Aided by a Christmas Angel

His father was skeptical, but he was determined to sell enough cards all by himself to earn a transistor radio.

By John Gessick, Pottsboro, Texas

As appeared in

In the late 1950s there was nothing an 11-year-old boy wanted more than a transistor radio. With four kids to support on the salary from Dad’s factory job, my parents didn’t have the money to buy one for me. What could a kid do in such a tough spot?

An ad in the latest issue of Boys’ Life magazine seemed to hold the answer: If I could sell 15 boxes of Christmas cards, I could earn a radio all by myself!

As I pored over the rules, I could already see myself, the proud owner of my very own transistor radio: holding it in my hand as I walked through the neighborhood, tying it to the handlebars of my bike, tucking it under my pillow to listen to rock and roll before I went to sleep.

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How hard could it be to sell 15 boxes of cards? Just watch me! I thought, shutting the magazine.

First thing I had to do was get a parent’s permission. “I know it sounds like a good deal, but it’s a waste of time,” my dad insisted when I showed him the ad after dinner. “Nobody buys those things.”

Dad obviously didn’t see how important this was to me, so I went straight to Mom in the kitchen. “Please!” I said. “I’ll do it all myself. I’ll sell every box. You’ll see.”

Mom gave in and signed the consent form. The next day, my application was in the mail. I would show my father it wasn’t a waste of time when I had that shiny new transistor radio!

The cards arrived a few weeks later. They were just your standard cards–a Christmas tree and an angel on front, “Merry Christmas” written inside–but to me they were a gold mine. Early Saturday morning I climbed on my bicycle and hit the neighborhood. My goal was to have every box sold by lunch.

“Hello!” I greeted the first lady who answered her door. “I’ve got the best Christmas cards ever. Want to buy a box?”

“No, thank you, young man,” she said. “I’ve already got more than enough for this year.”

Oh, well, I thought as I got back on my bike. She’ll be the only person on the block who misses out.

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Actually, she would have a lot of company in the missing-out department. House after house I got the same answer: No, thank you. Lunch came and went and I’d only sold one box.

I pressed on, riding farther than I ever expected, and didn’t get back home until almost dinnertime. All I had to show for it was a grand total of three boxes sold.

I flopped down onto the living room couch, exhausted. “How are the sales going?” Dad asked from behind his newspaper.

“Slow,” I admitted. “But I’ve got all day tomorrow after church.”

“Mmm-hmm,” said Dad.

When the service ended the next morning, I was the first person out the door. That way I could talk to everyone as they left. “Get beautiful cards to send to your friends and family,” I said, showing off my wares. “Only a few more weeks till Christmas!”

“Sorry, I already bought my cards,” I heard again and again. It seemed I wasn’t the only kid trying to earn that radio. Soon the church parking lot was empty and I hadn’t sold anything. I got on my bike and rode off. Once again I didn’t get home until it was nearly time for dinner.

“Sell anything?” Dad asked.

“One box,” I said. “Maybe people like to buy things during the week.”

“Mmm-hmm,” said Dad.