The Sad Saga of Door to Door Sales Part 3


Reading is as essential as breathing to me.  Imagine my joy when a salesman knocked on the door selling books!  The Book of Knowlege to be exact!  He even involved us children in the act, demonstrating its beauty and seducing us further by reading us “The Tale of Rumplestilskin.” The kids were sold, but alas, we had no buying power.  I would have gladly traded one of my siblings for that set of books, but the salesman wasn’t interested.  Daddy was not a reader, but the image of smart children hooked him, coupled with his proclivity for buying in that manner.  He did want his children to succeed.  Guess what!   This entire compendium only cost three-hundred dollars!  That must have been the going rate for door to door sales back in the fifties.  Daddy went for the whole deal:  The Book of Knowlege, Grolier’s Encyclopedia, Lands and Peoples and the dictionaries.  One fine day, box after box of books arrived.  We were giddy with joy, but Mother made us wait till Daddy got in so he could open them.  Solemnly, he took each volume out and stacked the sets on the floor beside the empty boxes.  He thumbed through a few volumes, before handing each one on to Mother to peruse.  It was like church.

Then we got the talk.  We were never to touch the books without washing our hands.  Volumes were to be returned to the shelf, IN ORDER, immediately after use.  Volumes were no to leave the living room.  Never eat or drink with a book.  These books were not to be treated as toys.  The books belonged to the whole family and treated with respect.  We were not to behave in our usual heathenish manner around these books, very good advice, indeed.

I loved those books and spent endless hours emmersed in their pages.  I particularly loved the stories they told.  I was disappointed to learn “The World Book” was preferred by my teachers, but “Grolier’s Encyclopdia” sufficed.  I particularly enjoyed the images of the naked people in “Lands and Peoples” when I could be sure of privacy.  Equally pleasurable were the classical nude statues portrayed in “Groliers,” though the fig leaves confused me.  I’d sneaked a peek at a few naked baby boys who didn’t look anything like that.

I was sharing all this with a family acquaintance and he added his own sad story.  His father sold insurance door to door.  When the encyclopedia man came calling, they worked out a deal.  Each purchased from the other, so both would benefit.  My friend and his brothers enjoyed their books, just as we had.  Sadly, neither man was able to make payments. The insurance policy was dropped and one sad day, someone came to repossess the lovely books.  I can only imagine the heartbreak those children endured.



The Sad Saga of Door to Door Sales Part 2

The purchase of waterless cookware deserves more attention in view of the problems it caused.  The actual door the salesman knocked on was not ours.  It was my Uncle Parnell’s where we’d spent a couple of days .  That morning, we were to journey on to my maternal grandmother’s, a trip Daddy had put off as long as possible.  While he would have never given in to his impulse to shoot Grandma, I don’t think Daddy would’ve grieved too deeply had he backed over her.  At any rate, I’m sure that salesman was thrilled.  The spiel went on for hours.  Daddy would talk to anyone who’d listen, determined to ferret out a shared acquaintance.  Eventually, the salesman caught on and acknowledged a nebulous connection, realizing the sale hung on it.  Daddy bought that damned cookware, a three-hundred -seventy-five dollar purchase, at a time when his net pay was a bit over a hundred a week.  Mother was furious, first at the delay in leaving for Grandma’s, then at the outrageous purchase, not knowing the full disaster that was about to befall.

The salesman, who we forever afterward referred to as Mr. Pots, told Daddy Mother should launch a career selling waterless cookware, an idea Daddy quickly seconded.  He’d always felt Mother could contribute more if she’d just “get organized.”  She had nothing but leisure with five children, house and farm chores which included milking a cow, gardening, and food preservation.  In her spare time, she sewed everything she and the girls wore.  I don’t know why he’d put up with her laziness that long.

Mother hit the ceiling.  “I am not selling that mess!”  Her rotten attitude dashed no one’s hopes.  The upshot was, Daddy invited Mr. Pots to come stay with us for a week or so and induct Mother into sales.  Mr. Pots eagerly accepted, glad to find a man who could bully his wife  lining his own pockets.

A week later, Mr. Pots showed up, laden with Daddy’s cookware.  Daddy was appalled and embarrassed that Mother stuck to her guns, after he’d set this up for her benefit.  Mr. Pots moved into my unfortunate brother’s room.  Daddy gave Mr. Pots a list of possible victims and Mr. Pots was off, without Mother as his protege.  There wasn’t a lot of warmth in our home that week.  Daddy was furious he hadn’t been able to force Mother into sales.  She’d failed him.  Mother was was enraged that Daddy had once again proved himself an insensitive ass.

Everyone was glad to see the last of Mr. Pots.  Eventually, the cookware was paid off.