Monday, July 24, 2006

How I bought my BB gun – part 1

by Tom Gaylord

You're looking at the first real joy of my life and the last thing that never gave me a moment's disappointment. The thing I remember most about my BB gun was the effort it took to acquire. It wasn't given to me as a gift. I had to earn it, and that was at a time when kids were expected to do a lot of work for free. My chores were enough to keep me occupied for several hours each day, and because they didn't all happen at the same time, I was always hopping on to another household task.

Don't misunderstand, there was plenty of free time when I was growing up. Especially in the summer. But chores came first, and nobody ever thought much of it—we just did what was expected of us. So the time available to make money was somewhat limited, and there was almost no way to make money at home, the way children do nowadays. To make money, you had to find a job away from home that no adult wanted to do, and you had to do it for very little money.

You might think just because BB guns cost a dollar or two that we could buy one in a week. Let me tell you, in the 1890s, a nickel bought a whole ice cream sundae, and a dime could buy you a lunch. Shoeshines went for a nickle, and Detroit was so full of shoeshine boys that there was no money in it for a kid starting out. What you needed was an angle. Something that nobody else had thought of and also something that people would pay good money for. Not much different than today, is it?

In the winter you could shovel sidewalks, but the money you made from that was spent in no time. I was expected to pay my own way for things like candy, soda pop and other childhood treats. A ticket to the carnival was bought by my parents, but they went along, too. There was no way to cage anything from that.

Other kids were no source of money. They were all just as poor as I was. No -whatever scheme I hit on had to be attractive to adults, and they had to be willing to pay real money for it. I daydreamed that I found something that paid me a dime and that hundreds of people lined up for it. I never concentrated on what it was—just the fact that there was money and it was coming to me. What actually happened, though, was much stranger than anything I had imagined.

Near my home was a lake that people flocked to in the summer for swimming and boating. I went there because it didn't cost anything, and I loved to swim. In fact, that was how I found out how to get real money faster than any kid had ever dreamed.


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