‘ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH SOUNDINGS?’
Sue Evans grew up sailing on Long Island Sound. Her mom and dad were sailors, racing Snipes out of the Norwalk Yacht Club across Wilson Cove from their hometown of Rowayton, Conn. Evans raced Lightnings, and as engaging and outgoing as she was and still is, the young sailor made friends in the dozens of clubs she raced against.
A bulwark of the Soundings staff for 35 years, Evans retired in 2004 as advertising account executive for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. She had been a New York Boat Show veteran from a tender age.
“My dad and I had a special date every year when I was a child to go into New York to the sailboat show,” Evans recalls. That was when the New York show was still in the ornate Grand Central Palace — long since razed — that was built over the railroad tracks running into Grand Central Terminal.
Evans knew the New York show. She loved the New York show. It had special memories for her. After graduating college with a degree in English, she married, gave birth to two sons, and as was the way in those times she and her husband, Bob Marrs, who worked for Travelers Insurance, moved all over the country with his job. She raised their sons, Chris and John, and managed affairs at home wherever they wound up.
By 1972 the couple had returned to Connecticut and moved in next door to Mary and Jack Turner, Soundings’ co-founder and publisher, in New Canaan. One Friday night, Bob, Sue, Jack and Mary were sitting around having a “thank-goodness-it’s-Friday” drink when Jack complained that the New York show was coming up at the worst possible time for him — just as Soundings deadlines were looming. He figured he ought to be back at the shop tending to business instead of in the Soundings booth. When Evans asked what the job entailed, Turner said, “Tell people about Soundings and sell subscriptions.”
“I told Jack, ‘That sounds like fun,’ and Jack said, ‘You’re hired’ ” — with Bob’s blessing. A career at Soundings was born.
The two couples drove to the show together. “I got a crash course in selling subscriptions in the car,” Evans says. The men set up the booth and lugged the papers to the exhibition hall. The Turners went home, leaving Evans to manage the booth. “It was like old home week,” Evans says. She kept running into old friends from her Lightning days, among them Yachting magazine publisher Critchell Remington, and more often than not she sold them a subscription to Soundings. “I developed this little spiel,” she says. Even today, people who remember her as the face of Soundings at the boat shows quote to her opening line of that spiel: “Are you familiar with Soundings?” If they subscribed, they got a free issue. “That was a big deal back then,” she says.
At the end of her first day in the booth, Turner called. (He had installed a phone at the booth.) Evans was too busy to talk. “I had people lined up at the booth,” she says. When Turner called back, she told him she’d just finished counting subscriptions. “It’s 72. Is that OK?” she asked. “There was this silence on the other end. ‘Are you sure?’ ” He’d never signed up that many subscribers at an entire show, let alone in a day. At show’s end, she’d sold 225 subscriptions — more than $2,000 worth. “Jack was absolutely floored. He said, ‘I guess you like this.’ ” Indeed, she did.
Before the 1976 Annapolis boat show, Evans pointed out to Turner that the bigger, established magazines all hosted gala receptions and parties during the show. Why didn’t Soundings? Turner said it would be out of character for the upstart tabloid with the nose for news to put on airs and host a highfalutin reception. Well, how about beer and oysters?
Turner liked the idea, so ad sales chief Scott Hyfield arranged for a couple of bushels of oysters, a keg of beer and an oyster shucker. Midway through the party, the shucker went to the restroom and never returned. So Hyfield went out and bought a couple of shucking knives and aprons, and he and Evans shucked the oysters. “Scott was absolutely stunned that I knew how to shuck oysters,” she says. “It was a roaring success.”
At the next Soundings Christmas party, Hyfield gave Evans an oyster-shucking apron imprinted with the honorific, “Mother Shucker.”
“I still have it,” she says. “We did have fun, but we were dead serious about what we were doing.”
Evans learned to make cold calls, helping build and service Soundings’ advertising base in the Great Lakes — where she won the contract for the Mount Clemens Boat Show program — and managed ad sales for Soundings in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Evans went on to marry Soundings ad consultant Hugh Evans in 1989 after Bob’s death.
“I just feel it was wonderful that this happened to me, that I fell into this,” Evans says. Working for Soundings gave her a chance to reconnect with her love for sailing.
“I’m still involved with Soundings,” she says. “I can’t wait for it to come.”
October 2013 issue