Customers of young merchants are a soft sell no matter what the kids are selling. Only the hard hearted refuse to buy. I speak from experience. Children think up all kinds of ways of making money. Three children came to our house one day carrying brooms, including a push broom much bigger than were they. "Can we sweep your driveway for you?" they asked. My husband had just finished the yard work which included sweeping, so I told them no, but I felt bad afterwards. A week later they brought their brooms to the door again, and again I said we didn't need help. An hour later they were back-one with an odd pencil picture, and the other with a plastic flower. Their persistence paid off. I said I'd take the picture and gave them each a quarter.
The picture in the print edition of this column shows myself, my brother Robert and my sister Rosemary at our vegetable stand in front of our grandpa's home. We are ages 6, 8 and 2. My mother labeled the picture "Playing Store," but I remember being quite serious about our endeavor. We carefully selected our vegetables and laid them out on top of the crate which served as our stand. I believe we had carrots, radishes and a turnip to sell. A glass bottle was to hold paper bills and we designated a small metal world bank for change. With our produce on display we were ready for business and hoped to fill our money containers.
Our opportunity for customers was pretty slim-my grandfather and Auntie (in front of whose house we set up), my parents, and the Randall boys up the road. (They were really men but my parents called them the Randall boys so we did, too.) Lucky for us, the Randall boys drove past to go down the hill and later came back up, stopping each time to buy something from us. Looking back I fondly see them giving us a quarter or two for a couple of radishes. We didn't realize they would be our only customers, but they did and helped us out. I appreciate them more now than I did then for taking our efforts seriously.
A few years later I decided to sell garden seeds. The market near our home still consisted of few buyers but I figured I could go over into North Ogden and sell door to door. Thinking of what I could buy with my earnings I walked all over North Ogden and managed to sell a few seeds, but my parents ended up buying most of them.
If you've ever read "The Great Brain" children's books by John D. Fitzgerald you've been introduced to the greatest con man (or boy) in literature. Tom likes to earn money, but he doesn't like to do the work so, much like Tom Sawyer he figures out how to get others to work for him. We have a couple of little Great Brains in our family. They're good at thinking up ways to make money. But, they do the work themselves.
Our granddaughter, Rylann, lives in the city and sells lemonade in front of her house. I asked her if she uses frozen concentrate, or makes it from scratch. She says she always makes it from scratch and that family members help her squeeze the lemons. A cute little yellow and gold pitcher holds the drink. Here is Rylann's recipe:
Sugar to taste
Water to increase
Squeeze lemon juice into a pitcher. Add water and sugar. Stir and sell.
A grandson works hard at making his money. He sells things like I did, but he's picked a better product. The kids in his neighborhood swarm to buy the fruit Otter Pops he brings out on a hot day.
I talked to a grandma like me the other day and we thought every kid should have the chance to live on a farm where chores for all ages abound. As a youth, I picked fruit, pulled weeds, fed the chickens, and led the derrick horse. (The horse job was the worst. I gingerly held on to a rein near the horse's mouth hoping he wouldn't slobber on me.) My pay for leading the horse was only a few cents but it added up. Picking fruit (as my last column revealed) kept me in money to purchase candy and books, and later school clothes.
When I worked in the house, I worked for free. I pitted cherries to bottle, peeled fruit, dusted, mopped the floor and took my turn doing dishes. In spite of my mother's view that helping in the house was what girls did, I received no pay. But as I got older and needed a little cash, Mother could always come up with some. I think she hid money for just such occasions or to buy something she wanted. My father wasn't stingy, there just wasn't much money so she cached a little away when she could.
Some parents divide up housework and change the schedule each week so the children get a change. Being a city mom I did the same, but my daughter swears I always gave her the dusting (which neither of us liked to do). Our boys helped their dad mow the lawn each week and as soon as they were able (about 5th grade) they delivered newspapers.
In former times, parents expected children to work and to work well. The lesson of the importance of work even found its way into the textbooks they read in school.
For instance, "McGuffey's Eclectic Primer" copyrighted in 1881 was used in many Utah schools. It taught children simple words, penmanship, and lessons on behavior. A verse written in cursive near the end of one of the books reads:
Work while you work, Play while you play, One thing each time, That is the way. All that you do, ' Do with your might, Things done by halves, Are not done right.