I do remember Avon calling and my hoarding those tiny lipstick samples, and I remember the Fuller Brush Man in our living room, but no real stories spring to mind about either of them. I did, however, have a stint as a door-to-door salesperson myself around that same time, in the 50s, when my parents agreed to let me answer an ad on the back of a magazine to sell greeting cards and wrapping paper.
I also have a few leftover Valentine's cards. Now that I look at them, they seem a tad racy for a kid to be selling...maybe they somehow got mixed in with the others.
The inventory arrived, along with a small cardboard box that folded into a briefcase with a handle. I could barely wait to hit the sidewalk, made a few sales, but ultimately ran out of steam once I ran out of neighbors that knew me and ordered just to be neighborly. I did make a little cash, and while this may have sparked my lifelong entrepreneurial spirit, it turns out I just wasn’t very good at sales. Most of the inventory ended up in a bottom dresser drawer where my mom kept it, throughout my childhood, along with some all-purpose gifts — handkerchiefs, a scarf, a lacquered Japanese bowl, a plastic sliding puzzle, a folding coin purse, a set of playing cards, off-brand perfume, a folding fan with a red tassel, and coasters — should the sudden need arise. She did eventually use up the wrapping paper, but believe it or not, I still have some of those cards, and of course now they’re “quaint” at best. And most of them are get well cards…because who sent get well cards anyway?
I’ve gotta give those door-to-door salespeople credit. There’s an art to selling, and I’ve never mastered it. In the early 1990s, I launched my own small handmade greeting card company. I wasn’t bad at coming up with designs, but selling them was another matter so I hired my daughter to go out and drum up business. Of course I had to show her the ropes so off we went to a cute little antique curios shop that I thought, with a little imagination, could be a good fit. We walked in with our sample case — this was no cardboard box but rather a vintage wicker briefcase interwoven with ribbon befitting the style of my cards — browsed a bit, and then I asked to speak to the manager or owner.
“Hi! I’m Barbara, and this is my daughter, Erin. We make these beautiful greeting cards that I think would be a perfect fit for your shop — we’d love to show them to you…” and I begin to open my case.
“I’m sorry, we’re not really interested in selling greeting cards here.”
“Okay, well thank you, have a nice day,” and I turned on my heel and walked out, my daughter trailing behind me. As soon as we hit the sidewalk:
“Mom, that was pathetic! I could have done so much better!”
“Well, then, you do it next time.” And that she did.
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.
I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.
As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.