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1964_04_11--026_SP [Pass Go and Retire]

Vice President Edward 1? Parker, in a workaday posture on office floor, ponders his newt move in Derby Day. The game yes patterned after a steeplechase race. These big-game hunters roll dice on company time and print funny money for their customers. Their aim— to discover another fortune-making game like Monopoly. PASS GO AND RETIRE By Roy Bongartz It is 10 o'clock Monday morning in the old seafaring town of Salem, Mass. A clutch of well-tailored Harvard graduates, former Navy officers and yachtsmen take their places around a polished oak table under the benign, bearded portrait of the founder of their company. One executive throws some dice and moves a marker along the track of a board game, while the others follow every move with avid interest. When they become bored, they bring out handfuls of small steel balls enclosed in brightly colored plastic cones and begin rolling them at one another across the table. These men are engaged in a very serious business. This is the weekly executivecommittee meeting of Parker Brothers Inc., game manufacturers, and these Parker executives are hoping against hope that a new hit game—such as Monopoly— will turn up among the hundredodd ideas sent in by amateur inventors every month. The chances are slim. Monopoly, which was first produced by Parker in 1935, is the most successful trademark game in history. It has sold some 35 million sets, is played in virtually every civilized country on earth, and still sells over a million sets a year. The company could probably survive if it made nothing but Monopoly, but Parker has some 150 games in stock and produces a half dozen new ones each year. The firm makes over 10 million sets yearly. No one knows the total number of games sold annually in the U.S., but a rough guess is 50 million. Before a new game is accepted, all sorts of people get a crack at it. Among them are the schoolchildren of Salem. "The trouble is that these kids like every game we give them, no matter how dull it is," says executive vice president Edward P. Parker, grandnephew of founder George Parker treasurer Channing Bacall clasps • fake Monopoly money. Firm's daily $210 million printing is bigger than C. S. Mint's. S. Parker. "We have to distinguish between their ordinary enthusiasm and their really wild enthusiasms." At 51, Parker is natty, graying, and has a direct, blueeyed gaze behind streamlined, steel- rimmed bifocals. He is tanned most of the year from sailing as navigator aboard the Sally III, a 49-foot cutter that belongs to Robert B. M. Barton, company president. (Barton, 60, a former Baltimore lawyer, explains how he got the job. "I married the boss's daughter.") When a new game is submitted, it is photographed to protect the company against possible future litigation. After that anybody can try it out: a secretary, an office boy, a wandering executive, even an unsuspecting visitor. It may also be submitted to a panel of Salem housewives who come in once a week to earn $1.50 an hour for playing games. If it gets by these judges, it will turn up in the Monday morning order of business. It is not easy to surprise Parker executives with a new game. Like a comedian who has heard all the basic jokes, the Parker firm has seen countless variants of the six basic games: track games (Parcheesi), war games (chess), word games (Scrabble), card games (rummy), luck games (dice or roulette), and alignment games (Chinese checkers). Parker usually avoids topical games because they die too quickly. After the Valachi hearings on organized crime they received a number of Cosa Nostra games— and sent them all back. In 1957, within two weeks of the launching of Sputnik I, the company got a hundred Sputnik games. Half the games sent in today con- cern space travel, and Parker is fed up with them—inventors love them but people don't buy them. "I have no idea why some subjects sell while others don't," says Parker. "Every time we make up a theory, we're proved wrong." Parker rejects games about how to get married, how to get divorced, and games in which the chief of police gets rich on


1964_04_11--026_SP [Pass Go and Retire]
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