Young entrepreneurs open ‘scary business’

Kenny Stoddard, Brian and Craig French, and Kenny Stoddard display their "scary" wares in August 1967. (EO file photo)

A quartet of youthful businessmen spent the summer of 1967 selling items of a distinctly creepy nature to their friends and neighbors on Pendleton’s North Hill.

Brian and Craig French and Larry and Kenny Stoddard set up shop and displayed their wares on a sunny Aug. 26, 1967 afternoon for East Oregonian reporter Celia Currin in front of the French home on Northwest Ingram Avenue. “We’re sold out of bees,” said one small salesman regretfully. But the table was still loaded with mosquitoes, scorpions, cockroaches, ants, snakes and spiders in a variety of colors. They even considered special orders.

The bug collection was not only being sold by the quartet, but they made their own stock in the basement of the French home (“the lab”) using a kit Brian French got for his birthday. “It’s kept the boys busy and content all summer,” said Ardyth French. “They go downstairs for eight and 10 hours a day and just come up for meals.”

The Creepy Crawlers kit came with liquid plastic in six colors that is poured into molds and baked in a hot plate-like oven, then cooled in a bowl of water. “You can use them to scare your sisters,” Larry Stoddard offered. “You put one in their bed, they go to bed and then they scream.”

Do they always scream? “Nancy does,” said Larry.

And the boys didn’t stop with creepy crawlies. Another kit received by Kenny Stoddard for Christmas, Fighting Men and All Their Equipment, diversified their offerings. Though Mrs. Stoddard said a lot of the little pieces, like miniature hats, belts and shovels, ended up inside the family vacuum cleaner.

Their clientele consisted mostly of their families, the neighbors and the cleaning lady. The cost? “Ah, parents can buy them for any price,” said Kenny, though their sign asked for two or three cents apiece.

“That means they hope they can get a quarter,” laughed Mrs. French.

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