My Mother the Country Sales Woman

My mother was smart, intuitive and had a knack for business. With the little education she had and the limited opportunities, she did well in her little side adventures. Luckily, her business forays brought our family extra money for food and clothing.

When people are poor, and during the 1950s, that was perhaps the majority of people whether they lived in town or in the country. Money and material things just weren’t that plentiful, so people who weren’t lazy found ways to pick up on a little extra cash.

Now, that I think about it, I realize that if my mother hadn’t come up with some ways of making extra cash, we would have been a lot poorer than we were. Just what did she do as side jobs? First of all, there were opportunities for housewives to sell products for remote companies that were “sight-unseen,” and rather than send out sales reps, no doubt it was cheaper for a business to limit advertising and use women as their door-to-door reps. That’s where my mother comes in.

She sold dresses, cosmetics, home-health care and household products for several of these far-away companies. First of all, there was Lucky Heart. They are still in business today, and even with online and brick and mortar stores, this entity must be doing well. They are at least holding their ground in the world of mail-order competition. Lucky Heart sold (and still sells) its most popular brand of perfume, “Touch of Fire.” Back then, it was a little expensive for the average country woman, but even still, I think Mother sold more of that fragrance than any others.

Secondly, Mother was a sales-rep for Blair. Today, there are companies with this name, but apparently the one she worked for no longer exists. They also had cosmetics and household products, the same as Lucky Heart.

Next, she sold cosmetics for Sweet Georgia Brown. I love this name. To my knowledge, this company doesn’t exist in the mail-order business form as it did in the 1950s. Sometimes, I get the products mixed up, but one company had these really nice sachets (a name we don’t hear today), but they are simply spiced-up versions of talc powders. I can still smell those beautiful fragrances, and the ones I liked best were clover and apple blossom.

By the time my mother sold clothing for Fashion Frocks, I was a teenager, and being tall for my age, their dresses were a perfect fit. I was too glad that she was selling something I could wear. At school, I was all dressed up and sported my frocks like a proud peacock.

Most women have probably never heard of this company, but I still think their styles are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. So much so that I’d put their designs up against any fashionista, past or present, and I honestly believe their dresses would outshine them all.

These companies had some kind of reward system. The sales reps received points (as well as compensation) for whatever they sold. With those points, they redeemed them for items without paying for them. We never had to buy perfumes, talc powders, shampoo, soap, deodorant, lotion, spices, seasonings, puddings and pie mixes, food flavorings, liniments and so many other items that we didn’t have money for anyway.

Just because a woman lives in the backwoods doesn’t mean that she’s not smart and she certainly doesn’t have to be broke. At least during the 1950s, there were opportunities for anyone to make a little money on the side, and my mother proved it so.

Published on Jan 6, 2014

Grit Magazine

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