Three weeks after beginning my egg route, my weekly delivery had increased to nearly 150 dozen. It only took two after-schools to deliver the eggs, and I was netting over $30 each week, more than $4.25/hour. With the minimum wage at $1.55/hour, I, only 15, had found the chicken that laid the Golden Egg. Of course I intended to expand further, so I needed to find a low-paid worker to help me. He was right in front of me, watching cartoons, a thin line of drool connecting the corner of his mouth with his chin: my 10-year-old brother, Doug.
It was a classic Tom Sawyer whitewashing. I convinced Doug that it was great fun to deliver eggs and collect money. I even got him a belt-hung change dispenser. And I told him that I would give him TEN PERCENT (!) of the profits., over three dollars each week. With his allowance at 50 cents, this huge sum was an irresistible lure.
Thursday afternoon we rode out, Doug on his twerpy kid’s bike, I on my magnificent Schwinn Spitfire, pulling the Radio Flyer, now equipped with raised wooden sides my father had constructed. It held 36 dozen as securely as a top-heavy, rope-connected, brakeless freight car might. The plan was for me to work one side of the street and Doug the other. He was so excited, I had to caution him not to run while carrying the merchandise, and if he had to carry more than three dozen, make two trips to the wagon. He was a natural. After only 15 minutes, one of his customers asked him to knock on her neighbor’ door; she wanted fresh eggs, too. I came near the door, gave Doug the spiel, and backed away. He repeated it as best he could.
“Hello, my name is Dougie Cotler, and me and my big brother, well, we deliver eggs, and the lady next door said, umm….”
He looked at me. I remained silent.
“We have extra large eggs, and they’re 59 cents each, I mean a dozen. They’re really fresh. My big brother got them at the egg ranch today.”
The lady smiled, patted him on the head, and took three dozen. I had a secret weapon.
We began soliciting houses between existing customers, filling in, increasing the delivery density. Door-to-door salesmen are thrilled if they get one sale from every ten door openings. I got one in four. Doug got one in three. He was just too cute.
I had a rubber stamp made to imprint the cartons:
Cotler Bros. Ranch Fresh Eggs
Steve & Doug 66-2183
(Our small town was linked to General Telephone, not AT&T, hence the six-digit phone number.)
I gave Doug his cut after the first week. But he bought way too much candy, so I made a decision that worked for both of us, although he had reservations.
The next week I founded The Outhouse National Bank and deposited all but 50 cents of Doug’s share into it. I was president, vice president, treasurer, teller, guard, and janitor. Doug was my only depositor. He complained, but I assured him the 6% interest would, in the long run, greatly increase his net worth.
I did not tell him what hours the bank would be open for withdrawals.
(continued in the next post)