The Watkins/Fuller Brush Man
How many remember the Fuller Brush Man, or the Watkins Man as he was sometimes known; or both, as he was known in and around Grace, Idaho when I was a kid during the 1940s. One of my former classmates and I were reminiscing one night and the subject of the Watkins Man came up. To me, he was the Fuller Brush Man; to her, he was the Watkins Man. He was actually, one in the same.
Our Fuller Brush/Watkins man was a big man—more accurately—a huge man. Probably weighed in at around 350 – 400 pounds. As I remember, he had a 1930s something Chevrolet automobile. (One thing in particular I remember about his car was that it always leaned to the left, even when he was not on board.) He had removed the back seat and replaced it with some cabinet-like structures in which he carried various spices and other assorted goodies. He had removed the rear trunk lid as well, and inside the trunk he had inserted another cabinet that stuck out the back and looked much like the bed of a pickup. It was here he carried most of his fuller brush products.
My mother always hated to see him come, because she just could not resist his salesman-ship, and always ended up buying something she didn’t need or didn’t want. She always said she bought something just so he would leave. But we knew the truth; he was a darned good salesman. Dad used to tease her whenever he came home and discovered some new product in the house. “I see the Fuller Brush man has been around again, today,” he would say. Mother would grin sheepishly and reply: “Yes, he got me again.” It finally got to the point, that if she spotted him coming down the street soon enough, she would not answer the door and forbade us kids from doing the same.
In contrast, my classmate said her mother always looked forward to seeing him come because she liked the spices he sold, and the family particularly liked the lemon pie mix he carried. They lived about 40 miles north of Soda Springs, Idaho so a trip to town was not something they did very often. I think he also carried with him, a little something for the kids as well. I don’t remember if she told me his visit was weekly, or bi-weekly, but, nevertheless, his coming was looked upon with the same anticipation as that of city kids waiting for the Good Humor Ice Cream Man. She said her dad wasn’t always too happy to see him come, however, because this man’s weight was often too much for the planks on the front porch, which resulted in unwanted repair work after he left.
Perhaps some of you have your own memories of the Fuller Brush Man, or the Watkins Man coming to your house in your hometown.
For more memories of the 1940s, perhaps you’d enjoy reading my book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. You can get a free copy by clicking the free download button at upper right of this page. Happy reading.