Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales

Just Peanuts

by Norris Chambers

Farmboy Peanut Butter Jar   I'm going to tell you about a very early money making experience from the depression days. We tried a lot of different ways to make money. Most of them didn't, but they were fun!

  We lived far from the city in a very rugged country area and made our living farming and raising a few livestock. As we matured to the teen age level, we began to look around for more glamorous ways of making a little money. Three of us started making a form of country music with some cheap instruments, and did make a little pocket change playing for the country dances. We received payment by passing the hat, and because of the scarcity of change, our gleanings were quite meager.

  We decided to play over a radio station in one of the cities within driving distance of our Model T Ford. We easily made arrangements to play 30 minutes, or longer, every Saturday beginning at 11:00 a.m. Our music probably wasn't very good, but we did get a stack of mail every week telling us how good we were, and requesting different songs. With an audience, I decided the next step was to find a sponsor and get into the advertising business.

  A few calls on business men failed to uncover one who was willing to part with advertising dollars. The radio time would cost us $15.00 for 30 minutes. The answer appeared simple to me. We would advertise our own product. Being farm boys, naturally our thoughts turned to farm products. How about "peanut butter."

  There was a plant in nearby town that made peanut butter, and I knew that it was distributed under several trade names.

  That was it! The product would be FARM BOY PEANUT BUTTER, and we would be the Jolly Farm Boys. The plant was glad to sell us their product, and it was available either in jars or in big cans. The cans held about ten or twelve gallons. Since our capital was limited, we decided to get the can.

  We scrounged pint jars from various cellars and smoke houses, and began the job of putting the butter in them. The top of the can had a lot of oil on it, which we mixed in with the butter as best we could. We used wooden paddles that we had prepared for the purpose. We started filling the jars using spoons, but soon graduated to our bare hands. We squeezed and pushed the stuff in there until the jar was full, then put on the new lid.

  As we dug deeper into the can, we found the butter getting drier and stiffer, and very difficult to get out and into the jar. Farm boy ingenuity once more saved the day. We dumped some plain old hog lard in and worked it up with our hands and paddles. We soon thinned it enough to go in the jars without further difficulty. No doubt we violated every health law ever passed, but we didn't know about them. Next came the Farm Boy labels that an accommodating printer had prepared for us. We glued them on and decided we were ready to start our business.

  On the first Saturday of the venture, we left early on our way to the radio station, and stopped in three towns before we got there. At each one we called on the grocery stores and insisted that they buy some of our peanut butter. We told them how we were planning a big advertising campaign, and felt that it would sell well. Most of the stores bought a jar or two. One place bought six. We opened our campaign with a lively little theme song I had written, and we were "following in the footsteps" of W. Lee O'Daniel with our sales effort. We offered a picture of the band to anyone sending in two labels from a jar of peanut butter. It never occurred to us that it might be a little difficult to remove them.

  After the program we returned home by a different route, and worked some more towns. We felt encouraged by the number of sales we made, and without too much difficulty we sold all that we had prepared. The next day we visited the plant again, and this time bought all that we could afford. We decided to buy it in the jars and ready for the label. We now had a cleaner product.

  There was a fringe benefit that we enjoyed. We got many letters from our fans, many of whom were single girls asking for our picture. I sent the pictures along with a personal letter, and soon we were visiting the young ladies out in radio land. Since they were in different towns, there was no friction and we were able to see several a day. The stores that wouldn't buy our product began to receive requests for Farm Boy peanut butter from our new friends. They told the grocers, as instructed, that they needed the labels to get a picture. After a request or two from customers, they were willing to buy the next time we came by.

  We had a good thing going for several months, and were making enough money to pay expenses and have a lot of fun. It might have continued and made us a giant grocery distributor. We were already thinking of adding other items, such as coffee, tea, etc. But along came the war in Europe and the preparedness program in the United States. One of the band members got a good job in defense work, and soon we found similar jobs that paid more than we had been making.

  I never went back into the grocery business, but it was a way of making some money in a time when money was hard to make. The "moral" of the story is, if you can't find a job, make one! Above all else, be sure you have FUN doing it


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