Ol' CBS and Those Great Free Samples
One of the few advantages I enjoyed as a boy growing up during the Great Depression was having a traveling salesman for a father. Not only did he usually have the latest issue of Famous Funnies or some other comic book for me when he arrived home on Friday evening but there were those great free samples that allowed me to go into business.
Granted, when Ol' CBS was selling soap for Lever Brothers there wasn't much of interest in his sample case. What kid cared about a bar of Lifebuoy or a box of Rinso? Not me, that's for sure. Things didn't improve when he decided to sell soup. Soap or soup, I just wasn't interested.
But then when I was about 13 life took a turn for the better. Ol' CBS went to work for a company selling a rubber product still available in drug stores today. It's purpose is the prevention of disease, or so they say. These little items are known as Trojans and as the word about his new job circulated around school I discovered that certain boys were interested in obtaining a few. That's when I decided to go into business.
My prices were good but even if they hadn't been it was easier for a boy in need to approach me than his neighborhood druggist. In those days druggists and grocers knew their clientele so word might easily have found its way to a parent. Certain activities were never discussed with parents for obvious reasons.
The news spread to nearby East High and soon business was booming. Ol' CBS must have wondered why his supply of samples was in constant need of replenishing but nothing was ever said about this.
But then just as I was ready to enter high school myself, disaster struck. Ol' CBS switched jobs again, this time going to work for Gillette. Akron, however, was populated by every ethnic group imaginable and boys of certain backgrounds found it necessary to shave every day. Buying Blue Blades and Gillette Thins from me at half price beat going to the drug store for them. So I still had a steady source of income even though the product I offered lacked the romantic appeal of my earlier offerings. But that's the way it goes and a businessman takes his profit wherever he finds it.
Fortunately I put aside about a dozen cigar boxes filled with razor blades because soon after this country entered World War II Ol' CBS gave up selling and went for the big money at Goodyear Aircraft. When I entered the Army I still was able to maintain the cash flow until I was ordered overseas and much of my supply of goods had to be left behind.
In looking back I realize that it was a good break for me when Ol' CBS went to work for Gillette. There would have been no market for my earlier product because the Army supplied them free of charge.
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