Peddling, by Kathleen McNulty, 1938

The following article by Kathleen McNulty was published in Silver Sands, Hallahan Catholic Girls High School, Mid-Year Edition 1938. We give a version below.

Peddling, by Kathleen McNulty, 1938

"Pity the peddler, for he peddles for pity." This will ever after be my thought when I open the door to a peddler. For, you see, I learned from bitter experience the trials and heartaches that accompany the worst of all evils.

I realised before the summer was half over that a season without excitement was, indeed, a season of monotony. When my mother suggested my seeking a job as a relief from vacation laziness, I was delighted to find opportunity knocking at my door in the form of the evening paper. It landed with a thump on the front porch; I grabbed it and hastily turned to the want-ad section. What I found was too good to be true:

WANTED - Saleswoman, by a reliable wholesale firm. No experience necessary. Apply Monday.

Needless to say, I was the first applicant in the office Monday morning. I got a job. Just as quickly as that, and without any fuss or bother, I found myself a full-fledged employee. I left that office with a singing heart, having promised to be there early the next morning. Pretty visions of what could be bought with a ten dollar salary danced through my head.

Salesgirl, I soon found, was just a high-sounding term for peddleress. Tuesday morning I expected to smile over a counter at enthusiastic customers. Instead I found myself walking hot city streets and ringing doorbell after doorbell. Each step I climbed meant hope in my breast. Despair was written in my downward tread. My commodities included everything from baby's powder to grated nutmeg. But did I sell any? I hate to think about it!

That night I went to bed with sore feet and a parched throat. Instead of sleep, night brought nightmares of gruff men saying, "Naw, we don't need nothing," and other, anything but polite, refusals of my wares. Work-worn women scathingly remarked, "Your baking soda is no good and I wouldn't take it even if you were giving it away." Of course, I wasn't giving it away; I was only trying to earn some money. Then into my dreams crept that angel of mercy. Here was that darling, sweet, lovable, angelic-faced woman who had bought sixty cents' worth of my product. My only sale of the day brought consolation, and somewhat increased my hope for success the next day.

But my feet were tired and my head ached as I started out the next morning. However, my salesmanship increased a trifle, and I was happy at the end of the day to hand into the company my four orders. Two dollars and sixteen cents seemed a great improvement over the sixty cents of the previous day, and I felt sure that some day I should become a famous saleslady.

Ah! but Thursday! That day of days! Its memory haunts me like a skeleton in a closet. Business carried me far into the country, where I travelled weary mile after mile in vain. The sun was as merciless as African cannibals. They didn't use vanilla because they didn't make cakes; their babies didn't need powder; and if they did need anything, well, what were stores for?

By noon-time I hadn't the energy either to walk or talk. All my hopes for success and my desires for adventure fled as though they were feathers blown into the breeze. I came home a sad, tired, dejected, but, oh, so much wiser young lady.

A few days later I received a check for eighty-three cents. Thirty per cent of my earnings was my wages. Nothing was said of the seventy cents for lunch and the seventy-five cents for carfare that had come out of my mother's pocketbook. Experience. my dears, is an expensive teacher, but a very good one besides. I no longer despise peddlers (called salesmen and salesgirls by the firm that hires them), but offer them my deepest sympathy and pity. May you do the same!

Last Updated March 2021