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A multi-year reign as worm king had to end. I abdicated. In the scheme of my life this was voluntary if not volitional. Why? Well of course a new and better awful idea had come along to snake-charm me away from Siren worms. Where? To a beach concession that those I went to for counsel all said “Don’t.”
To a 15-year-old with not enough going on between the ears and too much going on elsewhere warnings were a red cape to a bull, “Toro-Toro.”
At the village office a price was negotiated with of official having the misleading name Tiny. Fifty dollars and the concession was mine. I agreed.
Now to get the $50. “Um, dad.”
Wearing down a parent for a child’s latest fancy isn’t done overnight. Weeks of being good and wheedling are required. Fending off a disastrous “NO” explosion requires deft timing and a keen sense of persuasive limits that bring the desired “Ye gods, yes, YES, just leave us alone!”
Few joys could surpass that victory leading to hardly any joy on earth making of for the amount of labor needed to run a concession. A friend enlisted to help, we faced rumor that the last to try had gone broke on the endeavor. Rumor was incentive to show otherwise. Did we? Yes, but not at first.
Luckily the concession came with power provided by the village along with several freezers and local-made popcorn maker. Likely having eaten 40 bags of popcorn did nothing to help in making that number. A local theater (Tacora) provided address of a supplier (in Duluth), leading to purchase of 50 pounds of popcorn seed, tub of coconut oil, case of bags, popcorn salt and shaker.
Ah, and we had to arrange for a LP cylinder. Assured of thousands of bags of popcorn, in the short term were well into the cookie jar. Ice cream, Popsicle, candy and soda distributors worked (after parental co-signing) on a credit system allowing us to pay after sales. Debtor prison avoided, we opened being hundreds in the red. But not for long.
Not exactly being mercenary (I plead) we pledge to get every last cent available from the sun-oil scented beach throng. If a kid had 50 cents we aimed to have it all before they left. Can you imagine how a little extra salt on the corn inspired thirst for pop?
We sold plenty frozen treats and candy bars, but corn and soda were the profit stars. Dab of coconut oil, measure of corn and pop, 40 bags at 10 cents each were ready. The cost of selling corn, including the bag, was slightly less than nine cents. In other words, a money maker, and one that kids ate up and made them happy and thirsty.
Being on the seller side of food chain biology was grand.
Next in the great fleecing of kids in swim suits on warm days was pop with a profit margin similar to popcorn – winner meets winner. Sadly, not at first. Lured by its appealing name, we first went with the biggest. They provided tanks of pre-mix and gas for a dispenser that needed ice.
Days of worm ranching back to haunt me, except the pop machine was insatiable for ice and even so gave a tepid result. If the biggest wouldn’t give a better pre-mix dispenser then try the number two competitor.
Gosh, were they happy to see the giant’s signs go down and theirs go up! Me, I was glad to be free of ice slavery as the new dispenser had built-in refrigeration. Disconnected from one to the other we began immediately dispensing product to the salted crowd. Plus the new guys gave us thousands of cups free instead of paying. Trash cans overflowed with the new brand.
The rule was no competitor product was to be advertised nor any of their product run through the new machine. We promised. We lied.
Soon as the truck of ice deliverance was gone half tanks of the other brand were connected to be sold under a false flag. I confess this now, but at the time had possibly 1/8 of a qualm about using up what we had to pay for.
The giant competitor was unhappy. “Based on sales, we’d have given you a better dispenser.” But they hadn’t, plus there were free soda cups. “You’re violating your contract!”
Yes we were, but were they going to gain anything taking a pair of innocent baby faces to court? Bluster and fume all they want, they were out and the competitor in. A done deal. Once they left in a threatening huff we got back to the business of salting popcorn and selling thirst quenching.
Good trade (an interesting expression) was had in candy and frozen items. There was a mania for Fudgesicles (pronounced Fugicle) we couldn’t keep up with. The fleecable throng snapped them up before noon, leaving us to peddle (another interesting term) second, third and fourth choices to disappointed but acquiescent buyers.
I swear, had there been a market for towels, sun lotion and small swim suits many kids would have gone happily home appearing like exports from a nudist colony. We sold out often but didn’t stay sold out; candy and frozen deliveries being regular.
From a five cent (those were the days) candy bar we might pull a penny, but not if those cursed goodies stayed too long in our stand/sauna. Coolers, freezers, popcorn making all gave off heat in quantity.
Viscous chocolate bars drooping like expired worms won’t sell. They went back home for an overnight chilling in the basement. Open 11 to 5 with an hours’ work on either end, the stand was full-time employment. Some taxing days my sole exhausted joy was satisfaction the village was paying for those coolers and freezers running in a clothing-required sauna. I’d be one cooked cowpoke, but there was always the next day for bargaining with a nine year old about the value of a broken Popsicle. “Give me three cents, it’s yours. How ‘bout three for your towel?”
It was a nice towel.