Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homefolks Smith

Back in the very early days of television the merchandising world was startled by the marketing techniques of TV marketer, 'Mad-Man Muntz'. He came up with all kinds of sales gimmicks that had never been seen or heard before. But 'Mad-Man' sold TV's - LOTS of television sets. In the process he became a legend in his time.

I doubt if many people in today's Orlando remember (or have even heard of) Homefolks Smith. He was to the automobile world what 'Mad-Man Muntz' was to televisions. The big difference was that 'Mad-Man' sold brand new sets where 'Homefolks' sold used - VERY used - cars. His luxury vehicle seldom was priced at over 250 to 300 dollars. Yes, I realize cars were much cheaper in the very early 1950's - but not as cheap as at 'Homefolks' used car lot.

The way I got to know about him was that I'd walk past his used car lot when I walked from my 'mom-and-pop' hotel room to work each day. If memory serves me correctly, his lot was somewhere around Magnolia and Concord or East Amelia. It was just a little lot - kind of a squatter in the midst of bungalow homes - but it was as unique as the dealership it represented. I might mention that in the more recent years when I lived in the Orlando area I tried to find any remains of the 'Homefolks' dealership with no success. But over the years a lot of things disappear. The last time I looked, he radio staion I worked
for (on North Orange Avenue just north of Colonial) was an empty lot. But somewhere between the hotel and the station was the most unique car dealership I've ever seen.

I really learned about 'Homefolks Smith' by writing and performing a program for him. It had to be real up beat - and loud. He would say, "Make it really loud and make the music fast -- none of that gushy love stuff." That's just what I did.
And it was fun. One of the things we'd do everyday was to have a race between the Orlando Police and 'Homefolks' manager Jim (imaginary name) when Jim came to work from his home outside Winter Park. Jim was accused of speeding in his 'Homefolks' special 1924 Model T Ford West Florida chopdown - thus the police escort into Orlando. Jim was home free if he got to the car lot without being caught - and he always made it. In the meantime the program was filled for a minute or so of old car sounds, sirens, and a play by play account as they passed the radio station studio.

One time 'Homefolks' offered a set of Model A Ford connecting rods for $29.95 and if you were the first one to show up at the car lot he would throw in a Model A Ford as a free incentive. "Push in your junker," he'd say, "and we've got a right good replacement for next to nothing. If that ain't the truth, may lightning strike me onthis spot." Obediently, the studio engineer (me) would play a sound effect recording of a massive thunder clap.

It was like no other radio program I can remember - either in the old days or nowadays - but it really broke up the monotony of the morning. "Homefolks" told me one time, "Boy, you slow this program down and I gonna cancel it sho as I'm settin' on this old porch." I was in awe of 'Homefolks' and never slowed down - and as long as I was at that station he never canceled."

Good memories of fifteen minutes of the most fun and hyper time I ever had.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyable stories, most of which I've not heard before. Keep writing, Dad!