My friend and I went to a small town Christmas parade last night in Caney, Kansas. We had a very satisfying chili supper at one of the churches and then walked up and down the main street while waiting for the parade to begin. It was very cold out there. When we found an antique store open we gratefully went in to look around.
I don’t know what my friend was thinking about as we looked at some of the wares but I found myself thinking of my fledgling excursions into savvy shopping when I was a child. For there, on the shelves, were "antiques" I’d purchased new, as a child, to give my Mom, Nana, and Aunts for Christmas. There were also some rather amazing memories on those shelves.
When we were kids, Christmas shopping was a big deal to us. Denis and I, earned money all year to use during the season. When we went to Massachusetts on vacation during the summer, we collected pop bottles. Nana and some of her neighbors always saved them for us and we’d scour the vacant lots near the playground for empty green Coke, Moxie, or Orange Crush bottles. Once I turned eleven I baby sat for .50 an hour. We learned to economize in other ways in order to put a dollar a week into our Christmas Club accounts at the bank. We proudly stood in line every Friday afternoon to make our deposits.
One thing we did was sell Christmas cards, gift wrap, and ribbon candy for our school during the fall. Come the Spring, we sold All Occasion cards, gift wrap, and Easter candy. Although this was a school fund raiser, the students earned strips of carnival tickets for the summer carnival for each 10 boxes or packages we sold. The nuns gave us our tickets just before school let out in the summer for use at the 4th of July carnival.
Denis, was miles ahead of me when it came to salesmanship. First, while I was entering the gawky, bad hair style, skinny pre-teen stage, he still had the cute factor going for him. Thick wavy dark brown hair, happy eyes, a winning smile, and the most adorable freckles covering his nose and cheeks. He could sell Christmas cards even to the Winerips and the Wisemens and they were Jewish!
But he didn’t stop there. Denis was a successful entrepreneur by the time he was eight years old. He could somehow put a spin on something that convinced you he was giving you a great deal. I guess he was, if you bought his idea and part of your satisfaction was seeing that beatific smile of his.
One year he made me an offer I couldn’t resist. He would pay me .10 for every looped potholder I made. I, of course, supplied the loops, frame and labor . He then included a free potholder with every order of three boxes of Christmas cards or 5 packages of wrapping paper. I thought, smugly, I’d done pretty well when he had to pay me $4.20 out of his newspaper carrier’s pay.
He, however, collected over 100 tickets for the carnival!
About a year later he branched out. Realizing he could be making a good income year round, he became a prize winning salesman for the Olympic Sales Club.
This well known employer of industrious child labor, was still going strong when my own, pint sized Trump, Jugglesorcerer, decided to go into business thirty years later. He was just as cute and shared the same apparently angelic smile as his Uncle Denis.
Denis, my younger brother, still owns his own business.
Merry Christmas, Denis!
See ya down the road,