Harmon’s Histories: Amazon can’t compete with shopping from the 1932 Hardin Tribune-Herald
By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current
It’s enlightening to read the back pages of old newspapers.
Why, I’ve learned that “the Island of Penguins, near the edge of the Antarctic, is a haven for millions of penguins. On a rock not more than four miles square, there are often more than 5,000,000 of the birds at one time.”
As a bonus, I found out that “secondhand vests from America are popular in India this winter.”
All that knowledge came from a single page of the Hardin Tribune-Herald, dated November 11, 1932.
But wait! There’s more.
On the same page, scrolling through the “Personal” section, I’ve discovered that there is a fortune – that’s right, a fortune – awaiting “MEN AND WOMEN with ambition and purpose.”
All I must do is send in a note requesting a free circular from J. LOCKE MACOMER, 321 Fleming Bldg., Des Moines. Iowa. He/She has “a fortune to divide” with me or you. Who wouldn’t want a fortune?
Then again, if I’m lonesome, all need to do is to send 10 cents and a stamp to receive a copy of the Detroit Social Gazette, the world's finest social paper.
It’s “full of photos and descriptions” of other lonely souls. Why, I’ll receive as many as 200 names and addresses for just $1. I just have to send that buck to “BERRY'S SOCIAL CLUB, Box 1501-G, Detroit. Mich.”
If Berry can’t help me, I’ll try Mrs. Budd from San Francisco. She has “desirable members everywhere” looking for marriage, and her list is free! Again, it’s as simple as sending my mailing information to Box 753-M, San Francisco, Calif.”
But my desire is to find a refined, wealthy partner. So the “Friendship Club” is the one for me. It can introduce a fellow to many women just dripping with wealth, and each connection is “confidential.” Just send the usual information to Box 125 in Gravette, Arkansas.
Of course, I’m happily married, so I’m just looking for a friend.
My personal interest is in learning my future. For that, I am encouraged to “send my birthdate and 50 cents in a self-addressed stamped envelope to “MADAME G., Box 58 Lewiston, Maine.”
I’d also like to be wealthy. For that, all I have to do is write to a fellow named George Edwards in Livingston, MT. He’s ready to send me information on how I can make up to $400 a month! Remember, this is 1932 – so, $400 bucks is a big deal.
Wait just a minute! I knew it was too good to be true.
Apparently I have to buy a bunch of wolf and coyote exterminator capsules from George, then spread them around my ranch, wait for those capsules to result in a pile of dead critters, and finally – load up that smelly pile of dead critters and take them to town for a reward.
It sounds like a lot of work, and I’m not sure I’d be allowed back anywhere near my wife and home smelling like a pile of dead coyotes.
The next ad is more promising. There are bargains to be had from the Alaska Junk Company in Spokane. All I have to do is load up on inexpensive “pipe, belting, sacks and steel roofing” and resell it, here, for a fortune!
But the best-sounding - and best-smelling - idea comes from D.H. Lhommedieu in Story County, Iowa. Old “D.H.” is a purveyor of the finest popcorn and honey in the land, and is offering it at bargain prices. I’m sure all the folks here would pay a premium for the finest popcorn and honey in the land. There’s my fortune!
Alas, my bride shot down this idea immediately, pointing out the obvious.
“So,” she said, “you want to spend our hard-earned money on popcorn and honey from Story County, Iowa?"
“Well yes, dear,” I meekly reply.
“And,” she adds, “you think you can make money by doing that?”
“Well, yes dear, that’s the idea.”
“And what makes you think you can make money by selling (at an inflated price) what anyone else can order directly, from the same source and pay the same price as you?”
Brilliant woman. That’s why I married her.
I could have been stuck with endless pounds of popcorn and honey – and no market.
Then again, being stuck with endless pounds of popcorn and honey is not a terrible outcome. In fact, it sounds yummy.
I’m sorry to end this so abruptly. I’m now being sent to my room and told not to come out again.
Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at email@example.com. His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at harmonshistories.com.