C. Carey Cloud

C. Carey Cloud » Articles » Ideas Beget Ideas

Ideas Beget Ideas
       Louisville Tonight
       Phil Martin, Wade Johnson, interview by Ange Humphrey

Ange Humphrey: For one hundred and eight years Americans have been eating Cracker Jack by the tons, popcorn peanuts molasses. You know it's so popular it's even in the dictionary, in the encyclopedia, it's even in the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", you know buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, well that's part of it. One of the reasons people like it so much is because of this one little thing. Let me see if I can get it, right down in here. And that's the toy surprise. Did you ever stop to think of who designed these prizes, who thought them all up? Well we went to Brown County, Indiana to meat the man. For 28 years he designed the toys that went into the box of Cracker Jack, his name C. Carey Cloud.

C. Carey Cloud: I would call myself an artist, an inventor, and a designer, probably all in one. An amateur el greco, I was always an artist, I was always drawing since I was five years old.

Ange Humphrey: He worked in a shoe factory, piano factory, the oil fields of Oklahoma, the steel mills of Indiana, he was a farm boy who didn't want to farm. He wanted something more, and because he did, his family thought him a little odd.

C. Carey Cloud: I like to paint, I like to do some writing, and I'm trying to write my autobiography now. I had such a varied career before I broke into art. I took a $25 correspondence course in cartooning and illustrating, and started out on the Cleveland Press, and it went on from there.

Ange Humphrey: And where he went was to illustrating pop-up books and western magazines, to designing greeting cards and making toys, and in 1937 to Cracker Jack. No matter what he did, he was successful at it. He had confidence in himself, he knew he was the best.

C. Carey Cloud: I never had any competition as far as I was concerned. I never worried about competition, I designed for Superman on radio, Cocoa-Wheats on radio, I designed prizes for Orphan Annie on radio. I was just on my own, I always had enough ideas. I learned from an advertising agency that I could spread them out. I never felt that I was a salesman, I never had that feeling. I just felt that I had enough ideas, that there was something of mine that they'd eventually buy. And they did.

Ange Humphrey: Toys, for 28 years, Cloud was the man responsible for filling Cracker Jack boxes with millions of toys. They weren't fancy, but the made people smile. Everything from tiny tin toy garages to moveable plastic butterflies.

Ange Humphrey: Is it hard to come up with all those different ideas?

C. Carey Cloud: When you start to thinking ideas, ideas beget ideas, you breathe ideas, you think ideas day and night, you eat ideas. You watch a leaf shake on a tree, it might give you an idea. Another thing I do is I scan books, and you unconscious mind works out the idea for you. And when I get an idea, even if it sounds lousy, I'll pigeon hole it because later on it may turn out to be a good idea. I never knew when an idea wasn't good or wouldn't work. I just kept working on it, and made it work.

Ange Humphrey: Making ideas work that was his jobs, and the record shows he did it well. But he did more than just design, he had to come up with a way to produce these toys at a small cost so he could make some money. The answer was of course, mass production. A minimum order was for six million of one toy, with that many being manufactured at one time it was important that the toy be simple but also fun.

C. Carey Cloud: This is a Goofy Zoo, you just turn the disc, and if my hands aren't too clumsy, you change the heads on them. I never ran out of ideas, I had more than I could do anything with. This was made out of scrap metal, during the war, out of can tops, it's a bazooka, a noisy whistle, one which mothers didn't appreciate. This is about how it sounds. It was somewhat a screamer. I gave a bunch of children here in Nashville a bunch of these and they went all over town blowing bazookas, and I wasn't very popular for a few days.

C. Carey Cloud: The originals of these toys were made four times larger, I carved them out of basswood.

Ange Humphrey: The books, the greeting cards, the toys are all behind him now. Retired, but still active he is writing his biography, painting, travelling. It's a lifestyle he enjoys. The only regret he has is that there just isn't enough time to get all the things he wants to do done.

C. Carey Cloud: I've lived 81 years and have at least another 15 years worth of work to do if I ever get done.

Ange Humphrey: So, what's your next project?

C. Carey Cloud: I just wish I had time to do more things. I developed a subdivision here when I was designing Cracker Jack toys, it was successful, I sold it off. So I'm usually into two or three things at a time, and still am. I'm still painting, I'm writing, like I said I need 15 hours a day to do the things. I need more than that, but I don't quite have the energy now to do the work I haven't started.

C. Carey Cloud