Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

 

FISH MONGERS, PEDDLERS, and STANLEY PARTIES

In my youth, we usually welcomed the peddlers who came around to sell goods, because they carried with them an array of items not always found in local stores. Of course, the most frequent were the fish peddlers who carried fresh catfish and scored carp on ice that they had recently caught. Also, came the salesmen carrying bags of interesting wares.

In her Four Seasons book, my Aunt Lizzie (Fellows) Heckart described a type of peddler from a previous era who brought to the farm attractive items from far away places. She descried Russian-Jewish men walking down the river road laden with so much merchandise in their large backpacks that they bent nearly double.

Her father was kind to the peddlers, sometimes offering a place to spend the night. In turn, the salesmen found nice things in their bags to give to the family. She said that they carried such items as linen towels, perfume, Irish tablecloths, bright red table covers, and fine lace.

Watkins, Raleigh, and Fuller Brush dealers were still prevalent when I was a child. One of these salesmen who always seemed to arrive at lunchtime, and whom we always invited to share our meal, was Mr. Penrod from Keosauqua. He was a kind, gentle man who enjoyed visiting with us as much as we enjoyed his company. His bags were full of ointments, condiments, cleaning products, and extracts. My grandmother said they were better quality, although more expensive, than the items she could find in our stores.

Grandma loved to host her club meetings and quilting parties. Several women would gather to work on a quilt she had in the frames, then she would stay up past midnight removing their stitching because it didnít please her. I always enjoyed the snacks!

By the late 1940s, Stanley Parties were popular. Among the pioneers of sales parties that invaded homes with merchandise ranging from costume jewelry to kitchen ware and vacuum cleaners, this was a new, novel marketing idea. Everyone hosted them, including my grandmother. Among their products, they offered the best dusters and furniture polish that you could buy, along with giant bottles of cinnamon flavored mouthwash. A party host received free merchandise and discounts on other items, while each guest received a free gift and as many little, thin, blue and white eraserless pencils stamped with the Stanley name and trademark, as they could carry home. Everyone left the party feeling happy until reality set in a couple weeks later when orders arrived and it was time to shell out payment for their merchandise!

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick
http://iagenweb.org/vanburen/