Special to the Star-Advertiser
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 29, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 11:37 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011
Kauai native Lex Brodie's first business was with Sam Kahanamoku, giving tourists rides in outrigger canoes, in the early 1930s. Later, he was cannery superintendent for Dole.
His tire company was founded 50 years ago this week, July 31, 1961, on Queen Street. Most adults in the state are familiar with his cave man logo and his "Thank you … very much" slogan. But do you know where they came from?
In the 1960s, on a trip to a mainland tire convention, Brodie came across a sign with a cave man making a wheel out of a rock. It was about 1 by 2 feet in size. "I had been looking for a good logo and bought him for $25. It ran on two D cell batteries," Brodie recalls.
They called him "Little Joe" and put him in the TV commercials. Little Joe was popular, and Brodie had thousands of 3-inch decals made with his image. "We asked all the drivers if we could put them on their rear bumper."
"One day a young boy asked if he could have one, and of course I gave him one," Brodie recalls. "He just stared back at me. ‘What do you say when someone gives you something?' I asked. His mom elbowed him but the boy was silent. ‘Say thank you,' she said. Silence. ‘No,' I replied, ‘say thank you very much.'"
Later, Brodie was reflecting on how courtesy seemed to be lacking in Honolulu, so he decided to thank his customers for watching his commercials. "That's what we're thanking you for, for watching the commercial," Brodie says.
"The commercials with Little Joe and ‘Thank you very much' were a hit. Everywhere I went, people would say, ‘There's the thank-you man!'"
Brodie sold his company in 1991 and served on the Board of Education for many years. Failing eyesight caused him to retire to Kauai. He was surfing until age 90. In October, Brodie will be 97. The original Little Joe is on display at his Queen Street store.
To further Lex's interest in teaching civility to our children, in 2004 the Lex Brodie's Foundation began issuing Thank You Very Much Awards to Hawaii's schoolchildren. They also honor servicemen and women with an Above and Beyond Award.