By Junior Johnson
Growing up in the 50s and 60s in the country I was fortunate to have wonderful experiences that prepared me for adulthood. One of those was a work ethic instilled in me by my father, who was one of the most hard working and respected men I’ve ever known.
In our home there were two books that we read almost daily. The most important was the Holy Bible and the other was the Farmer’s Almanac.
My dad would consult the Almanac often when it came time for projects. He gave me a lesson one day that I’ve never forgotten.
He planned to build a fence on our property but postponed his project until the “sign of the moon was right.” I didn’t understand why and he brought me out to a place in the yard and had me dig a hole with his post-hole digger about a foot deep. He then said to fill it back up. In my 14-year-old mind this didn’t seem to be a learning lesson; however, I did as I was told. To my surprise I did not have enough dirt to fill it back up. Astonished I asked why and he said it was due to the moon, and that in a few days, the moon would be in a different stage and we would repeat this process.
About a week later we dug another hole and had more than enough dirt to fill it back up. He had learned this from reading the stages of the moon from the Farmer’s Almanac.
I decided it was time for me to check this book out and began to read some of the articles in it. An advertisement toward the end of the book caught my eye. Grit Newspaper was looking for young boys to sell their newspapers. It was a good money making opportunity. I would make 7 cents from every copy that I sold for 20 cents. My dad helped me fill out my first order for 25 Grit Newspapers.
It was summer and I anxiously watched for the mail carrier to bring me my Grit Newspapers. It wasn’t long before he stopped with a package addressed to “Junior Johnson.” I was so proud to see my name on that brown paper as I tore open the package. Inside was a canvas bag with Grit Newspaper printed on it and a shoulder strap to wear the bag filled with my papers. I was delighted to see a little name tag with my name and “Salesman” written under it. I was set.
The next morning after finishing my chores I put my name tag on and slung my Grit Newspaper bag across my shoulder and departed on my bicycle to the first house down the road. Even though most of the people who lived near us knew me, I was still nervous because I’d never sold anything before, and 20 cents was a lot of money in 1962. You could buy a gallon of gasoline for 30 cents.
I sold papers at every stop I made that morning and wasn’t half way around Cane River leading into my hometown of Cloutierville. I’d made $1.75
Mom was happy and told me how proud she was. She said a lot of the grown men working in the fields were only making $5-7 a day and had to support their family with that money. She then said it was time for me to sit down with her and shell peas. So much for the great salesman.
When dad arrived late that evening from the logging woods I excitedly told him of my success and he also told me how proud he was. He helped me fill out the paperwork to send Grit their share of the proceeds and order the next edition. We upped the order to 50 copies.
I was just as successful with my second order and had completed my route to town. I don’t recall why I never went into Cloutierville to sell my Grit Newspaper but continued to sell 50 copies each week to my customers in the country. I was making $3.50 and received two gifts as a reward from them. One was a very nice leather baseball glove which I used throughout my years playing baseball in school. The other was a siren that attached to the frame of my bicycle, and when I pulled a chain it would make the sound like a police car. I would use this to announce that I was at my customers house with their Grit Newspaper.
I continued my Grit Newspaper route for the remainder of that summer and throughout the next school year and summer. I always had money in my pocket for activities that I enjoyed with friends. I was able to buy little things that caught my eye and didn’t have to ask for spending money because I knew there was never enough to spare. I enjoyed my independence.
I still have fond memories of those days and appreciate my customers who helped me make spending money, but more importantly learn the valuable lesson of responsibility.
Grit Newspaper has come a long way in its 130 year existence. It targets Rural America and is still very popular in a magazine format which is published every other month and costs only $14.50 per year.
Thank you GRIT…..I am a subscriber and anxiously await my next magazine.