My entrepreneurial days:
Started at a rather young age, I’d say around seven or eight if my memory serves me correctly. Thanks to two large crab apple trees that grew in our yard, the produce for selling was free for the picking. My cousin Joe and I would bag up all of the drops that appeared to be in good condition and then we would go door to door selling them. Somewhere we got an old wooden cart that Joes father my uncle Mike was able to put into good enough shape that it would carry our load. We were able to make the rounds in our town selling half and full pecks of crab apples. As I recall they were twenty five cents for a peck bag and fifteen cents for a half peck. The money didn’t amount to much but we had fun along the way. It was enough to buy candy or gum and to play the punch card machine hoping to win a prize. Gees I loved that Oh Boy gum it was one stick of gum about five inches long and it was wrapped in green paper with little pixie like characters printed on it, I sure loved that gum. Then we would buy jaw breakers they were good and they lasted a long time, once in awhile we would get mint leaves and squirrel chews. The reward for pulling that old cart around seemed to always pay off.
The second enterprise:
We advanced to a much bigger enterprise, there was a hen factory that came to town where they processed chickens, I hated it there, it was a slaughter house for hens, and the smell was enough to make you want to heave-Ho. sometimes we would sneak up and peek in the windows to see what was going on and there was blood all over the place I did not like it there, but it was the source of our money and so we put up with the smell. We would sit on the opposite side of the street from the factory and if we were lucky the trucks would come in that day bringing the chickens. This would be our chance to make it big, according to how many chicken that got loose when they would unload the truck. The man on the truck would holler “ok kids this is your day.” And we would take off running. Once in awhile he would let a whole crate full loose just so he could watch us kids chase them. He got quite a laugh at the site of us chasing and trying to catch them.The ones that got away flapped their wings and flew away to what they thought was freedom. They would take off for the woods where they would find a safe spot under the trees. Joe, I and Lillian our friend would be waiting there, we each had a burlap bag and we would sneak up on them and if we were lucky we would catch one and put it in our bag. More times that not they would get away and we would have to chase them, they really ran fast. Sometimes we would get six or eight and that bag was heavy. Thank heavens for our old cart. We had been told it was ok if we caught them, because if we didn’t they would only die there in the woods. We all kept a pen full of chickens at home and then we would sell the rest for fifty cents apiece. One day my friend Lillian and I were chasing some chickens through the woods and had already caught 2 or 3 and had them in our bags when Lillian looked up and saw some letters in the sky overhead and she said “ Oh my God it’s the end of the world” we dropped our bags and started running for home. When we got to my house my father was in the yard he could see that we were very upset and asked what is wrong, we explained to him what we saw in the sky and that Lillian thought the end of the world was coming. My father laughed and explained to us that it was just an airplane advertising Pepsi Cola. We had never seen anything like this before. He asked if we got any chickens, we said yes but we were so afraid we left our bags in the woods and ran home. By now we were tired and my grandmother gave us a drink of P. E. I. ginger ale that she made with vinegar, water and sugar. After we had rested we went back for our bags but the chickens were gone. So that day we ended up empty handed. This job lasted for a couple of years or so, until we got sick of it and some other kids took it over.
The third enterprise:
Was the one I liked the best. By now I was eleven and the country had just gone to war. My cousin Joe and I were back in business. Every Saturday morning we would take that old cart and go to the three grocery stores in town. We would collect all the meat scraps which the meat cutters back then just threw in a cardboard box under the bench where they did the cutting. Then we would take them home and build a big bond fire out back of the house, my grandmother would give us a big black iron kettle and we would render the scraps pouring the grease into any old cans we could find. Then we would take them back to Joe Goodie’s grocery store and he would pay us 4 cents a pound for it. We did this all during the war. Back then people were asked to save their grease to help with the war effort. This proved to be a profitable enterprise especially during the summer months when school was out and we were able to make two or three runs a week. By now my appetite had change from candy and gum to caraway seeds and yeast cakes plus a package of Bugler tobacco that came with its own papers. Now in addition to collecting meat scraps I was rolling cigarettes and selling them for 2 cents a piece to all the kids in town. This lasted until my father found out his cigarette roller was missing. From then on he decided I should go into early retirement. With my enrollment in Jr. High there would be no time left for any extra curricular activities. I did however continue to nibble on yeast cakes all through high school.
Back then it took a lot of hard work and determination to earn enough money for candy and gum. Now if you are lucky enough to find a kid to do it, he wants $40.00 or more to mow your lawn, a small lawn at that.