Selling Grit

In the vast closet of my memory banks, I recall a kid in the neighborhood who was always asking if our parents would be interested in reading Grit. It was a dime, as I recall, and my folks weren’t interested. But many other parents were, and the kid had nice stuff that he had obtained for himself as a result of his entrepreneurship.

He plied his trade hard. While the rest of us were of playing, this kid might be parked outside of Moonwink Grocery with his cloth bag full of Grits, patiently racking up the occasional sale.

Grit prospered for many years with the aid of its preteen sales force. Founded as a local Williamsport, PA newspaper in 1882, it slowly but surely increased its readership until, by the late 1950’s, it was close to a million with a local, a Pennsylvania, and a national edition.

Grit’s mission statement was simple: report the news, but keep things upbeat. People could read the nasty realistic side of the news any time, but Grit readers would come to appreciate its overall optimistic tone.

Grit from 1975

And most of its readers bought the papers one at a time from youthful salespeople. Kids sold grit up until the mid 1970’s, and at its peak years of the 1950’s, over 30,000 kids were distributing more than 700,000 copies.

Grit had something for everyone. There were the daily news headlines, the women’s section (Grit had a large female audience), the family section, the comics for the kids, and serialized novels. It would frequently take a nostalgic look at things, something I can relate to. 😉

As I said before, my parents weren’t Grit readers. But I was introduced to the newspaper when my father brought home a few boxes of stuff he had obtained at an estate auction, one of his favorite places to get cheap stuff. One box had a stack of Grits in it, and I spent many pleasant afternoons reading them in the storage shed where they were stored. It was fascinating stuff.

Indeed, there has always been a market for tasteful, conservative journalism. Readers Digest has long thrived dishing up such stuff. So has Capper’s Weekly, which reached much the same readership as Grit. And Grit continues to survive today, even though kids no longer sell it.

Now sold as a glossy magazine on the shelves of stores with rural clientele (e.g. Tractor Supply), Grit has a respectable circulation of 150,000. Its focus nowadays is on issues affecting farmers. The nostalgic articles are largely gone, replaced by more pressing issues like burning wood at the maximum efficiency, properly shearing alpacas, and which SUV is the best value.

But think way back, and I’ll bet you can remember a fresh-faced kid with a cloth bag slung over his shoulder parked at a busy location, selling “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.”

6 thoughts on “Selling Grit”

  1. I sold Grit… well,acouple of them, I guess. I also remember selling seeds for the American Seed Company, I believe it was called. I think there was another seed company, as well. I probably either learned about them in Grit or Boys Life.

  2. I actually sold GRIT around my neighborhood at an earlier age than what was allowed. In 1954, I was six years old. Back then I lived in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina. It was a very safe town where nobody ever locked their doors and young children could run and play wherever they wanted. A man used to come around my neighborhood selling GRIT and I would talk to him about the paper. One day he asked me if I wanted to sell them for spending money. He gave me about twenty papers and would get his money when he dropped off the next weeks papers. I got five cent for each paper I sold. I sold GRIT the entire summer of 1954 until school started. I am proud to say that I had my first job when I was six years old.

    1. I saw an advertisement about Grit in an online comic called Sad Sack:
      From there, I came across this web page. I must say, I enjoyed reading your story. It sounds as if you were blessed with a strong work ethic as well as an ambitious spirit of industry at a very young age.
      And yes, I remember those enchanting days when kids played & ran & explored from dawn to dusk, instead of sitting indoors all day staring at a screen. When racing or chasing each other, we would cut across neighbors’ lawns, and nobody called it “trespassing”. You knew where everyone was hanging out because that’s where everybody piled their bicycles. Way back before such things as school shootings, we were allowed to walk home at lunchtime. And everybody knew how to play handball, dodgeball, and other such games. Kids played ball games in the street, & it was taken for granted that the cars would stop for us! And everybody had either a German Shepherd, a Collie, a Lab, a Retriever, or the all-time classic favorite: a mongrel (or “mutt” as they were also called). There was no such thing as “Labradoodles” or “Puggles”. And picnics often consisted of sack lunches: brown paper bags containing a PBJ sandwich, a thermos of root beer, an apple or an orange, a hard-boiled egg, and Twinkies. We also played board games. And when Mom yelled out the window to come in for dinner, other moms would also summon us, hollering, “Your mom wants you home right this minute!” Well, Mr. Holt, thank you for awakening wonderful memories. Sincerely, Tab

  3. I sold Grit on a bicycle route of about 5 miles in rural Ky. My customers loved it and so did I.

  4. I was 11 years old when I sold Grit Newspaper. My Uncle had a very large farm where we all pitched in as “Hands”, hoeing fields, planting tractors and yes… picking cotton every Saturday when the fields were white! I averaged .75 per day, finger tips cut and bleeding… those were fun days with my sister and cousins.

    One day, while reading my 4H papers and reading comics I saw an ad that was hiring young pre-teen boys and girls to sell Grit Newspapers. Without telling my mom (a single mom raising four children after a military life in the Navy) I cut out and mailed in the invitation with my name and address. I was accepted!!!

    My mom was so surprised and happy she would take me to work from the country where we lived in Lee County South Carolina into Sumter South Carolina where she worked in a grocery store. I would spend my Saturdays walking around the shopping plaza selling great newspaper.

    I bought my first pair of shoes at Butler shoe store in Sumter on Main Street for $3.50 they were a pair of cloth “boat shoes” my first tennis shoes!

    One day my mom needed to put gas in her car she told the attendant all she had was 75 cents. I reached in my pocket and I told Mom, “put $3.00 of gas in the car.” That was more than enough to fill up the car. I let her keep the change, after all she did drive me into Sumter where I could sell a lot of papers in one day.

    That was my first taste of commission sales… I told my uncle, as much as I loved picking cotton and working in the fields I couldn’t do it anymore when he ask me why he thought I couldn’t physically do the work anymore, I was very small for my age. I told him Uncle J., I make $3 to $4 every Saturday selling Grit Newspaper and my fingers don’t bleed. He laughed and gave me the biggest hug I ever remember.

    My grandmother was one of my regular customers. My picture that my mom took with my cloth Grit Newspaper bag was featured in the magazine published periodically by Grit Newspaper for us guys and gals pre-teenagers who sold grit newspaper for our first commission sales.

    That started my decades-long career in sales I am now semi-retired my last sales career was pushing out marketing and project management for gig fiber in rural markets of Virginia.

    When I became a teenager I was no longer qualified to sell Grit Newspapers under that business model so I began selling local newspapers, sweeping the floors and shining shoes at a local barber shop.

    My last Grit Newspaper that I remember selling was the article that we had landed on the moon!

    A very sad note regarding today’s work ethics: many parents today would not allow their preteen children to work like that. Why? Because most adults today with young children would look at that business model as a way to promote illegal child labor laws.

    Thank you grit newspaper for getting us preteen kids off to a good start!!

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