Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Robert Gamm; He Invented Kangaroos - the Shoe with a Zippered Pocket

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Robert Gamm; He Invented Kangaroos - the Shoe with a Zippered Pocket

Article excerpt

Bob Gamm was a jogger who used to wrap his keys and money in a handkerchief and leave them on the ground while he ran. He hoped they'd be there when he finished.

Then he had what he called the "crazy" idea of designing an athletic shoe with a small, zippered pocket on the side. That was the start of the Kangaroos Shoe Co.

The company sold hundreds of millions of dollars of shoes during the 1980s. Mr. Gamm became a well-known figure in St. Louis and throughout the business world.

Robert Julian Gamm died Friday (July 13, 2012) at his home in Town and Country. He was 91 and was diagnosed more than five years ago with Parkinson's disease, his wife said Tuesday.

In February, he slipped and broke a hip while getting a glass of water in his kitchen. He underwent three surgeries, which his wife said led to an infection and pneumonia.

Mr. Gamm wanted to be an architect but his parents said he should join the family shoe business.

After graduating from Clayton High School and Washington University, he was drafted into the Army in 1942. He went in as a private and worked his way up through the ranks to sergeant major. His commander sent him to Officer Candidate School and he ended the war as a captain.

He returned to St. Louis and the family business, the Modern Shoe Co. He traveled across the country learning about shoes.

He went out on his own in 1979 to start Kangaroos. At first, he couldn't find anyone to make his shoes. A Korean factory finally agreed to produce them - if he bought 40,000 pairs the first month.

Mr. Gamm said he came up with the name because the kangaroo jumps almost 25 feet per step while running; never looks back, only forward; and has a pocket.

After a slow start, Kangaroos became hugely successful.

Ozzie Smith of the Cardinals and Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears were among the athletes who wore them. Mr. Gamm opened stores at Northwest Plaza and in Chesterfield.

His 55 employees said he knew how to treat them. After he hired Lindell Jones, Mr. Gamm wanted to know how much his new employee needed for a down payment on a house.

"The next thing I knew, I had a check for $15,000, and he said he would take it out of my yearly bonus," Jones recalled. …

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