By Norris Chambers

            It has been said that “One picture is worth a thousand words.”  I found out early in my life that it might take a thousand words to sell a picture.

            During the dark days of the big depression there were all kinds of schemes advertised in the magazines explaining how easy it could be to earn money or win a nice prize. One of these enticements was a card with small perforations that could be punched out. Printed on the removed tab was a price of ten to twenty cents. The tabs also had a number. The person punching the tab paid the specified amount and wrote his name on the back of the card. One or two of the punches were free. There was a master tab that was punched after all the chances had been sold and the number printed on it announced the winner of the big cash award. The ambitious peddler of the cards got a nice prize – a watch, fishing rod or something every boy wanted! Clifton sent for one of these cards and hoped to earn a very nice looking watch. It was a long and tiresome sales campaign, but he did get the punches all sold and after sending the money to the promoter he became the possessor of a very expensive looking watch.

            Clifton ’s success tempted me to try a watch winning project. The one I chose was not quite as ambitious. The watch offered was an Ingram that sold in the stores for about eighty cents. That type of watch was called a “Dollar Watch” because they usually sold for a dollar in drug stores. But some discount stores offered them for as low as sixty-nine cents. Instead of selling chances on a punch card my money making endeavor required me to sell 24 beautiful eight by ten full color pictures, suitable for framing. They were so beautiful that no prospect would let the opportunity pass without owning one of the beautiful color prints offered at such a bargain price! Imagine – only ten cents each.

            The market area that I hoped would serve my purpose was the little country town that had been inflated by the big oil boom and was swarming with residents who lived in newly built shacks, tents and open camps. Surely these working people had a dime to spare for a beautiful, full color picture suitable for framing. My sister was teaching in the school and I was living with her during the school week to solve our transportation problem. My brother had a garage and service station in the town and he was keeping very busy. It was a very active little town with no water supply, no utilities and no local government. A local constable attempted to keep it peaceful.

            I haunted the postmaster for a few days until my packet arrived. He told me he was glad I got it so I would quit bothering him. I opened the big envelope and laid the contents on the table there in the post office. There were a few official looking papers along with a nice stack of pictures. I thumbed through them and I had to admit that they were quite nice. Some of them had nice, quiet streams with trees on each side. Some were snow scenes and a few were pretty women. I quickly asked the postmaster if he would like to buy a nice picture, suitable for framing, for only a dime. His answer was a very firm “NO”.  I went into a few of the stores and attempted to make a sale to the owners and customers. I got the same response that the postmaster had given me. I suspected that I would have a hard time disposing of them.

            I moved to the houses and began knocking on doors. My luck was a little better here, but not spectacular. After about an hour of asking women if they wanted a picture I had sold six. I still had eighteen to sell and I had covered at least three fourths of the town. My sister was sympathetic and bought four of them. Another lady teacher who lived in the same house with us bought two. I had disposed of half of them the first afternoon.

            The next afternoon I covered the rest of the town and managed to get rid of four more. Eight more left and the town had been covered. It looked like I would have to start peddling in the country.

            Clifton and I were in the garage and I was giving him the details about my picture peddling. I was surprised when my brother spoke.

            “Norris,” he said, “I’ll make you a deal – you promise not to order any more stuff to sell and I’ll buy what you have left.” That sounded like a great deal. “You have my promise,” I told him, “No more peddling for me.” Clifton joined the conversation and told us he had learned his lesson and wasn’t doing any more punch cards.

            So my brother paid me and took the pictures. I sent the money to the picture people and eventually I got my sixty-nine cent watch. It worked well and I had reasonably correct time in my pocket.

            Clifton told me later than my brother put the beautiful pictures, suitable for framing, in the heater and bragged about the nice heat they produced. I’m glad they served a useful purpose without him having to frame them!

            Was selling pictures fun? Well, everything can’t be fun!