I was the baby of the family. My two older brothers and older sister had traveled far during World War II. One brother was in the Army Air Corps and the other was in the Army Infantry. My sister, Beatitudes Campus resident Eleanor Higgins, was married and traveling with her husband who was also in the Army Air Corps. I was tired being home. It was my turn to go.
I had been off to college, but did not enjoy that. When I turned 21 I felt free to try something new and wanted that thing to involve traveling. I found the perfect answer one day in the New Haven newspaper. A company was seeking young people to travel selling magazine subscriptions. The opportunities were not just in the U.S. but also overseas. The company sounded good. It had been in business for 15 years and had sent out over 1500 sales people. This was it! I immediately submitted my application.
It was 1948. My mom and dad were a bit worried, but knew that their days of an empty nest were upon them. They sent me off with their blessings asking that I keep in touch because I would be constantly on the move. Long distances payphone calls home were interspersed with periodic letters and postcards.
The company assigned me to a crew in New Jersey. Our group— two women, two men, plus me— reported to a manager who guided our daily work, but who was sometimes away. My daily routine involved seeking out large groups of people, mostly in office buildings. We went to oil rigs, lumber camps, auction sites, state fairs, fishing harbors, race tracks as well, though. Sales quotas were set daily or weekly, so we had to hustle to reach them. At Pimlico Race Track near Baltimore, for instance, I met my day’s quota in one sale to a local celebrity jockey Bob McLean, of the McLean Trucking family.
We did quite well selling to people in their cars who were waiting to board ferry boats. We had a list of around 60 magazines that could be ordered. The best sellers were Look, Collier’s, Farm Journal, Redbook, Newsweek and Coronet. In time I developed a sales pitch that worked well.
Although our transportation expenses were provided, we had to pay all of our other expenses. Our main incentive was to earn enough so we could have good food and lodging. Earning a bit more allowed us to enjoy the many fascinating places our travels would take us. Sales contests were another incentive. Through those we could win prize items and cash bonuses. One woman earned enough to buy a new Pontiac car.
The people I worked with every day became my gypsy family. We got to know one another very well through our around-the-clock association. This type of work was not easy. We had people drop out and new ones join us from time to time. Barbara Mosiello, who I met that year, became a lasting friend. My father, who was an architect, sketched a plan for a home that she built in Albuquerque.
When not working, we became very adept at seeking out and sampling the best to be found wherever we were. In Wheeling, W. Va., we went to radio station WWVA’s Jamboree broadcast. This show was second only to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry in fame and following. We were lucky that the great country music singer Hank Williams was a guest performer and sang “Hey, Good Lookin’,” looking right at us.
Time rolled by easily because each day was a new adventure. We maintained a high level of energy and enthusiasm and threw in a lot of goofing around.
Our crew of six to eight people would have three cars and a station wagon pulling a small trailer filled with our luggage. This made an interesting caravan. Motels and hotels were glad to see us because we would rent three or more units for weeks at a stretch. Restaurants liked us too. When we found a good one, we would eat there many times. The work would continue in a given area until the sales began to fall off — maybe days, maybe weeks. Then our manager selected where we went next. This unscheduled routine had us meandering along, covering up to 60,000 miles each year.
Over seven years and nine months, I traveled around the U.S., back and forth many times. I went to every one of the lower 48 states except Nevada and stayed overnight in 47 state capitals. I was eager to learn as much as I could about each state. It was thrilling to see the beauty and diversity of our nation. It was a wonderful form of education.
With a good start in my unusual career field, I was itching to see the rest of the world. When the opportunity to go abroad came up, I eagerly took it. My next adventures were to be in South America.