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HOMEFRONT : Mother of Invention

October 02, 1994|Sharon Whitley \f7

Like most parents, Marilyn Noonan of La Jolla constantly worried about her four young boys when they played in the street. "I used to be horrified to watch cars speed down my street," she says. "We tried begging, pleading, asking my neighbors to watch out for the kids, but they would forget."

Noonan knew that there was no way she could keep the kids contained in a yard. "We're trying to deal with reality. Children do play in streets--especially in subdivisions that don't have large back yards," says Noonan. And, she notes, traffic accidents are one of the leading cause of death among children ages 6 to 12."

So she bought some orange safety cones, used a Magic Marker to put cartoon cop and the words "Children Playing" on them and put them a few feet out in the street.

"I needed some visible, polite reminder for people when the children were out playing," she says.

It worked. Cars slowed down and Noonan breathed a little easier.

After other parents in her neighborhood began to ask her for their own cones, a friend suggested that Noonan, a housewife, might be on to something that would do some good--and make some money.

Noonan thoght it over and eventually pitched the idea to a Toys "R" Us executive. A year later, she found herself with a brand new business--Noonan Design, which markets the cones as the Sidewalk Sergeant. More than 25,000 of the $10 cones have been sold since last year; they're carried in Toys "R" Us stores, as well as in several chains on the East Coast.

"Sidewalk Sergeant serves as a constant reminder to people to slow down and watch out for the kids," says cone owner Kathleen Hearst, a La Jolla mother of two young children.

The cones are even getting some support from the police. "This type of citizen involvement helps us do our jobs. It's a good, safe idea," says San Diego Police spokesman Bill Robinson. "It could supplement what we're doing to prevent accidents."

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