By JIM “PAPPY” MOORE
It was 1958 and we were living in a cute little home on Briarwood, a block off Atkinson Drive. No air conditioning, just a big air cooler that covered everything with a thin film of water and didn’t really make anything cooler.
Mama had dug a flower garden in the front yard, in the shape of Texas. It had purple and white flowers in it. The 20-foot pine tree a few feet from the street was a boy’s delight, and it could be climbed to the top in seconds. Four kids, two parents, 1,000 square feet, if that.
Mrs. Lee lived next door and Patty Lindsay lived across the street. Down at the corner, Mary Summers lived. In the other direction, the enigmatic Pop Ward, high school math teacher, lived. Around the corner was the new fire station, which had a cola machine where a cola cost a nickel. It was the kind where you had to practically wrestle the bottle free from the steel jaws which protected it against theft.
I was a student at Herty Elementary, all of eight years old, and a Cub Scout in the Herty Scout Troop. The Boy Scouts of Lufkin were having their annual carnival, and tickets for events there were sold for $.05 each. All Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in the area competed by selling tickets to raise money. The winner would get a new bicycle, which was contributed by the Western Auto store then on Timberland Drive at Lufkin Avenue.
I wanted that bicycle. I didn’t have a bicycle, and with three sisters including a new baby sister, I knew a bicycle for me was not in the plans. If I wanted one, I had to go get it myself.
I decided I would cover the most territory, put in the most time, and I could win that bicycle. After I covered all the neighborhoods I could reach by walking, I started getting Daddy to drop me off in other areas, where I could walk fresh streets and find new buyers.
At the end of the contest, I had sold $22.15 worth of tickets.
The carnival was held at Chambers Park, the old practice field and the football stadium. As the time neared for the contest results to be announced in the stadium, I overheard a couple of Scout Mothers, and one said she heard the winner sold $22.15 of tickets. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. From then on, it was like a dream. The next thing I knew, I was in the stadium, and they were calling my name out. I was walking out to get my prize, my very own bicycle! I was absolutely flabbergasted, dumbfounded, speechless.
It was a 36-inch bike, and I was so little I could not get on it except at the curb, and I could barely get over the bar. I had to straddle the bar to peddle, as I was too short to even sit on the bar. Eventually, I would grow into it, but the first year I never sat on the seat.
Once I had the bike, I was highly mobile, and continued selling, since it was my best way to get money. I would sometimes hang out with Lyle and (the late, great) Jim Witherell, who lived up the street on Dunlap. They had a treasure trove of comic books. In those days, comic books had ads in the back that offered to send Christmas cards and garden seeds to kids who wanted to sell them. The card company would send me a carton with 12 boxes of Christmas cards, which I would sell at $1.25 per box. I would gross $15, and had to send them $6. I made a good living selling those.
I also sold Grit, the newspaper that people with outhouses liked. Why, I’m not sure, but I have a notion.
My best sales project had to be handmade, woven pot pads. I bought the raw materials and my sisters wove colorful pot pads with brightly colored nylon loops which were stuffed with cotton. They could make so many different kinds and designs, and they loved doing it. I sold four for a dollar.
In return, I would accompany them in their efforts to sell their quota of Girl Scout cookies. By “accompany” I mean I would carry their boxes of cookies, go up to the door, and make the sales while they stood in their uniform grinning. I sold a lot of Girl Scout cookies. Of course, I was always pushing the pot pads for sale, too.
Someone once said the best salesman doesn’t talk the fastest, he walks the fastest. Or peddles the fastest. I enjoyed those days as a grade school salesman in Lufkin, Texas, when I didn’t have a care in the world.