20
Sep

The ENTRUPENEURAL DOLLY - Almost a True Story

 

My brother walked me to and from school when I was in the first grade. Mama didn’t want me to walk alone through town because there was just  a general store, a post office, a gas station, one church and four beer joints.

We walked on the opposite side of the street when we got to the beer joints where men gathered on the sidewalk, drinking out of paper bags. When my brother told me they had beer and whiskey in the bags, I asked him why the beer didn’t leak through the paper bag? He said, “Shut your mouth and grab that beer bottle in the bushes.” We took the beer bottle into the General Store and redeemed it for 2 cents.

We pressed our noses to the glass candy case and discussed the merits of one candy versus another. Candy cigarettes or wax coke bottle filled with cool-aid, which meant we could chew the wax all the way to school. We chose and the two cents worth was carefully weighed on a little scale.  Inside the glass case, the clever storeowner also displayed various dolls and other tempting toys.

One of the dolls had a fuchsia colored dress that fanned out behind her. She had beautiful brown wavy hair and movable arms. Her lovely eyes opened and closed. Never in my life had my five-year-old eyes beheld anything so beautiful. The candy lady said she cost a dollar, a considerable amount of money in 1948.

What was the likelihood of getting a beautiful doll that cost a whole dollar? We were lucky to get one small toy, a pair of pajamas and a new sweater for Christmas. I cried and begged, promised I would go to bed without a fuss, eat all my Brussels sprouts and brush my teeth five times a day if she would buy me the doll. My alligator tears fell on deaf ears.  Mama said she wouldn’t give me a dollar if she had one, what with the economic climate we lived in. Then, she said, “Go talk to your Daddy.”

Daddy was not impressed with my argument either.   “Furthermore,” he said, “Mama works in the apple packing plant and earns less than a dollar an hour.  You can buy three pounds of hamburger for a dollar. You can buy several loaves of bread for a dollar or three gallons of gas for a dollar. I will not pay $1.00 for a doll. You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”

Well that was pretty obvious, even to a five- year-old. It seemed like a pretty poor excuse for not giving me a dollar.

I left Daddy with a better understanding of the value of a dollar. It was also obvious that that Daddy didn’t know much about  vegetables. I still had no idea how I could obtain the dolly, now an unreachable, impossible dream. And yet, every day on the way home from school, we stopped at the General Store where I stood for ten minutes dreaming of what it would be like to own that dolly.

Perhaps I had enough in my piggy bank. I shook out all the pennies and nickels on my bed; there weren’t that many. I had 24 cents. I sat with paper and pencil and struggled with the math.  If I had 24 cents and needed a $1.00, how much did I still need?   The concept was beyond me.

Begging my mother had resulted in a vague speech about the weather. Daddy had demonstrated his poor understanding of vegetables in general. My piggy bank left me wanting, and my brother said I still needed $.76. After discussing it with family members, I figured I would have to earn the money.

That night I dreamed about the dolly. In my dream, I could feel her soft wavy hair. I sat her up and laid her down and watched her eyes blink open and close, open and close.  When I awake, my fingers were still  feeling the smooth texture of her satiny skirt and the rough edges of the lace. I was obsessed with the dolly.

I remembered the men standing on the corner, or squatting by the wall, drinking from paper bags near the beer joints. I remembered how they tossed the bottles into the bushes. I remembered that each bottle was worth 2 cents!  Daddy had said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” which made slightly more sense than his lecture about blood and turnips.   If I walked around the back of the beer joint, I could pick up the beer bottles, cash them in and save up the .76 cents.

For several weeks, I dragged dirty beer bottles out of the bushes on the way home from school. Each was worth several pennies apiece, and each night I dropped a few more pennies in the piggy bank.

When I had saved a dollar, I rushed to the store. My dolly was still in the glass case. She would be mine at last.  The store lady rang up the sale.

“That will be $1.03,” she said. Tears sprang to my eyes and down my cheeks.

“Why is it $1.03,” I asked. She explained that the government didn’t have enough money to pay all the relief checks to the lazy men who squatted on the sidewalk next door and drank beer out of paper bags, so that’s why a little girl had to pay 3 cents more than she should have to, in order to buy a dolly. She said the government needed my 3 cents to help pay off the 258 billion dollar national debt. … (Imagine! that's what it was in 1948. Sounds pretty good by today’s standard, doesn’t it?)

After a bit of negotiating, I got the store lady to agree that I could take the dolly home if I gave her my dollar today and brought her 3 cents tomorrow. If I couldn’t get 3 cents by tomorrow, I would return the dolly and she could keep the dollar and sell the dolly to another little girl. I was the one gambling, not her.   They say a con man is born every minute. I figured if I couldn’t find two more beer bottles on the way home, mama would be so embarrassed by my gambling, she would give me the 3 cents.  I would probably get a spanking, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

I walked home, clutching my dolly to my heart, scanning the ditches. It seemed as if someone had gleaned every single bottle. I scoured the bushes and searched the garbage cans outside the beer joints. Near my house, two beer bottles were lying under the rose bushes. With the 4 cents from the bottles, I was able to square my debt with the candy lady.

Mama was mad when she heard how I got the money to buy the doll. She forbade me to collect any more beer bottles. She said, “If you ever want something that bad again, you should ask me for the money.”

Now isn’t that what I had done in the first place?

****

Seventy-two years later, the  dolly still resides in my china cabinet, my first entrupeneural venture.

Tell me about your first adventure selling mistletoe or  berries store to door. How did you earn your first dollar?

If you enjoyed this story, please check out my fiction novels on Amazon or contact me for a paperback copies of one of my eight published cozy mystery books.

 

10
Apr

Lesson of the Apple Boxes

In 1950, I was 8-years-old, and the apple industry was the major industry in our town. My mother worked in an apple-processing factory and Daddy was a carpenter. Our parents felt children should be industrious, therefore, my teenage sister and brother were required to care for me while they picked up worked in the apple orchard, picking up apples for five cents a box. On a good day, they could earn $5.00 to $10.00. This was considered good money for a teenager, and with their earnings, they bought their own school clothes.

Most days, I brought my dolls to the field and spent a good part of the day stacking apple boxes on end to make my house. My imaginary plates and dishes consisted of sticks and leaves and clumps of dirt. Daddy said I should not waste the entire day, though, and required me to pick up at least ten boxes of apples every day.

Being a spoiled and willful child, there were many days I played with my dolls late into the afternoon and no amount of scolding from my sister could make me complete the required task.

Day after day, I fell so short of Daddy’s expectations, that one night he warned if I didn’t meet my quota the next day, he would spank me. Our parents believed in the biblical admonition, spare the rod and spoil the child, which was rarely, if ever, required in our house.

As I had no recollection of Daddy ever spanking me before, I’m pretty sure his threat fell on disbelieving ears. The next day, I played all day in the apple field. My sister’s warnings were of no avail and by the end of the day, I had only three or four boxes to my credit.

We returned home and I began to play. There was no mention of my disobedience to Mama or Daddy. So much for that problem...

In those days, our toys didn’t come from a store with a sound chip and an interactive computer screen attached. We had to use our imagination and made our own toys. On this evening, I tied a string to an empty oatmeal box and found a couple of long sticks to use for drumsticks. It made a fine toy drum and I went about the house thumping out a tune.

Daddy found me pounding away on my new toy. He towered over me as I sat on the floor with my drum and asked, “Did you finish your ten boxes of apples today?”

I gulped. “No. I forgot.”

“Then, I’m sorry, but I told you I’d spank you if you didn’t obey me.” He picked up one of my drumsticks and applied it to my seat of knowledge. Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

Daddy definitely loved me that day. Using my own toy against me was far more humiliating than the spanking. With the absolute absurdity of childish logic, I screamed, “You’ll be sorry! Tomorrow, I’ll pick up 100 boxes.” That would show him!

I worked all the next day. My sister took pity and helped me late in the afternoon. Together, we finished the last fifteen boxes and completed the goal of 100 boxes (an astonishing accomplishment for an 8-year-old, looking back on it). And I earned $5.00 for my efforts!

Victory! Daddy would be so sorry. He’d regret punishing me. I’d show him! Thus, thought the child. I was yet to learn the lesson of responsibility he was trying to teach.

With great pride and indignation, I announced that night, “I picked up 100 boxes of apples today, so there!”

Did I expect him to fall down in shock and remorse, apologize and vow to never again accuse me of being lazy? Maybe. Instead, he replied, “I knew you could do it. Now you can do that every day…”

I recall this event so clearly, but I can’t recall my response. Disbelief? Shock? Tears? My pride had backfired. Now I’d be required to continue this backbreaking expectation every day? Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

Of course, Daddy didn’t really mean it. “You did great, honey, but if you’ll just do your ten boxes every day, I think that’s enough for a little girl.”

I still brought my dolls to the apple field every day. I built houses out of apple boxes and made dishes out of leaves. However, I was careful to stop playing in plenty of time to accomplish the required ten boxes of apples. Daddy taught me a hard lesson that day, one I never forgot.

Daddy never again challenged my ability to live up to a required expectation. He claimed this particular victory. With this valuable lesson, I learned about pride, obedience and work ethics; one day with 100 boxes of apples, an oatmeal box, and a stick. Surely the lesson helped develop my character and my values throughout my life. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 KJV

18
Feb

The Bookmobile and Daddy's Big Hand

I won first place in a local library writing contest with this story several years ago. The theme was 'what library memories did we have?'.

In 1950, I was a first grader in a new, small, rural school. The children marked the days off the calendar, waiting for the two days a month  the yellow Sonoma County bookmobile visited the school and we could each select a library book! Without today’s modern technology of television, videos, and smart phones, a book was the doorway to a world of fantasy, imagination and excitement.

We lined up at the door of the bookmobile. I was barely able to contain our excitement until finally it was my turn to enter the truck. The librarian directed my attention to the two shelves dedicated to beginning readers and I made my selection.

The librarian challenged me with the responsibility of caring for library property and tucked a card into the back cover. It was mine for two whole weeks! Triumphantly, I carried my book down the steps and into the shade of a nearby tree.

The book was a treasure, sent to me personally by the President of the United States, who owned the County Public Library System and personally sent the yellow bookmobiles to rural schools, as a symbol of truth, justice and the American Way. This, I knew in my heart of hearts.

I walked home from school that day, carrying my lunch pail, sweater and my precious library book under my arm. One of my companions suggested we take a different route home. Though I knew this was against my mama’s rule, the chanting of chicken cinched my decision to agree. Several blocks from home, our path brought us to a PG&E workman’s hole, loosely covered by boards. Our leader pranced across the boards and 'double-dog dared' us to follow. I was afraid, but unable to defy a double-dog dare, I had no choice but to follow him across the wobbling boards.

Fighting back tears, I clutched my lunch pail, sweater and library book, closed my eyes and took a step onto the wobbly boards. Flailing my hands to keep my balance, my precious book tumbled into the dark hole and landed surely, into the pits of hell. Horrified, we peered into the darkness. I could barely see its pages flipping gently back and forth. The hole was too deep, and rescue too challenging for our small six-year-old minds to comprehend.

I contemplated the outcome of this catastrophe. The President of the United States had personally commissioned the book into my hands and I had failed him…. miserably. Someone was going to jail. I felt sure they wouldn’t put a 6-year-old in jail, but, who…? Suddenly it became all too clear. They would put Daddy in jail because I was his kid and somebody had to pay for this grievous error.

When I got home, I hid in the closet, despite my mother’s pleas to come out. I sat in the dark, crying, imagining what would become of us. Mama would have to go to work. Everyone would  point fingers at me, knowing I was the reason Daddy was in jail.

When Daddy came home, he grabbed me by the collar, pulled me from the closet and whacked my bottom, “What the heck is going on?” Daddy always could get to the seat of the problem in about four seconds.

Between tears and trembling, I confessed the loss of my library book on the way home. (I decided not to mention my suspected opinion about him going to jail. The library police would be here soon enough to point that out and arrest him.)

Daddy drove us back to the gigantic, monstrous hole that yawned beneath the 100 foot deep PGE boards, the hole that had swallowed my precious book, the hole that was the cause of his impending incarceration, and my everlasting shame. He leaned over the gaping cavern, reached his long arm down and…pulled out the book.

Things were easier back then. You could count on Daddy to solve life-shattering problems with one sweep of his big hand, or so it seemed to me, as I snuggled against his shoulder on the way home, my library book clutched tightly to my chest.

 

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