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"Cool Cash On A Hot Day"

February 14, 2009, 16:12:07
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One hot, summer day my brother, Tom, the businessman in the family who seemed to know all about why adults had piles of cash (because he was 13 months older) announced that we should make some money. I was 6 years old and I knew how to make paper airplanes and hammer a nail, but I was unfamiliar with the skills needed to make quarters, nickels and dimes and I mentioned this to Tom.

       

To my brother, I was just a dummy, and Tom was good enough to remind me about that every time he felt like doling out his wealth of wisdom. He explained that you didn’t really "make" money - that you had to "earn" it. I got another dummy-reminder when I asked about "earn". Evidently, it was all about working and sweating and thinking of stuff to sell. Thinking was okay, but I was already sweating from the heat and we had nothing to sell. Tom was sure that "earning" was the way to get money, and that other ways just would have the cops chasing us and send our souls to hell.

 

Tom told me all about something called business. He said business was all about knowing what people want and then getting it for them - like a cold drink on a hot day. After lots of thinking, Tom decided that down on the corner where our street met the main road, there were hundreds of hot, sweaty people with pockets full of money just waiting to buy a cold glass of Kool-Aid.

 

Even I knew what that was.

 

Kool-Aid was the miracle drink of America and a 5 cent pack could make 2 full quarts. Mom had a dozen different-flavored packs of it in the kitchen. We whipped up a batch of the strawberry, loaded our wagon with a cool pitcher, some paper cups, a few boxes, crayons and paper, and sloshed down the sidewalk to the corner. Tom set up under a tree using a board on the wagon as a countertop. I made the sign and Tom set the price – 5 cents a cup! With the Kool-aid and a stack of cups on display, we sat behind our counter, remembered to smile and not to pick our noses - we were open for business. 

 

It soon became clear that business was full of problems. The Kool-Aid was getting warm and we had to cover the pitcher to keep out the flies and falling leaves. All our hot, sweaty customers seemed to be in a big hurry. Some smiled, others just head-shook a "No thanks!" as they passed. Our first customer was a man that slapped a nickel on our counter, grabbed the pitcher, filled and gulped down two cups of Kool-Aid, crushed the cup, tossed it on the ground and walked away without paying for the second helping. Tom yelled "Litterbug!" at the guy, when Sister Mary, a teacher from our school, patted me on the head and told Tom not to waste his breath because some people just don’t care. I picked up the cup while Tom sold and poured some Kool-Aid for Sister Mary. She drank up then waved goodbye and told us to keep up the good work.

 

We brushed away leaves, swatted flies, and watched the cars go by on the busy four-lane that was full of Fords, Caddies, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, trucks and busses. We prided ourselves on knowing the different tail-fins, stoplights, grill chrome, make, model, and year of each vehicle. The new models had just hit the streets, including a new Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette sports cars. 7 out of 10 American families owned a car in 1960 and a gallon of gas cost only 15 cents. Los Angeles was a city on wheels with big, roaring engines that belched out lung-choking, brown smog filling the LA basin and and setting off smog alerts.

 

Watching cars and doing business was hot, thirsty work, so we drank our product. Before long, the pitcher was empty. I told Tom I was tired of earning and wandered back towards home.

 

I started kicking piles of leaves that had piled up thick on the sidewalks and in the gutters. When I dragged my foot sideways, I could plow out a small road. I imagined my shoe was a big earth movers and built a town. I got my toy truck for a test drive. That inspired me to get my dad's push-broom. I broom-plowed through gutters, up driveways and sidewalks. I made highways, side roads, and parking lots. I was several houses down the street before a neighbor snapped me out of my fantasy. Mr Benton came outside, handed me a soda and gave me 50 cents, saying that I was doing a great job. I had no idea what he meant, but I took the money and thanked him with my mouth full of soda.

 

Just then, Tom came along the sidewalk with the wagon. Mr. Benton called him over and told us we could use the wagon to haul away the leaves, then he went back inside to get out of the heat. Tom finished off my soda, gave me a dummy reminder, and demanded to know what the heck was going on. When I told him all about it, and got to the part about the 50 cents, Tom’s business brain kicked in. He looked at all the leaves on our street and saw money on trees.

 

In no time, we had two brooms, a shovel, and another wagon. We swept all up and down our street for the rest of the day.

 

I swept and Tom hauled the leaves away. With two wagons, it went fast. We worked until we were dirty and sore all over. Many other neighbors gave us coins. Some weren't home and some weren't the paying type, but by suppertime we had earned $3.15 – the 15 cents was from the Kool-Aid business.

 

We stashed the tools, hid the money in our room, took a cold bath, and had just sat down to eat, when Dad came home from work. I was dead tired so I don’t remember the meal, but I do remember that mom looked at us in a funny way and said something about an empty sugar jar (Kool-Aid needs 2 full cups of sugar with the package). We cleaned up our plates and dashed off to bed.

 

As we climbed into our bunks, we heard dad go out to the garage like he always did after dinner. But this time he came storming back in, yelling at mom with words I was not supposed to hear. He wanted to know why a huge pile of dirty leaves had been dumped behind the garage. Tom poked his head over the edge of the top bunk and ordered me to shut my eyes and pretend to sleep – no matter what! I followed orders and snored. Just then, dad barged in ready to start yelling, when mom pulled him out and whispered to leave it until morning, because we were asleep and she was tired and wanted some peace and quiet for the rest of the evening. Dad grumbled and closed the door. It seemed that money-making and earning were full of problems. Then I remembered the nickels, dimes, and quarters in the sock under Tom’s pillow.

 

I sure wanted to see it all just one more time before going to sleep. But I didn't want another dummy reminder. Besides, the Boss was tired and needed rest for another hard day of making money.

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