Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Boys Got a Harsh, Useful Lesson about What Sells

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Boys Got a Harsh, Useful Lesson about What Sells

Article excerpt

Driving home through North Park recently, I crested a small hill and on the right side of the road was the first true sign of summer - a lemonade stand.

I've always been an unabashed sucker for these street-side operations run by young entrepreneurs-in-the-making, so I pulled to the side and walked back to the stand. Five kids were manning two card tables shoved together containing several dozen cups of lemonade.

I could tell I was their first customer of the day. I exchanged waves with the security-conscious mom and dad sitting on their front porch a few hundred feet away.

"How much, kids?" I asked.

"Twenty-five cents, sir," the oldest girl said, thrusting a half- filled, Dixie cup-size beverage at me. "We just made it, from real lemons, too."

"Well, all I have is two dollars, so I'll take four cups and you can keep the other dollar for a tip," I said, making a big production out of getting the money from my wallet.

As I was leaving I could hear two of them running up the hill, yelling, "Mom - Mom! We just made a sale! Got a tip, too!"

Yeah, kid, I remember that feeling.

In 1966, my family was living in Dallastown, outside York, Pa. My brother Dale and I had reached the age (10 and 8, respectively) where we needed money to fund our burgeoning baseball habit - gloves, hats, baseball cards - but opportunities seemed grimly limited.

Allowances were still a few years away. We were too scrawny to cut grass, way too young to deliver newspapers or lifeguard at the local pool.

Somehow, we got the idea to sell magazines. They were everywhere in the 1960s - Look, Life, Mad, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic and Saturday Evening Post among them. We read Boys' Life cover to cover, along with some outdoor magazines my family subscribed to. Dozens of coffee-stained, dog-eared copies of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield lay available around our house.

Hmmm.

The next day, we set up shop at the far corner of our yard, using a picnic table bench as our magazine stand. Since we lived in a good-sized housing plan, we figured the neighbors would at least be curious and stop by. …

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