05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
Cheryl King is the answer to a shopper's prayer, the supermarket packer America has been queuing up for. A King-packed brown bag is guaranteed not to wilt, topple or leak. And it definitely won't suffer the sudden structural failure that sends your groceries tumbling to the sidewalk. Previously known only to customers of the Jersey City, N.J. supermarket where she practices her craft, Cheryl has now found checkout counter fame. Awed by her talents, judges at the First All-American Paper Grocery Sack Pack-Off unanimously acclaimed her the winner. The contest was held in a mid-Manhattan A&P supermarket in celebration of the chain's 125th anniversary and the 101st birthday of a remarkably useful invention, the paper grocery bag.
King was pitted against 24 finalists chosen from a field of 3,000 A&P baggers in the New York-New Jersey area. With the theme from Rocky providing triumphant background music and New York Mets announcer Ralph Kiner doing sack-by-sack color commentary, King and her competitors were presented with 38 items they had to bag "speedily" (10 points) and "efficiently" (5 points). They also were judged on friendliness, "bag building technique" (10 points) and skill in weighting bags evenly. Although King was not the fastest packer, her two bags weighed exactly 19 pounds each, and when their sides were slit not one item spilled out. "A good bagger creates a base with canned items, supports the sides with boxes and uses as few bags as possible," says King of her self-taught winning technique, "and she never ever puts eggs or bread on the bottom."
Afterward the 21-year-old Jersey City resident admitted, "I was very nervous. There were too many people there." They included scores of reporters. "I couldn't believe they were making such a big fuss over a paper bag," she said.
In addition to the publicity, King won a two-foot-high trophy of a bagger and a check for $500. A junior at Kean College of New Jersey, studying occupational therapy, King has the money earmarked for a vacation in Martinique. Those are bags she's really looking forward to packing.