Eva's Retro 60s Flashbacks
For Whom the Doorbell Tolls
For whom does the doorbell toll? In the Sixties, it tolled quite often for stay-at-home moms.
Avon reps, Fuller Brush Men, magazine hawkers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, tin men trying to get a little on the
side—customers for aluminum siding, that is. Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong! According to a statistic
disclosed in “American Family Values of the Sixties” by Emily Potter, “During the early Sixties, nearly 70 per
cent of families resembled those of the Fifties.” Most dads, whether blue-or-white collared, drove to work in
the family vehicle, leaving the women behind to run the household and take care of the children. This left the
door wide open, so to speak, for sales pitchers to cross over the threshold and step into the parlor to peddle
“Ding Dong! Avon Calling!” Before Avon representatives buzzed
their way in to bend an ear about 17 ways to wear an Avon fragrance, or spread out the new collection of ultra
sheer, translucently expressive pink lipsticks, or entice the lady-of-the-house with blue and green eye
shadow—David H. McConnell, an unsuccessful book salesman, concocted a rose-scented perfume as a free gift to entice
people to buy his books. The perfume became so popular, this “ladies man” ditched the books and founded the
California Perfume Company in 1886. Leave it to Mrs. P.F.E. Albee, a lady with the gift of gab, to come up with the
idea of marketing perfumes door-to-door that same year. By recruiting a team of saleswomen, women had the chance to
work outside the home in an era when there were few opportunities to do so. It wasn’t until 1963 when Betty Friedan
wrote The Feminine Mystique, chronicling the lives of unhappy and unfulfilled women in their traditional roles of
housewives, that more women felt encouraged to start careers of their own, thereby placing greater demands on their
husbands to help out with housework and child care.
After McConnell’s death, his son took over the business and
changed the company name to “Avon” in 1939, honoring Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-on-Avon. "What's in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Avon sold its first novelty perfume decanters in
the 1960s. Collectible glass car decanters appeared in 1968.
Even though sales pitchers have the knack for being “full of it”,
don’t give the bum’s rush to Fuller Brush—a company with “the best products of their kind in the world.” Once these
guys made it to first base with the missus—I’m guessing the love seat or sofa—they “gave their very best” make it
work, make it last, guarantee it no matter what! No telling what the Fuller Brush Man had inside that suitcase of
his besides those unique, custom-made brushes. Household cleaning aids, polishes & wax products, stainless
steel sponges, lotions and fragrances, hair care aids—now we’re talkin’! In 1966, Fuller Brush hired 17,500 women
for the door-to-door campaign due to lack of qualified men, following the high heeled path led by Avon.
“Now I know I've got a heart, 'cause it's breaking.” Maybe so for
the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, but not so for fast-talking “tin men” Ernest Tilley and Bill “BB” Babowsky,
door-to-door aluminum siding salesmen circa 1963, Baltimore (Tin Men, 1987). Working for different companies, these
two are prepared to do whatever it takes to close a sale. One of their scams entailed appearing on someone’s front
lawn with a camera and tripod. When the housewife came out, they’d explain how they were doing a photo presentation
about aluminum siding for Life Magazine—a before and after scenario to show how much better a house looks after
it’s aluminum sided. “Your house is going to be the before picture.” Nyuk, nyuk! That’s all most women needed to
hear so they’d badger their husbands to get the house sided so theirs could be Life after siding.
“I’m not interested” or ”I’m busy right now”-- many a Sixties
housewife’s typical answer when she discovered the caller on the other side of the screen door was a Jehovah’s
Witness. As God is my witness through a statistic I came across, Jehovah’s Witnesses get answers at only about half
of the homes they visit—at that, no one invites them in. On average, it takes about 740 random calls for each
convert. I’m thinking maybe a rose-scented perfume as a free gift would entice the mistress or matron of the manor
to bide the Bible.
Nowadays, we live under a mushroom cloud of spammers and scammers.
Virtually no one is home during the day because most moms have a career in addition to ferrying the kids to soccer
practice. The only doorbell ringer is apt to be a Girl Scout selling cookies around dinner time. Offering a sweet
deal, you’ll sign on the dotted line and pay her up front, trusting her to make good on your order for Thin Mints,
Caramel DeLites, and Peanut Butter Patties.
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