It was rare for most kids in Van Hook to have more than a few cents in their pockets. We were the seven ‘on relief’ kids at the edge of town so it was rarer for us. Lowell, David and I found ways to get some money and our mother allowed us to keep what we got.
We would walk the ditches from our side of town to the other looking for beer or soda bottles. Regular size bottles were worth one or two cents and quart beer bottles were worth a nickel.
Beer bottles were turned in at the back door of Fitzpatrick’s Tavern and we got change for the soda bottles at Grendahl’s Grocery. Sometimes we turned the soda bottles in at the Farmer’s Union gas station. Many times our walk would get us about twenty cents to divide between the three of us. Our best bottle collecting days were after most of the snow melted and exposed bottles that had been hidden for months.
We often pulled our well used Radio Flyer wagon with us so if we found some scrap metal we could turn it in at the Farmer’s Union. The man who ran the station collected scrap metal in the back of a truck. He paid a half a cent per pound for steel and iron and more for brass and copper. One time we found a car battery and he gave us a dollar for it.
One August our neighbor Guff Olson gave us jobs helping him harvest his grain. I’m sure to this day that he didn’t need the help, but gave each of us a week long job. He paid me two dollars a day to drive the tractor pulling the combine. Lowell got one dollar a day to keep the grain spout clean and David got fifty cents a day to stay away from the machines.
Lowell and I both sold copies of Grit Magazine and tins of Cloverline Salve our second summer in Van Hook. Grit Magazine was a national news magazine but was sold mostly in rural America. We got the Grit in the mail twice a month and sold it door to door. Sometimes our profit was just the left over copies of the paper because other kids in town were also selling the news journal. Cloverline Salve sales were just about as non-profitable. It was a good product but it lasted a long time and in a town of 300 the market was soon saturated by multiple kids selling it. Mother still had several cans of Cloverline when we moved to Minnesota the next year.
One of my favorite things to do with pocket change was to exchange it for a dollar bill.