By Carol Prewitt
It’s so easy for us today to run to the store and get bread, milk, a new skillet or even a gourmet meal. Whatever strikes our fancy at the moment, seems like we can grab it.
But there was a time, before everyone had a car, life was much simpler. Everyone knew the traveling saleman, and the Sears’ catalog was the amazon.com of its day.
Around Newby there were two well known tinkers and peddlers, John Cates and a Mr. Pollard. One carried Watkins products and the other McNee’s.
Their wares would change with the season. In spring, with their regular wares, they might carry seeds for planting, bean beetle dust and spring tonic along.
The usual stock would be pots and pans or anything to help make the housewife’s work easier. There would be salves (one called Rosebud) to cure your aches and liniments (red or white) for everything from a toothache to arthritis. You could buy cough syrup, hog and pig rings, “patent medicines,” louse powder, feed for your animals, coal buckets and popcorn makers. They had drink powders, too, sort of like Kool-Aid or Tang.
The salesmen were good talkers. They knew their customers’ interests, whether it be politics, crops or a new family member.
It was mostly the woman of the household they wanted to see. And if they picked the right subject to talk about for an hour or so, they would usually end up with a sale. The woman wouldn’t always have cash to make a purchase, but she could always trade a chicken, eggs or butter for a product.
The salesman would have a chicken crate on top of his truck and a long pole with a loop on the end to catch the chicken by the leg. He could then take the trade to town and sell it to make his money.
Even back then, people were swayed by a good sales pitch from the media. My husband’s father once heard an ad on the Barney Arnold news broadcast for a Four Way Jiffy Mixer. It could mix anything and save you time, too.
He thought it a good kitchen tool for his wif,e so he mailed in the price of one dollar and patiently waited for it to arrive. When it finally came, he opened it to find a fork with five prongs, each prong turned a different direction. He was pretty upset, most likely with himself, I would think. We still have the fork but at some point someone flattened all the prongs. It now looks like a battered meat fork.
We think things have changed so much over the years, But have they really? Don’t we still need the same things? Don’t we still buy, sell and trade? And still get bamboozled?
Yes, you know we do.