Friday, March 28, 2014

From the readers: Many, many Cheerful responses and memories

I'm not sure why, but I've been hit with a deluge of extremely fond reader memories about working for Cheerful Card Company.

I originally wrote about the company in December 2012 and, in retrospect, I feel bad that I was somewhat sarcastic and snide about Cheerful Card Company. It appears that the joke is on me.

Here is a recap of all of the comments and memories I've received about the incentive-based card sales program:

Anonymous (May 2013): "I remember when I was a youngster seeing the ad in a magazine and sending for the kit to sell greeting cards. I do not remember how much I earned. That had to be 50 years ago. I am now going to be 66. What a happy memory."

Anonymous (January 2014): "How funny. I am 66 and was just telling my wife how I used to dress up and carry my briefcase with me ... I was 11 or 12 ... knock on the door and say, 'I represent the Cheerful Card Company of (somewhere) New York and I would like to show you our line of Christmas Cards.' I didn't always make a sale but I did score milk and cookies on numerous occasions. I remember making enough one Christmas to shock my Dad and he wasn't shocked easily. What a fun read."

Anonymous (March 2014): "I remember seeing the adverts in the back of the comic books I read in the early 1960s. I sold Cheerful Cards to neighbors and on my mother's job. I am now 61. What an experience. I wish I had those comics now!"

Anonymous (March 2014): "Selling door-to-door for the Cheerful Card Company was my first job. I was 9 years old. Tons of sales, plenty of money. I am sure this experience had propelled me into an after-school newspaper route by the time I was 11 (child labor laws were easily flouted in those days), and another better-paying job by the time I was 16. All in all, I look back on my days with the Cheerful Card Company as the beginning of a lifetime of enjoying running my own company. Children should not be prevented from working!"

Anonymous (March 2014): "I'm 74 years and sold Cheerful cards and sold them as a young mother with children. I just thought it was fun and I loved the knickknacks, cards, etc. The products were so easy to sell. Does anyone know if they're still in business?"

Fran Walker of Alpharetta, Georgia (March 2014): "I was 11 years old and I remember it well. I have never forgotten the kit I received. It was a cardboard box that folded up like a briefcase with a handle. I was so proud to go to the neighbors and sell. It was awesome. It was my first job."

Anonymous (March 2014): "I am 82 years old and remember selling 100 Cheerful Cards when I was 16 years old and earned a beautiful green coat with a black velvet collar. I remember putting it on and thinking I looked more beautiful than Elizabeth Taylor!"

Mark Gilpatrick of Valdosta, Georgia, via Facebook (March 2014): "I sold for Cheerful Cards back in high school in the late 1960s! I think I answered an ad. Nothing real memorable, but I did OK. I sold World Book Encyclopedia, even was a district manager in Tallahasee. I have sold Avon since 1981. I was an elementary teacher, so needed the money."

I am truly floored by all these great comments that came Papergreat's way in the wake of the Cheerful Card post. My favorite posts are the ones that get people reminiscing and sharing their memories and stories. So always feel free to comment on any post, shoot me an email at chrisottopa(at) or check out Papergreat's Facebook page.

Final addendum: Here's a wonderful little autobiographical short story titled "The Gift" by Roger Dean Kiser. It features Cheerful Card Company at the center of the tale.

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Three more vintage "We Missed You at Church" postcards: On Twitter, @dosankodebbie wrote: "Never heard of the 'we missed you' card, and have mixed feelings about it, but I LOVE that penguin card."

And then @KeeslingMary continued the Twitter conversation, adding: "Up until about the 1990s (only my POV), U.S. Protestant churches mailed you a card if you missed a few weeks of church. Some churches may still do it, but I don't know. Don't know if Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox did. Of course, some churches called in person, to see if you were OK. They knew that people might be ill."

Sketch of superhero-like dog inside Encyclopedia Brown book: On Twitter, @YorkLibraries wrote: "What a fun glimpse at kid's imagination! Bet you will find more as you collect Scholastic books!"

1928 gift book from Dolin & Rushford in Hinton, West Virginia: Selena Heyer wrote: "My maiden name is Dolin, and my dad comes from Hinton, West Virginia. When I was a little girl, we would visit his aunt's dress shop in downtown Hinton. I have no memory of what it was called then — in the 1970s — but she was what I thought to be quite an old lady then! I think it's pretty safe to assume that it was one and the same, though some decades after your book find was purchased. My dad's aunt may have inherited the shop."

Card for a free game of Skilo at Palisades Amusement Park: Sandi wrote: "This made me think of the old Freddy Cannon song. Hmmmm ... that might date me ... but I was VERY small when that song came out."

Enjoy these vintage recipes for the Everhot Electric Roasterette: Judy K. sent the followed detailed request for help:
"I am searching for history of the Swartzbaugh family that used to live at and/or owned the Elms Apartment in Toledo, Ohio, in the 1940s. The woman’s name was Mrs. Swartzbaugh — not sure of her first name. What I do know is that my father and grandfather used to paint professionally for the owners of this building in the 1940s — maybe through the 1950s. I was also told that they owned a manufacturing company in Toledo. In my searching, I have come across the Swartzbaugh Manufacturing Company and am wondering if this is the same person and/or family.

"The story goes … in the 1940s my father was painting at Mrs. Swartzbaugh’s home (or maybe at her apartment building?). She told him she was tired of a particular chair that she had and offered it to my father. She told him she had two of them — but I am not sure if they would be exactly the same, especially since it appears to be hand-carved. I believe he was told it was black oak from the Black Woods in Germany — but I am not positive about this. I am now the owner of this chair and was hoping that I might find some history on the chair and/or the family. The chair is rather unique — it is a beautiful dark oak carved-back chair with the heads and upper chest of two men — one with curly hair. Both have hats on, one has a bandana around his neck — the other has an upturned collar. The seat is flat — more narrow at the back and wider in the front. It has straight cut legs with a cross bar in the middle and from the front to the back on both sides. There are no markings on the chair that we could find. I don’t know why but, as a child, I always thought they were gangsters and used to put marbles in their eyes. Actually kind of creepy looking when I did that! Now I think they could be more … folksy?

"Any information you may have on The Elms (I think it was an apartment building), the Swartzbaugh family, their manufacturing company and of course — this unique chair would be greatly appreciated.

"Thanks so much for your help!"
Wow. That's quite a story and quite a mystery. I don't think I'm in a position to offer any help. I do know that someone who says that C.E. Swartzbaugh was their great-grandfather also commented on this Papergreat post back in late January. Maybe that person can connect with Judy and offer some insight. But I don't have contact information for either person. If anyone can offer assistance for Judy on this mystery, I think the best place for that information is as a reply to Judy's original comment on the Swartzbaugh post. That's where, I hope, she's most likely to look. Hope we can help solve this one!

Prudential booklet on signers of the Declaration of Independence: Finally, Julie Kurz submitted the following question via email: "I read with interest your post about the Prudential booklet on The Signers of the Declaration of Independence. While searching the internet, your blog was the only place I found that actually had a picture and description of the one I have. My copy differs somewhat from yours. Mine doesn’t have the stamp on the back cover nor does it list the president of Prudential. However, it does have a foldout of the declaration document just inside the front cover! Would you have any idea of its value? Or where else I might search? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide!"

MY REPLY: Thanks for your email. I'll preface this by saying that I'm certainly not an expert on any of these items. But I'll be happy to share my thoughts.

Any item, of course, is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. And that can change over time. So even if "worth" is determined, finding a buyer is the second half of the battle.

Indeed, Prudential made multiple versions of "The Signers of the Declaration of Independence" booklet. I can't find a definitive list, but it appears that most of the variations were published in the 1920s or 1930s.

On Amazon, various copies of the booklet, in various conditions, are available for prices ranging from one penny to $34. None of the various listings on Amazon has a "sales rank," which, to my understanding, means that no copies have been sold recently through Amazon. So those prices don't really tell us anything.

On eBay, I found four copies for sale, with prices ranging from $5.50 to $17. None of those copies have been bid on at the time of this writing. Using the advanced search on eBay, I looked through the listings of items that have already sold. I found one copy of the Prudential pamphlet that sold for $8.99 this past January. (Also, note that the seller offered free shipping. So his net profit, after eBay fees and postage, was certainly less than $7.)

So I think it comes down to the condition of your item and how long and hard you're willing to look to find a buyer. Eventually, if you use a platform such as eBay, you might be able to find someone willing to pay $5 to $10 for it. If you don't want to wait around, I'm guessing a dealer would probably not give you more than a dollar for it, because then he or she has to do the hard work of finding a buyer at high enough of a price to turn a profit and put food on the table.

The best value this item has, I think, is its historical and sentimental value to you and your family? If it's a neat piece that your family enjoys having and looking through — something that kids and grandkids might find interesting in the coming years — then that's certainly more valuable than the couple bucks you can get for it today. And if that's not the case, you could always stick it in a drawer for another couple decades and see if the value goes up!

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NOTE: All submitted comments featured here are lightly edited. In the case of Twitter comments, the editor in me can't help changing abbreviations and shortened words into their full form.

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