Lenomade! Lenomade for sale! Only 25 cents! Lenomade!
By Mike Nettleton
When I came home from the gym the other morning, the little boy across the street had set up a lemonade stand and stood beside his proud and bemused mother hawking his wares to the neighborhood. Keep in mind that ours is not a terribly busy street. I’m guessing that by the time he grew tired of the game no more than half a dozen cars passed by.
Still, he had the fire and fervor of a born pitchman, bellowing out Lenomade! Lenomade! in a shrill bellow that belied his limited lung capacity.
Carolyn, who’d been puttering in the yard, wandered over to buy a glass. When she asked him how much a paper cup’s worth cost, he screwed up his face in thought and then blurted 25 cents. Carolyn, always one to mess with kid’s minds handed him two quarters and said “All I’ve got is fifty cents, will that work?” The boy accepted her money, then stood, scratching his head, wondering what to do next. His mother, grinning all the while, prodded him. “Don’t you think you should give the nice lady a quarter back?” The boy considered the concept for a minute, then shook his head. “No.” Carolyn gave him the extra quarter as a tip.
She came back to the house, told me I should walk across the street and encourage the young entrepreneur. Ever obedient, I strolled across and bought a paper cup of yellowish liquid, brought it back to the house and set it on the kitchen counter beside Carolyn’s. (Note: I didn’t tip the boy. I figured he needed to learn early on that some customers are tightwads).
This incident reminded me of all the ways I tried to make money as a kid. My first epiphany was discovering that I could get three cents refunded on an empty pop bottle or a penny for a beer bottle. This worked pretty well until my parents reminded me that they’d bought the pop and beer and were therefore entitled to the refund. Rats!
The back pages of comic books offered a myriad of schemes for kids to make money. One involved a product called Cloverine Salve, which, according to their pitch, was magic for aching muscles and joints, healed deep bruising and cured general malaise. You sent them money, they mailed a package of flat cans of the stuff and you went door-to-door selling it at a significant markup. A couple of small problems arose. I had to borrow the money to buy the first shipment, the stuff smelled awful and I was possibly the worst door-to-door salesman every born. My standard technique involved knocking on a door and when someone answered it blurting out “You wouldn’t want to buy any Cloverine Salve would you? I paid the advance money back by snitching pop bottles and running them to the store.
I never opened a lenomade stand, since the place I grew up was cold, rainy and not conducive to lenomade sales. I did sell copies of a local weekly newspapers to the drunks at the Alibi Tavern, shag golf balls that had bounced into the gorse bushes at our local nine-hole course (I’ve still got the scars) and mowed lawns and pulled weeds.
At one point, my friend Johnny and I decided we could pick up stuff on the beach that the tourists would find on their own later and sell it to them as they pulled into the roadside parking lots. Hey, a quarter for a piece of driftwood that looks like the letter J is a heck of a deal. An authentic Oregon Coast seashell for a dime. A steal.
Another friend, Bill, who was a bit of a scientific prodigy as a sixth grader invented a sluice box that would separate gold from the other elements of the black sand found in abundance on his father’s land in the dunes north of town. It worked, but by my estimation it would have taken until my forty-seventh birthday to come up with an ounce of gold. To make any significant amount of money we’d have needed a sluice box the size of a football field.
I forgot about the lenomade sitting on our kitchen counter until late in the day when time came for my evening libation. I tipped a little from one of the paper cups into my mouth and shuddered. Apparently our budding businessman had limited access to mom’s sugar supply. But, with abundant ice and a healthy splash or two of Jack Daniels it made a pretty good whiskey sour. I think we got our fifty cents worth. (Plus tip)
What do you remember about the ways you tried to make money. Lenomade? Walking a neighbors dog? Buying and selling stock online? (For the truly prodigal). Love to hear your stories. Leave a comment.