Ed Murphy, best-known in the industry as owner of Belleville, Illinois based Modern Motors, passed away on January 27, 2017. Ed was the go-to guy for truck sales in the carnival industry for many years, lending a helping hand to his friends and customers, even financing most of his deals. If you needed a truck in a pinch, a call to Ed would bring a vehicle in short order and he stood behind his products. Although Modern Motors went out of business 15 years ago, Ed still worked selling new and used trucks on a smaller scale.
Ed Murphy began his career working for Modern Motors based in St Louis, Missouri. At the time, Modern Motors was a car dealership selling Oldsmobiles and big Chryslers. Murphy got his job from John Bundy who would visit local circuses and carnivals and see what equi
pment they needed to make their moves or jumps. Most circuses and carnivals at the time used large cars to pull their equipment. Murphy became friends with the circus and carnival people. Most of them didn't have a place to go during the winter season, as winter quarters were not as prevalent then. Murphy eventually offered up his adopted mother's farm for circus and carnival people to store their equipment during the winter. Andy Schoendeinst met Murphy when he was 12 years old; he got a job from Murphy working on the farm doing odd maintenance jobs. Schoendeinst recalls circus people practicing their acts on the farm during the winter.
"The way Ed did business was a lot like modern networking these days. He would always go out to the local carnivals and circuses and ask what they needed. He would buy old equipment and sell it to his clients after fixing it up and painting it, whatever way the client wanted." Eventually, Ed Murphy broke away from John Bundy and took over Modern Motors.
Murphy became friendly with most people in the industry by making efforts to meet all their needs before, during and after the sale. According to Schoendeinst, Murphy's clients read like a who's who of the industry. Industry veterans Danny Houston, Mike Williams, and Ray Cammack all got help from Ed Murphy when they were first getting started. Murphy would always help people financially and give freely of his talent and experience on how to be successful in the business. "Ed would never turn people away. He was even known to pay for people's transportation to Modern Motors to pick up a piece of equipment," says Schoendeinst. In addition to selling trucks, Murphy later began selling generator units mounted in trailers and he would even finance some amusement rides for his clients.
Schoendeinst said one of Murphy's strengths was connecting people with similar needs in the industry. His numerous connections were beneficial to all his friends and clients including Schoendeinst himself, who met his wife at 16 years old on Murphy's mom's farm.
Murphy was very active in industry associations. He was a member of the St. Louis Chapter of the Showmen's League of America, seving as treasurer of the chapter for many years.
According to Schoendeinst, Murphy was well suited for the position as he was a very savvy businessman with a big heart. "He was very big on scholarships. He always invested the chapter's funds wisely and made sure they were used for students," says Schoendeinst.
Before Murphy started as treasurer of the St. Louis Chapter of the Showmen's League of America, they gave out one or two scholarships a year. Now, thanks to Murphy's hard work and perseverance, the St. Louis Chapter of the Showman's League of America gives out around 30 scholarships for students, an accomplishment Murphy was very proud of.
Murphy loved the carnival business; he never missed a trade show and would visit any show he could whenever possible. Schoendeinst recalls Murphy being the last to leave the trade shows each night and the first one to be there in the morning. "Ed Murphy was larger than life. He was an honorable man whose word was his bond," says Schoendeinst.
Ed Murphy is survived by his son, Michael, who has planned his memorial service for April 19th at the St. Louis Chapter of the Showmen's League of America. The service will be in the morning and then that same afternoon the club will hold a luncheon and club meeting. "This is exactly how Ed would've wanted it," concluded Schoendeinst.