Support Your Local Kool-Aid Stand
The other day the temperature got into the 70s and I was actually able to go out wearing one of my Hawaiian shirts (Wal-Mart Wonders) without feeling cold or having people stare. They do that anyway, but we’ll save that for another day.
The warm air made me think of my youth. By youth I mean age six to twelve or so – those years when you do stuff just because it is fun and not because you think it will fool your parents.
I grew up in a small steel mill town near Pittsburgh. Back then there were five mills operating. We lived two blocks away from one of them.
Every summer my brother Jimmy and I would try to come up with some way to earn some money to cover our vital needs (Candy, Baseball Cards, Soft Drinks – aka “Pop,” and miscellaneous inexpensive toys).
One scheme we used almost every summer was the Sidewalk Kool-Aid Stand. Our house was situated at the top of a hill, a two block walk up from the steel mill. The workers would finish their shift, walk uphill, and encounter our oasis of ice cold Kool-Aid. What a racket we had going there. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. These guys were dead tired and we were there with cold drinks that had enough sugar in them to kill a diabetic.
“Ten cents a glass! Get your ice cold Kool-Aid right here!”
We did alright with that little enterprise. Our secret weapon to increase the profit margin was to look innocent and pretend that we couldn’t make change for anything above a Quarter.
“Aw, keep the change, kids.”
That Kool-Aid stand was our tried and true operation for several summers, but it was not the only thing we had going. Not by a long shot.
Just up the block was what would today be called a “Senior Citizen Community.” We called it an, “Old Folks Home.” On those hot and sultry summer days their front porch would be packed with people trying to cool off. I saw them as an opportunity.
We didn’t make Kool-Aid deliveries, so we came up with another business plan.
What do hot, sweating people want -To not be hot and sweating, of course? A quick trip uptown to the store that sold Art supplies, back to our big dining room table, and presto!
“Don’t Sweat – Get Cool! Get your own personal, handmade fans, right here! Only ten cents!”
Just about everything we sold was “ten cents,” and, of course, we had that same problem making change.
The fans were made from heavy duty construction paper and really did work quite well. The Old Folks cooled off and we had enough cash to buy some cheap balsa wood airplanes to throw around until they either crashed and broke or got run over by one of the steel hauler trucks that drove past the house every day.
I also tried selling newspapers to the Old Folks, but that fell apart once they realized I was selling them yesterday’s papers.
Not every idea can be a winner.
These businesses faded away as I got older and started spending my money on things like girls and Aqua Velva. When you are eight years old and kinda cute you can get away with things that just don’t work when you look like you need a shave.