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Huckstering in Ocean City
Lois and I loved huckstering in Ocean City with our dad. We probably huckstered during the summer from 1943 to 1947. It was a great time. We rode to Ocean City on the back of an old Ford V8 truck with all the produce. It was war time, our older brothers were in the service and gas was rationed. He probably never drove past thirty-five miles per hour.

Dad had huckstered in Ocean City off and on all his life as a farmer. His early huckstering was done with a horse and a small cart. Her name was Cody. I vaguely remember being lifted and placed on her back for a ride to the barn after a day of cultivating corn.

We went to Ocean City on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Dad was fairly religious and did as little work as possible on Sundays. But all the livestock had to be taken care of. We picked everything on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Most things we picked on Monday would last the week without too much aging. Anything that became too ripe or the least bit rotten was fed to the hogs.

We always had four or five large hogs for winter slaughter. We also had six or eight shoats (young pigs) for the following year. During the summer and fall we would have plenty of left over vegetables to feed them.
Sugar corn would be planted at weekly intervals so that we would have fresh corn ‘coming on’ all summer right up to Labor Day. Once we had depleted an area of sugar corn or the kernels were turning too hard to sell we would fence it in with an electric fence. The hogs would then be let in to forage.

We would entice the hogs and other animals by tying corn to the electric wire. After two or three shocks, the hogs would stay at least three feet away from the fence. When we took down the fence to take in more of the corn patch, the hogs were reluctant to even walk where the fence had been.

On Tuesday morning, Lois and I were ready. We were wearing clean clothes and shoes. Dad on the other hand, dressed like an old farmer from the sticks; bib overalls with one strap unfastened and hanging down his back. An old straw hat with frazzled edges, shoes with no laces or sometimes barefooted and week old salt and pepper whiskers. The old women loved him. They would ask how many children he had. He would always reply, “Six jacks and a pair queens.”

The truck was loaded but we waited. No use getting to Ocean City too early. Most of our customers were late risers. We usually carried three burlap bags of corn, eight dozen to a bag. Dad always threw in four extra ears to make and even hundred.
Sugar corn was a nickel an ear, six for a quarter, fifty cents a dozen or the whole bag for four dollars. Dad usually grew two varieties of sweet corn; country gentleman and stowells evergreen. In nearly all corn, the kernels are in nice even rows. Not country gentleman. In this variety the kernels are scattered everywhere. No rows.

We had at least two bushels of tomatoes of various stages of ripeness. They were three for a dime. The women (we usually sold to women) would want three ripe tomatoes and three a bit green. The tomatoes would ripen nicely on the kitchen window sill. We nearly always grew either the marglobe or the rutgers variety. We sometimes grew ten acres for Phillip's Cannery in Berlin.
We had white potatoes that we sold by the peck or half peck. A few carrots and beets which were practically giveaways. We had yellow crooked-neck and white patty-pan squash.

Sometimes we would have two cows and have an excess of homemade butter. Mom had a half-pound butter press with a wheat shock design. She would wrap the butter in a towel with ice cubes. Lois and I tried to sell the butter to our first customers.

In the center of the truck body were the watermelons and cantaloupes. Prices ranged from twenty-five to fifty cents depending on the size. We sold no half melons or cantaloupes. It was the whole thing or nothing.

We did not even try to sell lima beans or sweet peas. They were too much trouble to shell and no one would buy unshelled beans or peas. Our Uncle Mickey Parsons huckstered only to food markets, hotels and restaurants. He sold mostly sugar corn by the bag, potatoes by the basket and shelled lima beans by the quart. It was hard and tedious work shelling bushels of lima beans.

In the late 1930's, two of my brothers, Irving and Frank, would sell flowers on the boardwalk in Ocean City. We grew a few flowers like gladioli, roses and such. We grew asparagus for a garnish. Most of their flowers were wildflowers growing along the roads and ditches like golden rod and tiger lilies. That is except for water lilies. They would lie down in the small boat with their head and shoulders over the bow of the boat. They would paddle along with their hands in the mill ponds snipping off the lilies with long stems.

Of a morning they would ride into Ocean City with dad. Sometimes they would ride home with dad. Other times they would spend the afternoon in Ocean City and thumb a ride home when they were ready. There was nothing like the Ocean City Boardwalk in the afternoon with money in your pockets. We had a lot of cousins in Ocean City to visit.

Finally, Dad would start the old Ford V8 and to Ocean City we would go. Our first stop was Baltimore Ave and Somerset St. My first customers were a Greek family that operated a store selling beach clothes, swimming suits and odds and ends for the beach.

Dad stayed with the truck selling to walk-up customers. Lois and I were busy going from house to house, taking orders, running back to the truck, filling the order and then delivering. We made change and kept the money. Dad would move the truck, going up streets toward the ocean, and traveling through alleys from street to street.

Lois and I knew the route. If we returned and the truck was gone, we knew where it was supposed to be. We walked steadily, serving old customers and knocking on doors looking for new ones.

Finally, around noon time, we turned on Ninth Street. At that time, it was the end of Ocean City. One last place to visit. Lois and I walked across a hundred yards of sand to reach the old Catholic Home. I think its correct name was the House of David. It was a rest home and hotel for Catholics.

Sometimes their kitchen would buy four or five dozen ears of corn and a half bushel of tomatoes. Then it was time to ride home.

Lois and I would sit on the cab. The old truck’s cab had
a huge indentation. Instead of sliding off, we would tend to slide to the center. Some time we would throw tomatoes at signs along Rte. 50 and rowboats in Herring Creek.

Most days we would stop at Uncle Joe Lynch's store in Taylorville. We would give him all he wanted and we would all get a nice cold Pepsi.

When we got home, mom always had her hand out asking for money. We would say we had a poor day and didn’t make much. She would wave us on and we would fly upstairs and put our money in a bank or hide it.

I had a glass bank made from a square accent brick. I put coins and paper money in during the summer. When it was full, my brother put a big screwdriver in the slot and hit it hard. The glass brick split in half. It contained over forty dollars. I remember I bought a fifty dollar war bond. Other times we would walk to the Ocean City post office and buy twenty-five cent war bond stamps. When our stamp book was filled with eighteen dollars and seventy-five cents, we would get a twenty-five dollar war bond.

Lois graduated from Buckingham High in June of 1946. That Fall she started nursing education at the Presbyterian School of Nursing in Philadelphia.
The next summer, Fred worked with dad and me huckstering from the old truck. It was a good summer but it was our swan song. The summer of 1947 was our last year huckstering vegetables in Ocean City.

1428 12/20/14