a limited time frame, even if we employed a hundred other students to help. We would not even have time to purchase the rest of the items needed nor the time to sew all the horse's heads. In addition, we would need to transport them to Kansas City. Sadly, we abandoned what seemed like a promising venture, having learned an important business lesson.
We had invested in the plush fur and did not know what we could do with it. My roommate came up with an idea. We could manufacture something small that one of the fraternities could hawk at the annual state high school band contest that met in our college town. We might recover our expenses, and the fraternity could make money too. We puzzled over what design that could be. I don't recall who came up with the object. We struggled for a name and eventually called them Scooches. We cut two parts, one round, another triangular, to form the Scooches. We sewed the round bottom to a triangular base to form an inverted cone shape about eight inches tall. We sewed yarn at the top of the Scooch to make a way to hang them on a car mirror or Christmas tree. We cut small "feet" from rectangular felt using pinking sheers forming toes. When we sewed the bottom to the top, we sewed in the feet. We cut small triangles for the eyes. Used a paper punch and attached them to the sides with brass fasteners. The brass fasteners formed the center of the eyeballs. You could rotate the felt eyes to change the Scooches' mood. We purchased clean used mattresses to obtain cheap cotton stuffing for the Scooches. We hired a student friend to do the sewing and had five hundred completed before the state band event. The fraternity sold them all for a dollar on street corners downtown during the band event. The fraternity made money, and so did we. We were able to recover our initial investments and still had plush fur left over for use the following year.
The following school year, both my roommate and I were engaged, and our fiances helped us manufacture Scooches. Free Labor! We were able to manufacture a thousand for the second year. They were the rage, mainly when cute college guys sold them to impressionable girls and their boyfriends visiting for the all-state band contest week. After we graduated, the fraternity continued to manufacture and sell Scooches. I still have one we hang on our Christmas tree each year.
Our wives who did the sewing accused us of making them earn their own engagement rings.
Cecil Denney is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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