Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

Doing Business in The Old Days

Will Edwinson Photo

I once wrote a piece for IDAHO magazine about an author friend of mine. One of the things I brought up in that piece was how the style of doing business had changed since the “old days.” During the days when Dad was doing business, and to a certain extent, in my early adult years, many business transactions were completed on a handshake.  Deals were often struck in a coffee shop or pool hall with the results written on a napkin that all parties signed or initialed with full confidence that it would be honored. Of course there were a few dishonest souls back then, but for the most part, I think they were in the minority.

Vintage Train

Train Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

I remember Dad talking about a five thousand-dollar election bet that took place in a pool hall in Grace, Idaho in 1948 between the owner  of the pool hall and one of the customers. The beer was flowing, and the topic of conversation soon drifted to politics—the 1948 Presidential  election. The election was the famous Dewey-Truman election where the polls showed Dewey winning in a landslide (the pollsters and Dewey hadn’t counted on Truman’s whistle-stop train campaign).  He traveled around the country by rail stopping in “small town” America making speeches from the rear of a train car.

This bet was done with a handshake. Each man wrote out a five thousand-dollar check payable to the other with a third party holding the stakes until after the election.  Neither man tried to renege on the bet the following  day after they had both sobered up.  A deal was a deal, and they knew it.

1949 Lincoln Cosmopoliton IIThe loser made good the check, and shortly after the election, the winner broke out with a brand new Lincoln top of the line Cosmopolitan automobile.  That model was the epitome of luxury cars in that era. He often referred to this auto  as the car Harry Truman bought for him. (I think that Lincoln also might have represented rubbing the loser’s nose in it just a bit because the winner drove that Lincoln to the pool hall on Main Street everyday and parked it out front for the loser to see.)  🙂 If I’m not mistaken, I think Dad said the price of that car  about wiped the full amount of the winnings.

In those days, we kids were taught there was no free lunch.  We all had chores of some kind to do in exchange for our allowance. My dad was a farmer, and I started helping around the farm at age ten picking rocks from the field and even spending  a little time  on the tractor harrowing fields. (No, it was not child-slave labor.  It was just part of the culture.)

Storeowners had their children clerk or sweep up in the stores, as well. And we were also taught that we didn’t necessarily need the latest gadget that came onto the scene.

Manners and etiquette were different in those days also. They were more commonly observed.  Men stood when women approached them. They removed their hats in the presence of women, and inside buildings.  When entering a building, they held the door for women, and always opened the car door for them.   For us kids, being sent to the principal’s office for some infraction at school, was mild compared to what waited for us at home.

Not meaning to sound like a snob, I think we have become a bit lazy about our dress, nowadays. I remember when the family went to a restaurant for an evening dinner we never went in our casual day clothes. We always up-dressed; maybe not in suit and tie, but something a bit more dressy than everyday clothes. And if we went to a higher end restaurant, it was usually expected at the minimum to wear a sport coat and tie or sweater for the men, and a dress or dress slacks for the ladies.  Even those who could not afford the so-called “fancy clothes” wore the best of what they had, and that was perfectly acceptable. No one, as I recall, looked down on them. Those people were part of the culture as well. The point is, if they could have afforded fancier clothes, they likely would have worn them.

I remember a family trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, in the early 1950s.  Mom forgot to pack a neck-tie for Dad.  Even though he wore a sport coat, they would not let him in the dining room at the lodge without a tie.  He had to go to the gift shop and purchase one.

In those days we were expected to be at the table for every meal.  Even before the days of TV when all we had were the radio shows, there was no taking our plate and sitting in front of the radio to listen while we ate.  The same was true after TV arrived on the scene.  It was part of the culture to eat together as a family. This was the rule for my kids also.

If you’d like to take a two hour journey back in time, you can do so by reading my book Buddy…His Trials and Treasures.  You can get a free copy of the book by clicking on the free download button at upper right of this page.  The book is also available for purchase at www.amazon.com.  Enjoy.

—Will

 

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