Sylvan Goldman was an idea man. One of his more persistent ideas led to his choice of careers. Actually, it was more than an idea — a concept, an eternal truth perhaps. “The wonderful thing about food is that everyone uses it — and uses it only once.”
Born in the Oklahoma Territory, he and his brother went into wholesale produce only to be wiped out by plunging oil prices. After studying all the latest methods for retailing groceries, they bounced back with a chain of self-service stores featuring woven baskets for carrying groceries. The stores were a big success, and they were bought out by the Safeway chain. Once again hard luck hit; their Safeway stock tanked during the Depression. And once again they bounced back; by the mid-30s they were half owners of the Piggly Wiggly chain.
Goldman continued to dream about customers moving more and more groceries. And one night in 1936 he had a eureka moment — inspired by a wooden folding chair. Put wheels on the legs and a big basket on the seat and you have a shopping cart.
Goldman and a mechanic friend began tinkering. They devised a metal cart with not one but two wire baskets. For efficient storage, the carts could be folded and the baskets nested. Goldman called his invention a folding basket carrier, receiving a patent on April 9, 1940.
When the carriers were introduced to the public, Goldman encountered one tiny problem. Customers didn’t want to use them. Men thought they would look like sissies pushing a cart. Women felt like they were pushing a baby carriage. And older shoppers thought it made them look helpless. Goldman was always ready with another idea. He hired attractive models, both men and women, to push the carts around, as well as charming greeters urging customers to take one for a spin.
By the 1940s, the carts had become so much a part of the American shopping experience that the Saturday Evening Post devoted its cover to them. And they got bigger and bigger until they got tiny as little icons on websites everywhere.
Goldman’s Folding Carrier Basket Company is still in business today. Goldman isn’t. He died in 1984.
Don’t Hurry Worry Me, Part 4: Blue Denim Rendezvous
Every bit of island treasure still remained buried when Elton figured he had earned a break at the Crab Hole. He carefully draped Clarence Henry’s blue denims over a large rock so they might dry while he wet himself inside. Those pants hadn’t been on the rock ten minutes when who should walk by but that rogue Randall.
“My pants!” he said, remembering the blue denims but somehow forgetting their origin and rightful ownership. He scooped them up, went around back of the Crab Hole, slipped out of his pants and into Clarence Henry’s snappy blue denims. They were damp, but still soft. Out of a sense of fairness, Randall stretched his own pants over the rock, before heading off to an afternoon liaison with none other than the wife of the man whose pants he wore.
At this point in the story, Chicken Avery was usually forced to quell a mutiny among listeners who said the story was just too preposterous. “Truth is stranger than lies,” Chicken Avery would say. “Life is full of coincidences which maybe aren’t coincidences at all but preordained or something.” He looked up at the ceiling. “Now here’s another coincidence. You interrupted my story just at the very time I finished my drink and needed a refill. So if someone would be so kind as to fill my glass, I’ll get right back to this very amazing – and very true — story.”
As foolish a person as Randall is, had he remembered whose pants he wore, he would not have worn them to this particular rendezvous. But he didn’t, so he did. Fortunately, Clarence Henry’s wife paid so little attention to Clarence Henry’s pants that she didn’t recognize Randall’s blue denims as her husband’s very own. And once Randall had arrived at Clarence Henry’s house and adjourned to Clarence Henry’s bedroom with Clarence Henry’s wife, Clarence Henry’s pants were a forgotten heap on the floor next to Clarence Henry’s bed.
This particular liaison was interrupted in mid-passion by the sound of a door slamming. “What’s that?” said Randall, jumping up.
“That would be Clarence,” answered Clarence Henry’s wife.
Randall, on his way to becoming something of an expert on hasty exits without pants, dove out the window. Clarence Henry’s wife could have made her husband a very happy man had she just remembered who the true owner of the blue denims was. But she didn’t, and she threw them out the window after Randall.
To Randall, the pants flying out the window were a Godsend, or so he thought until, trying to don them on the run, he was spotted by that good dog, Mango. Mango knew those pants, knew they did not belong to this young rogue. He chased Randall for half a mile, nipping him in the behind until Randall dropped the pants. Mango then gave him one last punitive nip and let the naked young man flee.
Then Mango returned those pants to Clarence Henry. But was he thanked for his efforts? Rewarded? No, he wasn’t. That poor dog was punished.
But Chicken Avery had promised a proper moral. And a proper one he delivered, for Clarence Henry who had taken a stick to his one true companion would never enjoy those blue denim trousers again. By the time Chicken Avery’s story had been recounted several times, Clarence could not strut around in those pants without everybody laughing at him. And if folks weren’t laughing, it was because they hadn’t heard the story. So they soon heard it, because Chicken Avery felt an obligation to tell them about the marvelous life those pants had had when Clarence Henry wasn’t in them.
Listen to Don’t Hurry Worry Me performed by the Easy Riders
This story originally appeared in American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. It is included in Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean.