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See These Websites Within Nichols Cap Guns:
Cap Guns
The Antique Cowboy
Cap Gun Paradise
Toy Gunslinger
Piñon Collectibles
Turner-Nichols Service Center
Cap Gun Treasures
GrandDad's Toy Box
Jim's Vintage Toys
The Ten Gallon Hat
Cap Gun Toys

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Mr. Bill Simpson

No Nichols Industries story would EVER be complete without a story about the remarkable man, Travis P. (Bill) Simpson.

Bill Simpson was the first Nichols Industries employee ever hired and that had more to do with his remarkable nature than his abilities, which became CONSIDERABLE ( ! ) later. There is a story about him in my Uncle Talley's book, A Brief History of Nichols Industries, Inc. and Its Toy Guns, but these memories will be from MY side of the family. Basically, Bill Simpson (Mr. Simpson to me!) was hired because he could outwork anybody (Don't even think about trying to keep up with him: you would fail!), and because he wouldn't take "No" for an answer. So he went to work and worked so hard that you realized that (a) you had to pay him, and that (b) you realized that you couldn't do without him.

However, as I said, that is another story. My story goes like this...

After Nichols Industries was going pretty well, Mr. Simpson decided that he needed "more" in order to properly provide for his family. At the time, he was living in my Uncle Talley's garage apartment—upstairs. So, he came to my dad and said, "Lewis, I am working as hard as I can, but I I have a family and need a way to earn some more money. Do you have any ideas?" As it turned out, my dad had already had (what I call) a "Divine Serendipitous Inspiration" and had a "perfect" idea. He told Mr. Simpson to go up and down the streets of Pasadena, Texas and knock on the doors and sell shrubbery to the ladies. In those days, women (for the most part) were housewives and could be counted on to be home. Dad said that Mr. Simpson needed a "gimmick" in order to be able to compete with the local nurseries. He said that if Mr. Simpson would tell the ladies (and gentlemen also, I'm sure) that he would plant the shrubbery for FREE, then they would buy from him. Then my dad loaned Mr. Simpson FIFTY DOLLARS (a lot of money in those early days after the war) and told him to go to the local nurseries and buy the shrubbery wholesale.

Well, Mr. Simpson did this and sold out of the shrubbery in a hurry. He was such a hard worker and so fast that he was able to sell and plant these shrubs at a rapid pace. He then took the entire amount of money and went and invested it all in more shrubbery. And on and on.

This went on for awhile, and he began to pile up some resources. He had already paid my dad back and then said that he needed another good idea, for this wouldn't last forever. Nichols Industries had an ally named Al Cohen who furnished the caps and also had a fireworks business. In those days, before the strenuous laws they have now, the fireworks business was basically unregulated, and fireworks were VERY popular. So my dad suggested to Mr. Simpson that he should run one of the fireworks stands during the Fourth of July fireworks season and also during the Christmas/New Year's season. This Mr. Simpson did and realized that here was where some good money could be made.

So he took all of his earnings from the shrubbery business and built himself a couple of fireworks stands that were basically boxes on wheels. He then worked them himself and got some help. As I said, in those days there was a FORTUNE to be made in this business. Plus, Mr. Simpson worked very hard and applied himself.

He then took his earnings and built a BUNCH OF FIREWORKS STANDS. Eventually my cousins Lewis, James and Robert (maybe Dwight?) worked for him, and I also worked for him for three seasons.

Well, this is just the standard "Horatio Alger" story that is common to Americana, but there is, as Paul Harvey would say, "The Rest of The Story." (This whole narrative is from our point of view and is accurate as far as I remember my dad telling it.)

Mr. Bill Simpson was an honest man. Now you think you know "honesty," but you don't, because you never knew Mr. Bill Simpson. He was from "the old school." He paid my dad back and then paid him back. And then he paid him back. My dad said, "Bill, you've already paid me back." However, Mr. Simpson was the most grateful and honest man I have ever known. And he never forgot a debt or ever felt like he had completely paid back my dad. When my dad went to Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Mr. Simpson would shake his hand every now and then, and there would be a $50 bill in his hand. My dad would object, but Mr. Bill said, "Lewis, I'll never be able to pay you back for that original $50 and the help you gave me and the ideas." Well, my dad accepted because after getting out of the business and being a new preacher, we were just a hair away from being really poor. Despite what you might think, a Methodist preacher just coming out of seminary (especially in 1955!) had no money.

I'm not sure Mr. Simpson fully understood at that time, but those ideas had come from God, and the reason I know is because of the impact that they had on the rest of us across the years.

For the rest of his life Mr. Simpson was always doing nice things for my father, and I also became the recipient of his kindness and honesty. My dad held his funeral a few years ago in Jacksonville, and we buried him out under that big tree on his "Poor Farm." All of my life, I have thought that I could be a good man if only I could be like Mr. Bill Simpson. A Remarkable Man.  —MN

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