Thinking about old friends during the holidays

Gerald Perry

Rambling thoughts. 

A while back an old friend passed away, which set me to thinking about all the friends I have lost over the years. Too many to start counting, really. 

One such friend was a fellow I grew up with. We went to Riverview High School together, we played sports together and just hung out together.. My friend was a very gifted person when it came to art and mechanical drawing. In fact, I got through my mechanical drawing class in high school because he let me copy his work. 

After he graduated from high school, he got a job as a window dresser at People’s outfitting in Lincoln Park. He soon tired of that and got a job in the engineering department at Samsonite Co. in Ecorse. When that plant closed, he went to the Sansonite plant in Murfreesboro, TN doing the same work, designing tools and dies. 

One day and old friend told him about a job in Columbus, MS with the Beneke Toilet seat Company. My friend was not thrilled about working for a toilet seat company, but there were rumors of Samsonite being sold, so he looked into it. 

He sent a copy of his work and Beneke invited him to town to talk. 

The people and Beneke were so impressed with him in person that they flew his wife to town to be part of the interview process. The company hired him on the spot and paid for the expenses involved in moving. 

At the time, Beneke manufactured only plain white, wooden toilet seats. 

My fired designed seats with college logos on them and distributed samples to the sales staff. The seats were a hit and the company took orders for several hundred. They had no choice but to set up a new line to produce the seats. The company then asked my friend – in a nice way – not to do that again. 

But he did. He designed a clear plastic seat with coins in it and another with flowers and gave samples to the sales staff. Again, they were a hit, a new line had to be formed and the company warned my friend to stop. 

Undeterred, my friend went on to design the soft toilet seat. This time he presented it to the company’s board of directors and it was rejected. The company said people would not buy the seat because it would feel used and draw in bad air. 

Again, my friend went back to the sales staff, giving them dozens of prototypes and, of course, the seats were a hit. The company got thousands of orders for seats they said “would not sell.” 

Demand was so high, the company had to set up not only a new line, but build a new facility to manufacture the popular new item. 

If you check with the U.S. Patient Office, you will see the name of my old high school friend – David Harrison – on the patent for the soft toilet seats, as well as several other patents. 

While you may have used one his seats, I am guessing you have probably never heard of David, but I know the Beneke Toilet Seat Company knows who he was. 

Rest in peace, my friend. 

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