Will you remember with me as I will continue with more memories? There were so many things that were different when my generation grew up back in the 20s and 30s, so different from today. Remember with me as I think of my childhood. When there was a knock at the door it might be a neighbor, or the Standard Coffee salesman. It might even be the gypsies. You were never sure until you opened the door.
Door to Door Sales
Do you remember the different salesmen who came to our homes? Ladies often did not keep the car (if the family had a car), and there was no way to go to town very often, so the salesmen came to them. There was the Fuller brush salesman, who had such an assortment of brushes. Most were too expensive for us, but on rare occasions, my mother would buy one. And then there was the Standard Coffee salesman, who was our neighbor, Mr. Welch. That coffee smelled so good and there was a stick of candy in each can of coffee. The Welch family lived across the street from us. They were such a nice family with the pretty girls and handsome boys.
Mrs. Minnie Wilkinson came to our home with her big old suitcase of fabric samples. These were Buckley fabrics, and there was none better. I don’t remember ever being able to buy any of her fabrics, but many of my classmates bought her material. Our neighbor, who sewed for the public, would have about five pieces of fabric at one time from Mrs. Wilkinson to make for one of my classmates. I could buy lovely material for 15 cents a yard at Morgan and Lindsey or at Nichols and three yards would make a dress. Mrs. Wilkinson’s material was good material but the price was too high for me.
There was the Watkins salesman who sold the best vanilla flavoring that my mother thought could be bought. They also had Watkins liniment that cured a lot of ailments. The Raleigh salesman sold much of the same items that the Watkins salesman carried.
Of course back then families traded at neighborhood grocery stores, ran charge accounts that they paid each month. The mother could phone in her grocery order, and the store would deliver the groceries. So “stay-at-home” moms could really stay at home and still buy what was needed.
There was the Spencer corset lady, who measured the ladies and ordered a corset to fit their specific needs.
Of course, in addition to the regular salesmen who called on us monthly, there were peddlers who were from out of town. I remember buying an Electrolux Vacuum cleaner in about 1942 from a man who came through town. (It just occurred to me that his stock in vacuum cleaners might have been stolen.) Some of the peddlers came to the office at Andress where I worked and sold the men food processors – not electric ones of today but ones that were turned with a handle or a crank.
There were peddlers who sold vegetables and others who sold meat such as Fletcher Bridwell and came to the neighborhoods. These were local people, and we knew just what day of the week they would come by our neighborhood. These people often were in pickup trucks rather than the wagons of an earlier time.
I still have the dresser set of hand crocheted dresser scarves that I bought from a man in about 1941, a local man, who sold his wife’s work door-to-door. He came to Andress Motors Company and several of us bought the crocheted items. I believe his name was Fuller. The crocheted scarves are still so pretty to me..
From Stewart to Avon
My mother sold Stewart products before she became an “Avon” lady. Stewart sold things such as the Watkins man had – flavoring, spices, and many other household necessities, similar to the things the Watkins and the Raleigh salesmen sold. She estimated that on some days she had walked 13 miles, and had small sales. There were cosmetics sold by door-to-door salesladies – I think one was named Luziers’.
Even burial insurance was sold by salesmen who came to your home. I remember my father-in-law taking out a burial policy in the amount of $300 in the 30s, for he and my mother-in-law. He paid 75 cents an assessment. He carried that policy for about 40 years. It was written by the old Dennis Funeral Home. When she died in 1974, the policy would not pay one cent since I used the funeral home where I worked, and the policy was only good for Dennis Funeral Home and their successors. I immediately dropped my policy. I believe that I remember the salesman being a Mr. Free who came by to collect.
Several cleaning and pressing shops in Shreveport sent salesmen to Minden. They came to houses and offered dry cleaning for three items for a dollar. Often neighbors would add a garment to make sure they got the three for a dollar price. They came to Minden on certain days and brought the cleaned garments back in a couple of days.
I remember in about 1949 a man came to my door and said he was a roof repairman, and he had his crew working in Minden. He remarked that he noticed a bad place on my roof and he would repair it for $50. Gullible me, I paid him $50, and after he left I discovered his “repair job” was painting the roof with either black tar or some kind of paint.
No Shopping Centers
Of course back in the 30s, Minden had no shopping centers, no Walmart Super Store, so we used our neighborhood grocery stores. Those who phoned in their orders left the selection of cuts of meat and other items to the discretion of the person they placed the order with.
It has been so long since a salesman came to my door, that I think I would be shocked or even frightened today. Back in my childhood that was an everyday occurrence and we thought nothing of it. Do you remember these folks? Well, you must be as old as me.
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.