During the early fifties living in the college town of East Lansing, Michigan was great fun for two young kids. There were so many activities and things we could do. My younger brother and I took frequent trips to the campus, across from Grand River Avenue where we lived. A walk to the Red Cedar River to feed the ducks during the day, or an evening with our parents to listen to music, sitting on a blanket in front of the band shell, were some of the things we enjoyed.
When they were building the new Michigan State University library one summer, they had already put in a large water fountain which to us looked like a swimming pool. The college students threw money in. What could be better than finding money in the water?
We wore our summer attire and splashed around the cool water picking up nickels, dimes, and pennies. Shortly after, Mother received a call from someone on campus who knew us. We were asked not to go fishing for money in the new library fountain.
At five and seven and always thinking of how we could increase our cash flow, we decided to sell Kool-Aid. Every student walking would be parched from the heat and they would want our cool, sweet Kool-Aid. We had tried selling from a stand in front of our home, but the stores on the main street across from the campus were a much better place. The students were there.
My brother got his red wagon, and I mixed up a large container of the delicious drink, and with the Dixie cups from the cupboard and an old cigar box for the money—off we went. We walked over to Grand River Avenue and started mingling with the students who were looking in the stores that lined the popular street.
“Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid. 10 cents a cup.” My brother announced our great enterprise. Students would smile as they walked by. Some would stop and give us a dime and drink the small cup of thirst-quenching delight. Other times, my brother would boldly walk up and ask someone, “Wouldn't you like some Kool-Aid to help you on your way?” Now, who could resist a sweet blond hair kid asking that? I don't know if it was out of amusement or pity, but soon our pitcher was empty. We thought it had been such a success, we went back home to mix up some more! When you're a kid, you have to make money when the sun shines. I was sure that’s what Dad had said.
Mom seemed to agree with our enthusiasm and mixed up the next batch herself. Always admonishing us to be watchful crossing streets, we were on our way once again. Heading in the opposite direction this time, people must have liked it. We sold out right away with that pitcher too. Making over $3.00 was a pretty good sum for the day. We turned our red wagon around and headed home.
As I remember, our next venture happened when we discovered Dad's paperback books which lined the shelves in the basement. Figuring he had read them all, we took a bunch and made a sign “Books 10 cents each or three for 25 Cents.” Once againwe went around the neighborhood where the Fraternity and Sorority houses were located. And to our amazement this was going swell! The students gave us 25 cents for three books. Pretty soon we had our cigar box full and went back to clear off the shelves again. This time Mother was not eager to help us.
“Your dad is going to be upset over this; you know he reads his books more than once.”
“Did you know that?” I asked my brother.
“Not me, I figured he was just keeping them down here cuz they took up space in the living room.” He replied.
So, that was the end of the book sales, but we felt the Kool-Aid went well, and so we continued to do that during the summer. Hey, we were making a name for ourselves. I still remember one lady smiling and telling her husband as we pulled our red wagon on Grand River Avenue, “Get your money out dear. Here come the Kool-Aid kids.” ©2002 Diane Dean White
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"If you long for a trip down memory lane when life seemed simpler and kinder, this is the book for you! Perhaps I'm biased--since the author and I are around the same age--but I could clearly identify with her images of The Five and Dime, the corner drugstore, the lazy days of swinging and chatting on the front porch. What I couldn't identify with, but cherished in the telling, was her relationship with her grandparents, from snapping beans to listening to the ticking of an old clock. All my grandparents who lived in another state were either dead by the time I was born or died early in my childhood. Diane White's carefully crafted account of her time spent with Grandma and Grandpa made me both long for what I'd missed while also encouraging me to be the best Grandma I can be to my seven grandchildren. Highly recommended read for all ages!"
Eileen Rife, author of MASQUERADE and other books.