When I was but a young lad

COURTESY PHOTO Some literature and some products from the author’s grandfather’s business in Huron.

When I was a young boy I had it made. My mother did most things for me. Washed my clothes, made my bed, made me food to eat. I was in a very safe and secure place.

Saturdays I would awake, laze in bed a bit, and then get up and dress. Mom would make me “egg in a glass” as it was my favorite. Peanut butter toast and some juice and I was good to go.

I might go with my Dad to Uncle Johnny’s shop. In the winter I would sit in the coal box and we would listen to the old Bakelite radio up on the wall. There also was a picture of Marilyn Monroe that came from a calendar.

I was told not to look at this.

Gunsmoke was my favorite to listen to. The deep voice of William Conrad playing Matt Dillon.

Later I saw what he looked like and thought he really couldn’t mount a horse. The Shadow, and Gene Autry were also on. Dad and Johnny worked on “projects” until noon then it was home for lunch. After that I was outside playing with friends or visiting them to play board games in the winter.

Parcheesi, Huggin the Rail, Hikity Pickety were just a few. The Kobrigers always had a Pinochle game to watch.

One morning everything changed for me. I was lazing under the covers, warm and snug. Mom said you need to get up and go help Grandpa.  Mom’s dad was Oscar Anderson. He had a company called Fair City Supply Company.  He travelled many states and sold Paper Mate, Scripto, and Lindy pens. Scripto Lighters and some key chains were other items. He also invented, made and packaged his own products. Radiator Stop Leak, Motor Block Weld, Solder and Glue among a few. He also would receive his shipments of items and cut the boxes in half to save.

When I arrived at the house it was explained that today we would be selling those boxes to Ed and Ebb’s grocery Store. Groceries were packed in boxes and not sacks in those times. Ed and Ebb’s was located in the west parking lot behind the Marvin Hughitt.

Grandpa told me very firmly that I should ask for 3 cents a box. He warned they might counter at 2 cents but I should be firm and get 3 cents. I was unaware that he had called Ebb Anderson and said I was coming to sell him boxes. Grandpa told him to offer me 2 cents and to bargain it out with me.

I’m sure it was entertaining for those two but I didn’t enjoy it. Back and forth we went. I was praising my boxes and he said they were dirty and he’d have to wipe them out. Finally he showed me some mercy and gave me the 3 cents.

So it began. On Saturdays if I heard the phone ring and the words; Grandpa has boxes or Grandpa has work I was doomed. I was a Saturday and sometimes a Sunday factory worker.

Grandpa made glue. He would purchase a pile of scrap plastic made by trimming movie film.

This plastic was placed in a 50-gallon drum and acetone was poured over it. After a time it liquified. Grandpa had a lid that had fan blades that went into the liquid and he would run it off an electric motor to stir it up. This plastic solution was liquid until it hit the air and then it would dry and form a bond.

The drum was lifted onto a work bench. A spigot in the barrel let him pour it into tubes that he had made with his brand name; Handy Andy. He would fill the tubes then pass them to me. I operated a closing machine that had clips in it and they closed the tubes. I blew up more than one tube, by turning the crank three times instead of two.

When the tubes were sealed and ready we inserted a screw eye in the top. Don’t go too far or you’ll open the tube to the air. Just enough to sit in the slot but not have it piercing the top.

Then we opened up cardboard sleeves, again with logos printed on them, and put a dozen tubes in each one.  They were boxed and ready to ship or sell. I was paid 5 cents a dozen.

At some point  I participated in manufacturing and packaging all of his products. In reviewing some of the ingredients in those recipes I feel fortunate to have reached my age and not glow in the dark. I seemed to be the only grandchild blessed with this labor. Where were my cousins as they were only rare participants?

One day at Tredway’s Sporting Goods I spotted a new Rawlings Harvey Haddix baseball glove.

I was short of the $20 purchase price so I begged for work. I ended up painting his garage for $20 and bought the glove. This led to lawn mowing later for $7. Never could recall how we settled on that price.

Soon I was working for Harold Owens and receiving a real check. By then I had learned the lessons of hard work and it’s reward.


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