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   Herb Easley and daughter Debbie run Easley's Fun Shop, a company founded by  
   Herb's father, Bert Easley.

Father's footsteps
Sons, daughters carry on their dad's work


By Richard Ruela  

   G rowing up, a child might turn father's shoes into playthings, trying to keep balance while stomping around the living room.  But some  children will literally try to fill their father's shoes, carrying on the legacies their dads started.
What might have been expected in another generation might be a bigger tribute these days.  It's not automatic anymore.  It's a conscious choice.  And, for the fathers, a validation that their children respect their work.

Herb and Debbie Easley

  Herb Easley thought it would be nice if his daughter would continue the family tradition at the magic and fun shop.  But he didn't want to force her into it. He wanted her to find her own way.
"If she didn't want to work here, we wouldn't want her," Easley said.  "She wouldn't be a good employee."
When she was young, Debbie didn't want to work at Easley's Fun Shop.  Her father understood.
"Every young person goes through a phase," the 73-year-old said, "when they think their father is the stupidest person on earth and doesn't know a damn thing.  And then they grow up and realize that maybe they're not so dumb after all."
Debbie went through that phase, probably hastened by the fact she grew up saddled with a last name that everyne in town associated with rubber chickens and pranks.  In high school, she was once fingered as a prime suspect when someone put a stink bomb in the air-conditioning duct.
She held various odd jobs and moved to New Orleans before coming back home.
"I had to go and travel the United States and find a better life.  And you can see where I am," said the 44-year-old, now president of the company.  "I guess I ended up right back where I belong."
Odd to think that maturity would lead one to working at a fun shop.  But it was the same for her father, Herb.  Growing up, he also had thoughts beyond the fun shop started by his father, Bert Easley.  I really had ambitions of being an architect," he said.  "I didn't think the fun shop business was that exciting.  Didn't think it was glamorous enough."
But he knew his father really wanted him to take over the shop.  And he agreed, even expanding the business.  It was Herb who thought of renting costumes, something that is now a mainstay of the store, and something his father initially resisted.
"It's unique," Herb said.  We feel very fortunate that we've kind of grown with the city."
   These days, the father lives in an apartment built on the fun shop property.  He sees plenty of his daughter in action as she manages the company.
"Work is work no matter where you are," Debbie said, "but here you can be with family."