Friday, October 03, 2008

Business Department

I hope to print my book in the spring of '09. Here are three excerpts I'm adding to "Adventures at 1122-7th Street." Please enjoy.


In the 50s, people prided themselves on the length of their Christmas card list. The more names on your list, the more cool you were. I don’t know where I got the bright idea to sell Christmas cards. But I sold them for a few years. In August and September!

I carried a thick ring binder with several Christmas card samples. “Hmmm, these are beautiful cards, Paul. All of them. I don’t know which one to choose. I guess I’ll take two boxes of these.”

“And I’d like a box of these and one of these.”

I also carried a smaller binder with type style samples and decorative add-ons. My customers chose a card, the type style for their pre-printed names, and the add-ons they’d like. “This is cute. How much extra? Oh, don’t worry about it; go ahead and order it.”

I called on a few teachers, some church folks, most of the ladies in the neighborhood and a few random homes where I wasn’t afraid to knock.

I was always surprised when the ladies invited me in and looked over my cards. Then they ordered a box. Or two! An order of three or four boxes was not uncommon. In fact, an order of one box was rare. Then they gave me some money, which I kept in a match box hidden in the dining room buffet.

My business partner was Mom. On the night before deadline, we sat together at the dining room table and she carefully completed the big order form for me. She wrote out a check and whatever was left in that match box was mine to keep. I thought that was about the neatest deal ever conceived. Next day, I rode my bicycle to the post office and mailed everything off. I think I had to pay extra for the thick envelope. Maybe five cents. About the middle of November the Railway Express truck delivered two or three good-sized boxes of beautiful, custom Christmas cards.

Then I delivered them to all my customers. (Mom took some to her workplace; Dad a couple to his.) “Oh, don’t these look just beautiful!” In just a day or two, I was done with it and had some spending money to boot.

I sold Christmas card for three or four years and Mom always did the paperwork. She never made a mistake, and, as far as I know, no one ever called to complain about quality or (my) service. Mom and I should have gone into business.

* * * * * * *

In the middle-50s; Johnson Cleaners burned down. So naturally, all the dry cleaning waiting to get cleaned and all the dry cleaning waiting to get picked up went up in smoke. Pretty soon everything, including the building, got scooped up and hauled out to the dump. About the time to re-open, the Johnson’s appealed to all the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to round up as many hangers as we could find. They promised us a dime a dozen.

We got old ones and new ones; white ones and plain ones; bent ones and straight ones and when Johnson’s reopened they were back in the dry cleaning (and hanging) business again. There were more than enough hangers to get re-started, thanks to all the Douglas scouts. Charlie Ables, who was in my Cub Pack, won a prize for collecting the most hangers. We all did such a good job that I think the Johnson’s are still in business.

* * * * * * *

When I was in the 6th Grade, they told us we had to take these forms to all our neighbors and get magazine subscriptions. If we sold this many we’d get a football or something. If we sold that many we could get a Red Ryder BB Gun. And for just this many a Schwinn Bicycle! The girls could get girl stuff.

I didn’t sell any because my parents had more magazines coming to the house than anyone in town. My own parents didn’t even buy any magazines. But somebody must have because that pesky magazine fundraising company is still in business.

* * * * * * *

There’s a joke floating around Texas. “Hey, you want a coke?”

“Yeah.”

“What kind?”

“Dr Pepper.”

There was a time when all soft drinks were sold in two kinds of bottles. It didn’t matter what you called them—Pepsi, 7-Up, Orange Crush, RC Cola, Dr Pepper, Dad’s Root Beer—they all came in coke bottles or pop bottles. Now, if you purchased a soft drink from a machine (5¢), you were supposed to hang around there till you finished drinking it. Then you were supposed to return your empty bottle to a rack or box near the machine. However, when you bought a bottle of pop in a store (usually 8¢ to 10¢), it was okay to take the bottle with you because you had paid a few cents extra for deposit on the bottle. So then later, return the empty bottle to any store and get your deposit back. Or use the empty bottle as deposit on the next one. Or collect several empty bottles and return them all at once for some nice pocket change. In the 50s, bottle deposits ranged from 2¢ to 5¢. With prices like that, I should have gone into the returned bottle business.

* * * * * * *

You may want to visit Adventures at 1122-7th Street for hours and hours of delightful reading.

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