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Thursday, April 26, 2012

How’d Ya Like to Make a Buck?


Like our ages, my father had to take a running start on our names.

This did not, however, keep him from sharing the many ideas he had regarding making a little side money.

“Midge!  Cindy!  Pearl!  Right?  No.  Yes.  No, that’s right: Pearl.”

He started with his wife’s name, progressed to his sister’s, and finally landed on mine.

It wasn’t his fault.  The man had things on his mind.  My father, the man who believed he would Think and Grow Rich, had irons in the fire, after all. 

“Midge!  Cindy! Pearl!  Karen – no, Pearl, right?  Pearl?”

“Dad?  Grandpa?  Mr. Schiebel?” 

Calling my dad by my teacher’s name is a stroke of genius.

My father frowns.  While he isn’t 100% in the Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard camp, a good 75% of him is frequently seen lurking about the edges of that particular neighborhood.

“Dad,” I say.

My father nods, collects his thoughts.  

“How’d you like to make a buck?”

Ahh.  The ol’ how’d-you-like-to-make-a-buck gambit.  Speak on, sir.

“How many bucks?”

“Wellll,” he says, heading toward the door, “how about you give me an estimate and we’ll talk?”

Out the front door, down the rickety metal steps from the trailer to the sidewalk, he leads me toward the driveway on the other side.

Nothing good can happen in the driveway.  Even at 10, I know this.

And there it is, there in the open trunk of the Maverick, the no-goodness that can happen to suspecting yet profit-driven little girls:  Two large cardboard boxes filled to their wet, mouldy rims with wet, mouldy crockery.

“Huh?!” he says proudly, a word meant to convey the appreciation I surely had for the untapped potential hidden here in his trunk.  “Got the whole thing free.  Free!  They were going to throw them out.  Can you imagine?  Plates!  Cups!  Saucers!  I pulled the whole thing out of the dumpster behind the old truck stop on 10.  I say we clean these things up, sell them door to door.  Whaddaya say?”

I look down into the trunk as my father disappears around the side of the trailer.  When he comes back, he’s dragging the garden hose and a large plastic tub into which he’s thrown a bottle of dish detergent. 

“Four bucks,” I say, thinking of the most money I’d ever earned in an evening of babysitting. 

My father pauses, looks at the trunk, then me, then back at the trunk.  “Four-fifty,” he says, “and that’s my final offer.”

We shake.

Two hours later, my hands swollen with the cold water and having sneezed myself, at one point, head-first on to a plate, I begin to feel that perhaps my idea of a large amount of money is inaccurate.

Still, I think, smiling to myself, when I take these babies door to door, the profits are gonna be sweet.

I stack the plates, the saucers, the cups, dollar bills swaying in my mind.  Hi, my name is Pearl, and have I got a deal for you…

47 comments:

SherilinR said...

it's funny how our sense of money is so skewed when we're kids.
so did you take the crockery door to door? did you make the big bucks?

Pearl said...

I did! I did take it door to door, and the bikers down the street had great need for it. But that's tomorrow. :-)

Shelly said...

You were very smart for ten. I can empathize with your dad in searching for the right name. After teaching literally thousands of students, some the children, nieces, nephews and siblings of former students, I just resort now to Darlin' or Sweetheart. It saves a whole lot of time if the name is not on the tip of my tongue.

Pearl said...

Shelly, took me a while to figure that out about the Southern states. :-) When they don't know your name, they call you "darlin'". :-)

I'm on to you guys!!

CarrieBoo said...

Well, your story is priceless!

I used to look for dropped change in mall car-parks and get excited when I was wee. Then again, I also used to get excited about beer bottle caps. Hmmm.

Pearl said...

CarrieBoo, I STILL get excited when I find change. Bottle caps, not so much. But I'm not here to judge you. :-)

Ms Sparrow said...

It is obvious that this was the beginning of your strong work ethic.
After all that, other work seemed easy!

Simply Suthern said...

We made or drink money picking up drink bottles on the side of the road and turning them in for the deposit.

I tend to call folks "Hun". Well the female ones anyway.

Chantel said...

I'm a wreck with names, but I've discovered that everyone likes being called either Beautiful or Handsome. Everyone. Sometimes I try calling myself that in the mirror...not the same.

I pay my kids 5 cents for each fly the kill in the house during the summer. I kinda stopped demanding proof though. Little napkins, "Lookie mama..." soon lost its glam. They sure do smash 'em when that ice-cream truck is heard a few streets away...

R. Jacob said...

It would appear all things are negotiable. So Pearl how much would it...

Pearl said...

Ms. Sparrow, I was conscripted at an early age.

Simply, we don't have that up here, and we really should: you could get as drunk as the bottles you found. Incentive!

Chantel, I can only imagine the flurry of activity when the ice cream truck is in earshot!

Pearl said...

R., I worry about what you may say next. :-O

SparkleFarkle said...

*just-in-case shields self while raising a first o' the morning cup of joe high in a toast to Pearlie* Here's to the oh-so-delightful chapters of Miss Pearlgirl's life! May they always entertain, and God bless 'em. Her, too!

And why is it, when you use/write the would "mould," I can actually smell it?

My Knuckle Matt (<--who I grew up with him and his wifey and my Aunt Mert) was behind my most memorable "Wanna Make a Buck?" moment. By age four, Myrtle had already taught me how to operate (Perfecting the sewing part would have to come later.) her electric Singer. One day, when I ho-humming around the house because of something or another I had my heart set on "at the Schultz Bros." aka "The Dime Store," (<--an establishment that, at the time, I was certain had been erected just for me) but couldn't come up with the loot for or even a funder, for that matter, my uncle suggested I make some socks on the sewing machine to sell. I spent the whole of that rainy morning putting two pieces of any number of patterned, cotton pieces together from out of the Rag Box and deeper, then under the needle, where I turned out a zillion-billion stocking-sock shapes that I would scissor-trim to a four year-old's exactness. I displayed my wares up top a favourite pill box purse of mine, afterwhich Knuckle Matt bought the whole works--except the pocketbag, now filled with enough $$$ to buy the something or another I had my heart set on at the Schultz Bros.--and we headed to The Dime Store! I love you, Knuckle Matt, and I miss you dearly ❤.

Thank-you for this trip down Memory Lane, Pearl. You're THIS!

bill lisleman said...

Washing dish outside, now that's a little different. I like that "...good 75% of him is frequently seen lurking..." description.
Wow just think what e-bay would bring for those classics. Did you keep any?

Daisy said...

I could use some plates, Pearl. Be watchin for yah!

Did you make a fortune?

SparkleFarkle said...

MAJOR CLARIFICATION: Aunt Mert was Knuckle Matt's only wife. The way I wrote it (see above SparkleFarkle comment), I made it sound like maybe my uncle was some sort of "rounder"-type guy who could have starred in a late 1950s version of Play 'Polyga'Misty for Me. Not the case 't all. Everything was truly on the up and up in our pretty much staunch Roman Catholic-y lives. Thanks! I'll go now. Bye.

Pearl said...

Sparkle, I just love when you get going. :-) Never had a Knuckle, but I did have a Drunkle. :-)

Bill, nah. They were truckstop dishes, circa 50s-60s. I'm sure they'd be interesting to see now (and they were SOOOOO heavy) but they didn't strike me as anything but moldy at the time...

Daisy, I made a fortune and learned some things. Things I hope to write about and post for tomorrow. :-)

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I've got a bunch of "stuff" in the closets and cupboards I'd like to get rid of...wanna make a buck?

esbboston said...

I hope this is just the first of (many) episodes of this story. I sold eggs door-to-door for awhile at about the same age, The Age of Aquarius.

fishducky said...

I think your father was a true genius!

I may not comment often (because you always out-funny me) but I want you to know I read--& ENJOY--your post every day!!

Pearl said...

Delores, if you were in my neighborhood, I'd be there. :-)

esb, I was the door-to-door king and saw many things through the screen door...

fishducky!! So happy to see you. And thank you -- I'm glad to know that the people who don't comment enjoy my little sillies. :-)

Buttons said...

Oh Pearl you make me happy every time I read your blog. My Dad used to start at the first name and work down every time. I was lucky I was the top dog.
I remember big dream schemes myself some worked some didn't. I love you writing.
The line "Have I got a deal for you" rings true with my memories of childhood also. :) B

Pearl said...

Buttons, oh, I'm so glad. :-) Thank you!!

jenny_o said...

So, you got paid for cleaning the dishes up, but did you also get the proceeds from door-to-door sales? or a percentage?

Nice of your dad to haggle your wages in the "up" direction :) You were a good worker, I think.

Leenie said...

Still here but overwhelmed with "stuff." but I do love my daily dose of Pearl.

Can you imagine modern helicopter parents allowing their children such adventure and enterprise? Horrors. It was good to be ten and not be smothered by paranoid parents.

Pearl said...

jenny-o, I've decided to tell the whole story, which is weird, because this started out specifically to be about how my dad couldn't remember our names (or ages)... Part II will come tomorrow, and I'm afraid Part III will be right after it!

Boy are you guys in trouble...

Leenie, my life (and the lives of the kids around me) was nothing like some of the children I know now. I can't see them going door-to-door. Nothing bad ever happened, although I suppose it could've, but I did learn to handle myself, and that's worth something...

Joanne said...

My house to house was limited to my girlfried Patty and me going door to door dragging an old push lawn mower and asking if we could mow lawns. We were so charmingly pathetic (in retrospect) and we learned how to eyebally a yard and quote!

Jono said...

That reminds me, tomorrow is the first garage sale of the season. I always hope to find a hidden treasure, but only seem to find one or two a year. I hope I don't lose too much by the end of the season.

Gigi said...

I have the same problem with the names in this house as your dad. The problem with that? There's only two other folks in this house!

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. While our father didn't have the ingenuity that yours did - we were resourceful rug rats. We sold rocks to the old guy down the street!

Eva Gallant said...

I'll bet you made a killing!

Pearl said...

Joanne, if two little girls came to my door offering to mow, I'd be all over that! Too cute.

Jono, I LOVE garage saling. :-) I found an unopened original Husker Du pressing once!

Gigi, selling rocks is right up there with selling people hub caps that have flipped off around corners...

Eva, we'll have to wait and see. :-) Come back tomorrow (and the next day...)

Diane said...

I can SO sympathize with your dad working his way around to the right name. I have six kids, 12 grandchildren, three dogs, three birds and several assorted friends and relatives. It takes me hours to get to the right name . . .

HermanTurnip said...

When I was a kid I used to roam around the neighborhood with a bucket, sponge, towel, and soap. I'd ring doorbells and say, "I'll wash your car for a dollar." I knew that this would make me look desperate, I'd get more marks to take the bait, and they'd always pay me more than a dollar.

I was such a schemer as a kid....

Amy said...

My Dad never seems to get my name right. Unless he is calling me by my nickname, he usually starts with my Mom's name, sometimes he throws in my aunt, then finally me. Rarely does he use my sister's names. Maybe that's the benefit of being the oldest daughter.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Love your childhood stories, Pearl, and can hardly wait for the continuation of this tale! Your description of your Dad sneaking up on your name via your mother's and his sister's reminds me of my mother calling a combination of my name and my sister's name in a way that always sounded like a sneeze: "Ka-Trish!"

savannah said...

i'm laughing here because my kids got used to being called "little boy" and if the wrong one came they'd hear, "no, not you, the other one" of course i never did that, it was their grandparents! (that's my story and i'm stickin to it, sugar!) xoxoxoxo

(except for Jack and you know which one that is!)

W.C.Camp said...

Wow all I ever sold was SEEDS door to door ... but at least I did not have to plant them for my lousy 5 cents a pack!! W.C.C.

Crystal Pistol said...

Wow. You're dad was a big spender. My mom used to pay me a quarter to fill a whole bucket full of rocks.

I get my kids names confused constantly.

River said...

Just for a change, I read the other comments first and now I'm really curious about the bikers down the street. I'll be here tomorrow for the story and the day after.

@Chantel; you should invest in some flyscreens.

Symdaddy said...

Thith time I acthually read your potht. I mutht thay, you have a thuper talent for telling taleth.

I am tho imprethed that I have recommended your thuff to all my friend'th.

P.Eth.
I borrowed Litha Bean Bitey (of the Mineaplith Biteyth. Hope you don't mind mucth

Linda O'Connell said...

A neighbor girl and I used to make potholders and sell them. Well SHE did, I never sold a dimes's worth. Can't wait to hear about your sales technique.

the walking man said...

Birth of a free market capitalist.

mary i said...

I just bet you could sell ice to eskimos. Great post smurfed coffee all over my self :)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Love the "running start at our names"--Heck, I do that ALL THE TIME--warming up for the real deal when I sputter, "Trav--Brent--Greg--GREG!"

Austan said...

My Mom went thru all of our names until she landed on it, then repeated and repeated til we answered. "Johnny! Tommy! Billy! Laura! Laura! Laura! Laura!" lol!

Pat Tillett said...

He drove a hard bargain. You said 4 and he countered with 4.50. We did something very similar to this (selling door to door) with a few boxes of crocheted stuff that got thrown in the trash when one of our neighbors died.

NellieVaughn said...

This was the cutest post I've ever read. I could clearly picture a pint-sized you working hard for less than five dollars.
Whenever my father asked if I wanted to earn cash, I always knew to immediately say yes. He paid well. Too well. In the end, I could never take the money.