Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 23rd


Elliott was a member of this sales club. Notice above how the Zip Code was not yet used by the United States Postal Service. 😉

I think that Santa, himself, would agree with my young boy’s mathematical hypothesis in the following computation which went like this………join “The Junior Sales Club of America” in the summer of 1965 PLUS sell 60 boxes of Christmas cards PLUS endure a 90 degree Minnesota summer heat wave PLUS be grateful for generous family and neighbors EQUALS a brand new bicycle!!!

Elliott drooled and dreamed of having a full-size, three speed bike! That $80 bike, in 1965, would cost $700 here in the year 2021.

Dreams are quick to course through the mind of an imaginative and hopeful young boy when you’re 11 years of age. A major desire began to burn in my yearning heart when one day, on our farm, there in our rural mailbox, came the arrival of an incentive-based toy reward catalog from the “Junior Sales Club of America”. Within the covers of that dreaming catalog lay a vast plethora of toy ideas that could be mine. Next to each toy was its dollar amount value and the number of Christmas card boxes that would need to be sold to achieve and receive the toy(s) of my desires.

Accompanying the toy reward catalog was a personalized Christmas card display catalog that I would show to prospective clients in hopes of garnering enough sales to be able to win my prize of choice, which was a handsome “Schwinn”, three-speed, 26″ bicycle.

A sample of one design, among many, that Elliott sold that summer, that could be personalized with the customer’s family name on each card.

My old 20″ bike had only one speed…….ME….huffing and puffing as fast as my Norwegian legs could peddle. If I could just achieve my sales goal, I would have a taller and more modern bike with three gears to shift into for lightning speeds of fast biking adventures…….or so I imagined. 😉

The logistics of procuring that new bike would take some doing. I must’ve whined my poor mother’s ears off into allowing and joining me in my fortuitous hopes of selling enough boxes of cards to earn that bike. Next, I began making a list of all of our relatives and friends that I could approach to buy my cards and how many boxes each would buy. The next hurdle was the timeline of how fast could I sell my required 60 boxes and send in the order to the company in time to get the cards back to my customers before mailing them out for Christmas that year??

Being a soft hearted boy, I knew that not everyone would say “yes” to my sales proposal for Christmas cards. I tried to maintain my positivity in the same vein as the British Statesman/Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill who once said, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”. So, I did my best to smile and say, “Thank you for your time” to all those ladies of the house who would turn me down with a “No Thank You”.

Elliott is “on board” his sales transportation for selling Christmas cards. Mr. Morton Holstad holds a tight rein on their pony, “Little Lady”.

Our farm was located a full three miles in the countryside from our hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. Even the neighboring farms around us were between a quarter to a half mile away. If had tried to ride my “shanks horses” (an old euphemism for your two legs), it would’ve taken forever to walk long distances in order to sell those cards. Another travel alternative was my little old 20″ bike, but that would not have been much better with the ofttimes thick gravel on those country roads.

I then had an “Ah-haaa” moment!! I KNOW……..I’ll just ride my faithful Shetland pony to various farms or to Kiester while selling cards!! Our Shetland pony was the sweetest frame of equine elegance!!!! We even gave her the name of “Little Lady” because of her gentle spirit and willingness to please. Once she was fed, watered and saddled up, I could hang my satchel of card selling supplies from her saddle-horn, then swing myself into the saddle and away we went. With high hopes, my pony princess and I began our travels both near and far to local farms and even into our hometown city limits of Kiester.

Our farming community was nestled in south central Minnesota and just a mere mile, or so, from the Iowa border. A veritable checkerboard of gravel roads crisscrossed our agricultural countryside and “Little Lady”, with yours truly aboard, stopped at many a farm along those gravel roads.

Audio cassette tapes and cassette recorders had been invented just a couple years prior, in 1963, and, if I had been rich enough, at the time, I would have had one with me as I traveled. Why? You ask? Well, for those of us who lived in the Midwest, we associated Christmas and Christmas cards with frigid weather and snow, ya?

Yet, to the households I visited that summer, it seemed incongruous to the lady of each house I visited to have a youngster selling Christmas cards in the boiling 90 degree humidity of summer. After I had faithfully rattled off my sales pitch of how lovely my company’s cards were, and how they could be “personalized” with their family’s name and a short message……I’d almost always receive the same response, “Young man, it’s July and it’s 90 degrees out today!!! Why in the world are you selling Christmas cards in July”????

Elliott would have LOVED to have had a modern tape player to play back his response to potential customers for selling cards in the hot summertime of Minnesota. 😉

Like a “human tape recorder”, I would then have to repeat and repeat and repeat my reasoning to each and every household as to why I had to sell the cards in the summer in order to get the orders printed and back in time for mailing them out for Christmastime.

Eventually, through perseverance and the generous hearts of family and neighbors, I had finally achieved my sales goal and collected the dollars necessary to send in my order to the “Junior Sales Club Of America” office.

Elliott’s parents, Russell and Clarice Noorlun. Clarice was the banking intercessor for Elliott’s card sales.

The “Chief Financial Officer” of my Christmas card business was our beloved mother, Clarice. Out upon the kitchen table came all the cash, checks and coins I had collected from my various customers. Mom, in turn, using our Kiester First National Bank checkbook, made one single check to the greeting card company and away it went in the mail.

True to their word, eventually, in the chill of a Minnesota fall day, our local mailman delivered a giant box to our farm which was chock-full of 60 boxes of lovely and festive-looking Christmas cards for all our good customers. Each box of greeting cards were handsomely embossed with each family’s name and a personal greeting that they wanted to convey to their extended family and friends for the 1965 Christmas Season.

The Noorlun’s 1956 Chevrolet is ready to deliver all those Christmas cards that Elliott had sold earlier that summer in 1965.

On a special day, our strong father, Russell, hauled that massive box of greeting cards out to our good old ’56 Chevy and away we went to visit every farm and home where neighborly folks had bought cards from me.

All my customers were pleased with their orders and it was a zenith sort of a day for this young salesman to see.

I’ve heard that there’s an old saying in the Army………..“Hurry up and WAIT”!! That’s exactly what I had to do as I cherished and greatly anticipated the arrival of my handsome new bicycle. It was late winter or early spring of 1966 when the “Rewards Division” of “The Junior Sales Club of America” saw to it, one fine day, that there came a very large cardboard crate that contained the prize I had been working towards……..my new bike! Once assembled (thanks to my talented daddy) I rode that handsome set of wheels with great pride for it was the concrete evidence of a valuable life lesson of hard work (along with Mom’s banking prowess) for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉


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