(reading time approx. 9 ½ minutes)
Winnie and I just arrived home from our Florida honeymoon. We had the sum total of $30 to our name. I was unemployed. Now I have to make a buck, today and every day, rain, snow, sleet or hail. I must generate much needed cash immediately, to eat. I’m 20 years old, with a new bride, no job, and only 30 bucks. I had to help put food on the table, which we were sharing with my mother while temporarily living in her house. We were broke! My mother was not much better off. At least she had a job and a charge account at Harry Goldberg’s corner grocery store at the end of our block, if we needed it. My duty was to bring home cash today and every day. I made a contact with a printer, who was also a dealer for advertising novelties, calendars and business printing. The very next day, I made a deal with him to be a printing and advertising novelty salesman. I knew I could sell anything. My commissions were immediate from the cash deposit of each sale, on the day of the sale. I could then contribute daily for the groceries, which we charged at Harry Goldberg’s store. A win-win situation! We didn’t know it yet, but later found out that my wife was pregnant! Unfortunately, I had just crashed my car, (which is another story – see “Red Flag and Steel Beams”). I had to walk everywhere or use public transportation, if I had the fare.
Coming home late one afternoon, I stopped to pick up some groceries at Harry Goldberg’s grocery store. While I was there, I seized the opportunity and sold Harry some printing, advertising, order books, and rubber stamps. He was an easy sale, which amounted to $50. My commission was 25%, $12.50. He needed the items that I was selling and I needed the commission from the sale. $12.50 a day was $75 for a six day week, $3900 a year, decent earnings at that time. (1945) I found it easy. “Piece of cake!” As I thanked him and was about to say goodbye, he said, “Russell, just a minute. Let me give you some good advice, that I’m too old to take myself. Listen carefully. You are a good salesman! Remember this: IT IS JUST AS EASY TO SELL SOMETHING FOR TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS, AS TEN CENTS.” What could he mean? It was my last call of the day. I thanked him for the advice and his business, and bade him goodbye. I pondered his advice as I walked home. “$10,000 as easy as TEN CENTS?” What could be $10,000? Where could I get such a job? I related the advice to my wife and Mother when I arrived home. They also pondered. In a moment, my wife excitedly and gleefully cried, “HOUSES” Wow, what a wonderful idea. She immediately went to the employment want ads in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, and found this advertisement:
REAL ESTATE SALESMAN: Unusual earnings will be your reward if you qualify for our sales staff. Liberal commissions and drawing account. Contact John P. Henrie, Easton Road and Mt. Carmel Avenue, Glenside, Pa. Call BA4-1200.
My wife and mother enthusiastically encouraged me to call quickly and apply while the position was still available. I called. The line was busy. I called again, several more times. The line was still busy. Having no car at the time, I decided to hitchhike the next morning, bright and early, to Glenside. It was about five or six miles away. When I arrived at the real estate office, about 9:00 AM, I entered a crowded waiting room, with about 20 other men applying for the same job. Slim chance for me I thought. I’ll never stack up to the competition. These are mostly matured men, and I’m not even 21 yet. No car. No license to sell real estate. And, I know absolutely nothing about houses. Should I waste my time even applying? At least I owed it to my wife to apply, I reasoned. If I’m turned down, I could continue to sell my advertising novelties to the merchants in Glenside, on the way home.
The sales manager approached me and asked if I were there to apply for the sales job. I had to think fast and said, “I wasn’t aware of a sales opening, but I can sell anything. Right now, I am here to show you ways to help sell your houses.” He looked surprised, puzzled and slightly amused. He left and returned in a minute. “Come with me”, he said, leaving all of the other applicants waiting. I followed him into the boss’s office. The broker, John P. Henrie, was a dapper, sophisticated six-footer, with an English tweed jacket, tan trousers, and spats. I was introduced. “Have a chair”, he said. “I understand you claim that you can sell anything.” “Yes sir”, said I, “and I have come to realize that it’s just as easy to sell something for TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS AS TEN CENTS. That’s the range of houses, and given the chance, I know I can do it. I can start tomorrow. But while I am here, I would like to show you some of the items I’m offering until I make the right connection with a real estate broker somewhere in this area.” I proceeded to display some of my calendars and other novelties and sold him $100 worth of printing and novelties, for which my commission was $25. That’s twice what I made yesterday at Harry Goldberg’s grocery store. The broker, Mr. John P. Henrie, ordered the secretary to give me a deposit of $25 from petty cash. He said he would let me know after he interviewed the other applicants about the sales job. On the way out, I noticed the office had even more applicants than when I had arrived. I whispered in the sales manager’s ear, “tell those guys waiting for an interview, you have your man. That’s me. I could sell rings around them.” He smiled. I gave him a hearty handshake and waved good-bye to the REALTOR, the boss, saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for the order.”
With fifteen or twenty guys still waiting to be interviewed, there is no way I’m going to get this job. But at least, I made $25 bucks. I hitchhiked home, still beating the bushes, selling more printing to local merchants along the way home. I made a few more sales and $10 more commission. $35 for the day. $35 a day. Six days a week, for 52 weeks, that’s $10,920 a year. That was big money in 1945. I was on a roll.
When I got home, I knew my wife would be disappointed if I didn’t get hired as a real estate salesman, so I girded myself for our mutual disappointment. I opened the door quietly and gave a cheery “Hello, I’m home and I just made $35 today and $25 of it was at the real estate office where I applied for a job. There were too many other applicants there for me to be the winner, but at least I had a good day with my printing sales.” “You may have a problem with your sale”, my wife said. “A Mr. Henrie called and wants you to call him back, right away. It’s now after 6:00 but he said the call would be accepted in his home, if he were not there. He also said he could still be in the office. It’s the real estate business and they don’t have regular hours.” “Oh, Oh” I thought. I called, expecting the worst. First thing he said to me was, “MILLER, I don’t want these damn calendars you sold me. You can keep the deposit but cancel the sale. If you want to be a real estate salesman, be here tomorrow morning. 9 AM sharp! Let’s talk business! You sold me, and you are right! It is just as easy to make a sale for $10,000 as 10 cents. Now you can prove it. I have 385 new single houses for you to sell at $8,500 each. You can start tomorrow. You will have a drawing account of $40.00 a week.” My head was spinning and my heart pounding with excitement.
All of this came from the advice given to me by HarryGoldberg with his GOLD MIND, who said:
“It is just as easy to sell something for $10,000 as ten cents.” Thank you Harry Goldberg with the Gold Mind. You were correct! You gave me a career and a great life. I spent the next 50 years of my life in the Real Estate business, thanks to Harry and my wife who said, how about houses. Yep, houses were the answer. HOUSES! And they are easy to sell.