Friday, April 27, 2012

Sales Leadership Club - The beginnings of a business career

MeAsWe and Me were sitting around talking about our childhoods last night. I told her the story of the Sales Leadership Club and my experiences with that organization. I used to spend hours looking in magazines and comics at the ads, ignoring the content of the rag. These ads had promises of making you millions and being able to get really neat things. There were bikes, knives, tents, sleeping bags all with point values. I remember going to my Mom showing her the picture of the gas powered Daultless Dive Bomber I could get if I joined. Back then, gas powered planes were tethered by 2 guidelines made of nylon. Tilt the handle and the plane would go up or down based on the which way the handle was tilted. They would only go around in a circle. I am sure my mother figured it was worth the 4 pennies for a stamp to get me out of her hair.

I am guessing I was between the ages of 9 and 11 when I sent my application off to the Sales Leadership Club. For your application the company sent you a brochure of various stationery with prototype names and address and placements of the headings on the stationery. Some were gold, some italic, different fonts (back then I didn't know what a font was), stationery that was pure white, some ivory, some were hues of green, purple or blue. Some had designs on the borders. Picking your stationery was like ordering a car with various options. Oh the envelopes for the stationery was included with matching return addresses on the back.

Out into the neighborhood I went with my brochure, knocking on every door. I do not specifically recall how much I sold, but I do know I sold enough to get that Blue Dauntless Dive Bomber with the white stars on the fuselage and wings.

I diligently filled out the orders, carefully making sure all of the spellings were correct for both the names and addresses. I don't remember having to put Zip Codes any place, so that made it prior to 1963. Collected the money and sent it into the company. The merchandise arrived in a larger box, with individual boxes for each customers order. I delievered each order as I was suppose to. Then I waited and waited and waited for my Dauntless Dive Bomber to arrive. And waited some more. While I am somewhat fuzzy on the details, my father must have made a call to the company asking where my plane was. What I do remember is this guy arriving at the house with the plane on a cold rainy night. The guy looked like a tall Danny DeVito, especially the hair. (how does one remember stuff like this) Who knows, maybe my dad simply ordered one from a toy store and had it delivered back then. Stores did things like that in the 50's.

The day had come. My father had gone out and gotten the gas and battery for the plane. It was a Saturday morning, he put on his brown suede casual jacket and we headed out the backdoor of our house to Gregory School. The school was a stone throw from our house. Down to the paved playground. Set the plane down on the tarmac, hooked the battery up, filled it with gas. It is my recollection that the prop was on a spring. Turn it to the left, let it go and it spun to start. First try. Pla pla pla. (you have to make the noise)

Second try pla pla pla, but there was some smoke. Third try pla ehhhhhhhhhhhhh. A scream came from the engine. I also recollect there being a throttle screw to regulate the engine. My father turned it to create this shrill crescendo; it was music to my ears.

A little background. My father was a mechanical engineer and knew all about this stuff. He had invented things for Bell Labs, almost worked on the Manhattan Project, provided stuff to NASA for the moon landing. He was a god in my eyes when it came to things like this.

The plane running, he told me to hold the plane in place. He was going to fly it first so he could teach me how to fly it. He had rolled out the 2 lines to the handle and he walked back to the end of the tether. Bent down, picked up the handle, got settled and said “Bill let the plane go”. The plane began to move, my father started to turn with the plane, it lifted and began a climb. It was flying then everything went to shit.

The plane went higher and higher, then too high, reached an apex. That Dauntless Dive Bomber pointed itself straight down and DIVED for the ground. I heard the voices TORA TORA TORA, KaBAM, it hopped, pfeeeed (then engine stopping) and I watched as the wings separated themselves from the fuselage, then silence. It was over.

I don’t remember what my emotions were. I don’t remember crying, yelling, being mad or anything after the infamous crash. Did this crush my spirit ? It must not have because there was the Recipe Card Holder Sales Story. Another story for another time.


Runner said...

What a great story!! It's so hard to dig back into the memory banks to fill in the detail, so this story is especially precious!

Anonymous said...

Oh how well I remember the Sales Leadership Club. I sold Christmas cards for them for several years as a young kid. I remember getting a "real" go-cart for selling what I believe was 80 boxes. Maybe it was more but the cart was real. I also earned enough points to get a couple of planes like you spoke about and I also got an HO train. What fond memories I have of those times.
Bill Gaines