My First Business

It was my first foray into the world of business and as businesses go, I would give it mixed reviews. It all started when I wanted a BB gun. One of the comic book characters who soon became a TV character was a cowboy who called himself Red Ryder. He had a carbine rifle that he was mighty slick with, and there was a BB gun that was a replica of the rifle that Red Ryder used. They called it a Daisy.

When you were 10 years old back in the 50’S, nothing was a cool as a Daisy air rifle. Red Ryder would tell us junior rangers to get the Daisy air rifle and “tame the west in your own back yard.” I knew for sure that my summer would surely be in ruins if I did not get that Daisy air rifle.

I wanted that Daisy BB gun so badly, and I lobbied so hard for it. Convincing Mom and Dad that I should have one was going to be a tough sell. I begged. I whined. I made promises that in retrospect I knew I couldn’t keep but I promised every kind of additional chore I could think of and promised to do the ones that I was presently charged with a whole lot better.

The Daisy was about $20 and back then that was a lot of money. Especially for a hardware store clerk making about $325 a month. My mom was succinct in her answer. “NO.” Dad knew how much a boy wanted his own bb gun, tried to do the next best thing. “We’ll see. Maybe for your next birthday.” This was only the beginning of summer, and my birthday was in April. That was almost a full year! In a kid’s life, that represents 10% of your entire life. That is a long time to wait.

But there in the Red Ryder comic book I came upon an answer. It was an ad for kids to sell a salve, (exactly like petroleum jelly) and earn up to $20! It was a stroke of advertising genius. Right after an ad for the Daisy, that they had priced at $19.95 they placed an ad for kids to sell Cloverine brand salve and earned $20. The company would send you 20 cans of Cloverine brand salve which I could sell for a dollar more than I paid for each can. They made it look so easy. They had a cartoon picture of a boy handing over a can of Cloverine and in his other hand he had some dollar bills. This was going to be super-easy.

Cloverine brand salve looked like, smelled like and WAS vaseline. It came in a small can about the size of snuff-box, and it was priced about the same as real brand vaseline that was three times as large. That made it hard to sell. I would imagine that about a million kids were beating the bush trying to sell Cloverine.There were probably 30 kids in my small town trying to sell it. If it were to happen today, it would have been a class action lawsuit!

There would have been all kinds of shyster attorneys on the air saying “If your stupid, gullible kid fell for that B.S. about selling Cloverine brand salve and you sent hard earned money to the GougeEm Corporation, then join our class action lawsuit.”

Who would pay $3.00 for an off-brand from a door to door kid, when you could get three times as much of the Vaseline brand for the same price?

And you couldn’t send the unopened cans back. You had to send payment for the product. I am emptied my piggy bank and borrowed sixty cents from my mom and a buck twenty from Dad to make it.

I sold one to my Grandmother, another to one of my mom’s friends but Mom and Dad ended up buying most of the salve. After a while, they got tired of me selling the Cloverine brand. My mother preferred the original vaseline and had to used Cloverine because her stupid offspring had bought more than he could sell.

I used it on everything so I could sell more to my poor parents. If I got a mosquito bite or a sliver, I would put on a gob the size of an egg. I put in my hair to make my flat top stand up, I greased my bike and I even sneaked some my brother’s lunch as sort of jelly-stretcher. All so I could sell another can.

Mom and Dad finally relented. Mom wanted to go back to her old standard, Vaseline, and I think they figured out that it would be just as cheap to a
Daisy rather than pay me for $3.00 a can until I was out.

So the mixed reviews I talked about in the first paragraph, if I had been a real business I would have gone bankrupt, but I did get the Daisy.

The day I was handed that air rifle was one I still remember, I headed for the back yard with my new Daisy with my mother yelling behind me: “Don’t shoot anything.”

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