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Cloverine Brand Salve - To Sell or Not to Sell

Story ID:6990
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon MT USA
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Memories from my past...

Cloverine Brand Salve…To Sell or Not to Sell
Chuck Dishno

The year, 1946, was a good year in my hometown of Bly, Oregon. The 2nd World War was over and my two brothers were home from the service, but it was also a hard time because jobs were scarce and money was pretty tight. For a kid of 12 like me it was especially hard.

My Dad was a hard working logger and believed that all kids should earn their own money. I wasn’t hurting and never asked for an allowance but there were thing that I would like to have. I knew that if I wanted the little things that a 12-year-old boy thought he needed, I would have to find a source of income. I could always get a little pocket money by collecting and selling pop bottles at 2 cents each Beer bottles went 1 cent each at the beer joints or Jack’s Place would give me 25 cents for 24 beer bottles if they were clean and I put them in a case. That was a lot of work for and extra penny but as I said, times were tough.
My other source of f income was pulling dandelions for 5 cents a hundred but that was only on my own lawn and they just didn’t grow fast enough for me to retire.

I had one other source of income but had to compete with most of the other Bly boys and that was catching night crawlers to sell to the hard working loggers and mill workers for their fishing outings.

The reason I say this was a competitive business is because Bly had only two good sources of lawn’s to catch those elusive worms. One was the school lawn and the other was the forest service lawn.
For you that have never tried to catch night crawlers, it is no easy task. The reason they are called night crawlers is because they only come out at night when the air is cool and a little damp. A boy would have to crawl around on his hands and knees with a flashlight and sneak up on them. It wasn’t uncommon to see 10 or 12 boys crawling around with their little flashlights bobbing in the dark. Once you spotted a likely worm you had to be quick and make a fast grab or the worm would snap back into its hole. This was hard to do while holding a flashlight and a worm can.

The preferred can was a Prince Albert tobacco can because of the shape and the folding lid. A Prince Albert can would hold a dozen or more big fat night crawlers and the sharp edge on the can was great for the angler to cut his worm in half or thirds, depending on the size of the crawler and the frugalness of the fisherman. It sure beat biting the worm in half. We each had our own customers that would buy our nightly catch. We sold our worms for about 25 cents a can but if they were especially big and juicy, I could get as much as 50 cents. Of course I always insisted that I get the can back as they were hard to come by.

I did have my own secret source of worms though and according to my customers they caught more fish than any of those common lawn varietie night crawlers. My secret source was the Gooch’s sewer line.

The Gooch’s were a large family a few doors from my house and since we all had septic tanks in Bly their sewer leach line ran right next to my back yard. It was always moist and a great place for worms to grow to gigantic sizes. I didn’t even have to wait until dark or use a flashlight. All I had to do was take a shovel, dig a few holes and I had enough worms to fill several cans. I would still put in my appearance at the school lawn as I didn’t want any of my buddies to know that I had another source.

The worm business was very seasonal though and after fishing season, I needed another source of income.

That source came by way of seeing an ad on the back of one my comic books. The ad stated that if you were 12 years old, the Cloverine Brand Salve Company would pay you in prizes or money. The ad said, “Kids! Get rich selling Cloverine Salve!”

Cash money was OK but didn’t compare to the pictures of the prizes that were pictured on the comic book advertisement. The prizes included, “Daisy” air rifles, “Radio Flyer” wagons, and even bicycles. Of course there were the smaller prizes such as baseball gloves, bats and balls. One could even order a doll but I don’t know of any Bly boys who stooped that low. Not that we had anything against girls, but after all, we were 12 to 14 years old and had a macho image to live up to.

All a boy had to do was fill out an application blank certify that he was at least 12 years old and would agree to sell their salve. After they received the application, they would send you a tube containing 12 cans of Cloverine Brand Salve. After you sold the cans for 25 cents each you sent the money back and they would send you another tube of cans along with a certificate that told you how many points you had built up toward some prize.

The Wilson Chemical Company, manufactures of Cloverine Salve, was a great company and very honorable. They literally had hundreds of thousands of “boy” salesmen all over the country and treated them well. They always stood behind their product and were willing to help their “boys” in becoming sales people. They taught them to be polite and extol the virtues of Cloverine Salve and its many uses. I’m sure many boys sold many tubes of salve and received their selected prizes.

That was not the case in Bly though. The problem in Bly was there just weren’t that many people like you find in large cities. In 1946, Bly had a population of about 5 or 6 hundred and of course most families had a couple of boys in the 12 to 14 year age group, all wanting to sell salve and earn prizes. I think the company banked on the fact that each boy would sell at least two tubes of salve to his parents and maybe another one or two to grandparents or single loggers. It didn’t take long before there wasn’t a house in Bly that didn’t have an overstock of Cloverine Brand Salve in their medicine cabinets.

The uses were wide and varied including burns, chest colds, chapped lips, dry skin, sunburn and maybe even hemorrhoids. I have often thought it was used from “stem to stern”.

My home was no exception. My Mom bought at least 4 tubes of salve and she swore by it and its many uses. I think I sold a few more tubes to my brothers who were married by then. I can’t remember all the prizes I won but the best one was a Halicrafters radio. I think all the boys in Bly won a few prizes.

Cloverine Brand Salve had a unique smell, slightly menthol. A few years ago, I was working in my print shop and from somewhere a menthol fragrance came wafting through the air. As soon as it entered my nostrils, it triggered my olfactory nerves and a vivid mental picture of that round tin popped into my mind. It brought back memories of a time in my life that taught me to sell, not only a product but myself as well. I am sure there are thousands of 75-year-old men around the country who share that same experience.

There surely is a corner in Heaven where a Heavenly breeze is blowing over a couple of tins of Cloverine Brand Salve just to give the residents a bit of nostalgia. I know I will be waiting for my whiff of that great stuff.