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3 Ways I Tried to Earn Money Before the Age of 13 That Brought Me Great Wealth and Trouble

From the time I was 5 years old I was always trying to make money.  Not by getting a job but by selling something. I always had an angle.   I was constantly looking for the next great thing.  Most of them ended up making me some extra money but they also seemed to have their consequences.

1. Cinnamon Toothpicks.    I can’t remember exactly what grade I was in but I remember my first business very well.  I sold packs of 25 cinnamon toothpicks. One day I got a cinnamon toothpick at a restaurant and thought it was great.  I thought to myself, I think these are easy enough to make that I could make them at home and sell them to other kids in school.  At first I thought I had to buy cinnamon and mix it with water but soon realized I could buy cinnamon extract and make them as hot as I wanted and in big batches.  So I bought boxes of toothpicks, soaked them in cinnamon and sold them for 25 cents for 25.  They were wrapped in aluminum foil and in hindsight it probably looked like I was selling heroin.  I was moving great numbers and pretty much every kid in school was buying my toothpicks.  But it all came crashing down. The teachers in the classroom started seeing kids with these toothpicks and then throwing all over the ground.  The principal started to track down the source.  And found it.  He said it simply. Stop selling the toothpicks.  I agreed and started selling them after school instead.  How could he stop me if I sold it then?  Well he tried.  He said if I see or hear of you selling toothpicks to anyone, I will suspend you.  He added a little reminder of one paddle (they allowed paddling back in the 80s and in the south) and said there was more where that came from.  And that ended my toothpick business.  I dabbled a bit more in later years but they didn’t have the same appeal to 14 year olds as they did to 10 year olds.

2.  Fake Pencils.  How in the world can you make money with fake pencils you might ask. In grade school we had this little game called pencil fighting.  One person would hold a pencil horizontally while the other one would take their pencil, hold it between their first finger and thumb and then pull it back and let it snap back on the other pencil. You take turns until one of the pencil was broken.  It took skill and a good pencil to win.  It became so popular around the school that you could actually move up socially by being a good pencil fighter.  So I made the ultimate “pencil” .  I bought a solid wood dowel, took the eraser off another pencil, sharpened the end, and painted the whole thing to look exactly like a pencil.  And of course, it didn’t break. As a few people around school learned of my might cheating pencil they asked me to make them. So I made about 10 of them.  Eventually people started figuring it out and started checking to see if they were real so I had to step up my game.  I started drilling the dowel with a tiny little hole and putting in a little lead and gluing it in.  Then I would sharpen it.  So it would right but was still solid all the way through.  Again, I sold a bunch of these until I eventually ruined the whole pencil fighting league because nobody trusted anyone anymore.  Especially me.

3.  The great pizza flip.  Once a week in grade school we had pizza.  Good pizza.  Or a least I thought it was good then.  Problem was, they never made enough.  It always sold out and you had to get chicken, or mystery meat.  So every pizza day I would use my God gift of speed and get to the front of the line.  I would buy two slices and sell the second.  It was always enough extra to buy an extra chocolate milk or a Nutty bar.   I became the man to go to if you need a slice.  Then one day the principal said “Kids, we have special guests in the school today, please show them how well behaved you are and no running in the halls” But it was pizza day. The bell rings and off I go. The Bruce Jenner of the school.  As I round the corner at a hundred miles an hour I feel a tug that almost takes me down.  It’s the principal, mad as hell.  He takes me straight to the office, lectures me about how disappointed he is and ask me to go over and touch above the light socket.  As I reach down, BAMMM!  he paddles me.  I remember it hurting much worse than the toothpick paddle (which I didn’t tell my parents about). This one I was going to tell them about because it stung.  That day ended my pizza runs but it didn’t end for the principal.  That evening while playing soccer I pulled a muscle.  So bad I could barely walk.  When I came into school I had on an ace bandage and was limping horribly.  The people in the office saw me and thought it was the result of the paddling.  Later that day the principal called me in to apologize and from what I understand it was one of the last paddlings at the school.  Yes I am the one that stopped the entire practice of paddling in the entire south…I think.


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13 Replies to “3 Ways I Tried to Earn Money Before the Age of 13 That Brought Me Great Wealth and Trouble”

  1. Wow, crazy. Sounds a lot like my school. I clearly remember the cinnamon toothpicks, the pencil fighting and the rush for pizzas on pizza day.

    Only difference – we did not have paddles…

  2. Great post Shane.

    I didn’t get paddled in school, but my kindergarten teacher did tape my left hand to the metal bar on the side of my desk and forced me to write with my right hand.

    Apparently in 1983 that was acceptable in catholic schools. I guess even then they thought southpaws were a sign of the devil…

    Well, she was like 85 years old and a former nun. A bunch of parents found out how the lefty’s were being treated and she “retired” before the end of the school year…

    That’s right, they killed her.

    Jk. She retired.

  3. I was an end user in every one of these kinds of deals in my school and I always appreciated the kids that ran these businesses.

  4. Black Gerbils ? I think they prefer to be called African American Gerbils.

    This I gotta hear though

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