Originally published February 28, 2012
I don’t know why, but I still get a thrill buying a new shirt and then wearing it for the first time. Actually, I get that feeling after buying any new clothes. As a matter of fact, I still get that feeling with almost everything that I buy. But the first thing that I ever bought wasn’t a shirt.
It was a Swiss Army Knife and I bought it with money that I had earned – shoveling snow from neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. It seemed to snow a lot when I was a kid, and one of my buddies and I would quickly do our own sidewalks and driveways and then start knocking on doors, within a several block area. You got to know which houses were the best prospects – they gave you the most money. It was hard work for young boys back then – and we didn’t have the light, wide shovels that are used today. We used coal shovels – so it took quite a while to clear a sidewalk and driveway.
We quickly learned that it wasn’t always the nicest looking houses that paid the most – in fact, they were often the “cheap skates” (do people still use the term “cheap skates”?). The wealthiest neighbor on Sutherland Avenue was an old spinster, the matriarch of a family that owned a jewelry store in town. She was very rich – she even had a live-in maid. After we did both her driveway and sidewalk, we would knock on the door and she would come out with either a cookie for each of us or if we were lucky, a mincemeat tart. We didn’t go back to her house much after that, but if she saw us walking up the street with our shovels, she would start calling us from her door to come and do her place. And we were just too polite to turn an old lady down.
Anyway, back to the Swiss Army Knife.
I remember fighting with my older sisters at the breakfast table – for the cereal box. It wasn’t often that we had “boxed” cereal – normally we had porridge or cream of wheat – but when we did, it was either Quakers Muffetts or Shredded Wheat cereal. But both cereals usually had really neat stuff that you could buy – but first you had to save a certain quantity of box tops from the cereal; add a certain amount of money ($2 or $3 – depending on the item); complete the coupon and mail everything to the cereal company. I don’t remember how long I had to wait to get my order but it was probably a couple of weeks. Everyday, I would run home from school and ask my Mom if my package had arrived – and then be disappointed. Yes, disappointment at the Postal Service starts at an early age – shortly after finding out that there is no Santa Claus.
When the package from the Quaker Oats Company in Peterborough, Ontario finally arrived, I opened it with trembling hands. The Swiss Army Knife was probably the neatest (and only) thing that I had ever owned, and I didn’t have to share it with my sisters or younger brother. In addition to having 2 different blades, the knife also included a pair of scissors, a bottle opener, fork and spoon – how neat is that?
Although I don’t eat “boxed” cereals anymore, I probably would if they started offering neat stuff again. And now that I have a 10 Horsepower Snow Blower – the work would be a lot easier!
Too bad it seldom snows in Vancouver!