The 1938 newspaper photo is fuzzy, but you can see Luanna Scott to the near right carrying her canvas Saturday Evening Post bag. The caption reads: “When the Al G. Barns and Sells Floto circus came here (Ontario, Oregon) yesterday, the railroad tracks were a Mecca for the kids—and a good many adults. Members of this group of wide-eyed, breathless youngsters is (sic) typical of the hundreds that swarmed over the tracks.”
In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt was president of the U.S. and unemployment was a continual problem. The average cost of a new House was $4,100 and average annual wages were between $1,700-1,800. It was the year that the Golden Gate Bridge was completed and opened; Amelia Earhart disappeared; and the pride of the German air fleet, the Hindenburg, went down in flames. And, of course, it was the year little Luanna started her first job.
In the very early 1900s, Curtis Publishing developed a network of young boys (and occasionally girls) to sell their popular magazines: The Saturday Evening Post, The Country Gentleman and (at that time) The Ladies Home Journal. Since youngsters needed every penny they could earn, it became a great way to get these issues in nearly every American home.
“It was a depressing time for our family in 1937,” Luanna Mitchell wrote, “but I was very fortunate at 7 years old because my older brother signed up the sell The Saturday Evening Post. He changed his plans before the magazines arrived, so I got to have his job. We lived in a very small town during that time in Ontario, Oregon. There were maybe 1500 people in the whole area.”
We determined that the newspaper photo Mrs. Mitchell sent us ran in the local paper on June 20, 1938, so this was probably the issue of The Post she carried in that canvas bag. The June 18 issue had five fiction stories and two serials, as well as an editorial staff that was not fond of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, and was keeping a leery eye on that Hitler guy in Germany.
“The Post sold for a nickel each and I got to keep 1.5 cents a copy. This was big money to a little girl. Every Saturday morning, 25 magazines were delivered to our home. My first delivery of magazines came with a white canvas pouch for me to carry them in, which I still have today. I could easily sell these magazines because they were the most popular of that time. And, how many businesses would turn down a little girl working hard for her five cents when times were so difficult? I also became a pretty good sales person and learned some business savvy in the next few years that has helped me throughout my life in many ways. I held sales jobs all through school and I had a small business of my own, a craft and collectibles shop that did very well.”
This is our hard-working newsgirl today at age 82. The handsome gentleman is Luanna’s husband, Carl, 87. The photo was January 2012 on their 60th wedding anniversary. We thank Luanna for sharing her early Saturday Evening Post experiences. And, by the way, we wish Luanna and Carl a very happy anniversary.
Were you (or was someone you know) a Post newsboy (or girl)? We’d love to share your story with our web readers! Comment below or e-mail Diana.