My father became his own boss: A Wall Street Journal column by Bert Stratton, uncle to Jordan Rose and Court Rich

By Bert Stratton | Wall Street Journal

My dad, Toby, hit tennis balls with me after work. He would say: “Racquet back. Hit it now!” He would repeat that for minutes on end. He wore Bermudas and Jack Purcells, and sometimes no shirt. This was appropriate court attire in the 1960s, at least in South Euclid, Ohio. I didn’t appreciate the lessons. I moped around on the court. I should have hustled more. There were no other dads out there.

My dad also managed my Little League baseball team. He taught the players about nepotism; I got to pitch. I didn’t throw the “very small ball,” as Casey Stengel described Bob Feller’s pitching style. I threw the puffball. Luckily, I was a lefty, which rattled a few batters.

My dad’s priorities were family, money and sports, in that order. For “money,” he worked in a Dilbert cubicle at a car key manufacturer. The company gave my father an evaluation concluding that my dad “would do well on a desert island,” “may be difficult to get along with” and “much prefers to do things in his own way.”

My dad admired Bill Veeck, who owned the Cleveland Indians. Veeck didn’t wear a tie. My dad didn’t like to wear a tie either. While at the key company, my dad bought into a cosmetics franchise, Ovation of California. He sold moisturizers, shampoos, eyebrow pencils, lipsticks and bases—war paint for women.


“Be your own boss” was my dad’s watchword. He really wanted to escape the key company. The bosses there were “too cute”—too smart for their own good. He invented a board game called Stock Market, modeled after Monopoly. He used Monopoly play money in his game prototype and sent it to Parker Brothers, which returned Stock Market minus the Monopoly money. Parker Brothers was monopolistic about its money.

My dad came up with Win-Sockey, a paddle game modeled after a Depression-era street game he had played as a kid. He sent the game to Wham-O along with a recording of “Buckle Down, Winsocki.” Wham-O said no thanks and kept the record.

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