From about 9 this morning to about 10 minutes before noon, I read all 249 pages of The Trouble with Gumballs by James Nelson, which included the "About the Author" page, which was more interesting than most "About the Author" pages.
I was disappointed at first to find that there's no listing on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/) for it, and I was thinking that I'm probably too lazy to create one, since I'd rather be reading. But to give proper tribute to this book, I created one.
This was so much fun to read. Even the slightest bit of business matter, in profit, in trying to figure out profit, in wondering if a profit can even be made, is made funny by the nimble mind of author James Nelson, a former editor of Business Week, who moves himself and his family out to Northern California from New York City, and decides to get into the vending business, hauling around gumball machines, machines to dispense nuts, and even an attempted side business of jerky. He gets started with the No-Name Vending Machine Company, and it's hard to resist a book that includes a sketch of a man named Ogden Chugwater. Nelson didn't make this up.
He pays a significant amount of money to No-Name to get started, is hampered by Chugwater's delays in getting the machines to him and laying out the route which could include busy storefronts that might turn a profit, and eventually, Nelson gets started, and it's hard work. He's joined by his wife, who is an equal partner in this venture. She fills the machines with gumballs, she goes with him to see how much money they made from the machines, and in coming up with a name for their fledgling company, the Multivend Company, she names herself "Chairman of the Board." It works for Nelson, as the book is dedicated: "For the Chairman of the Board"
I've been interested in vending machines since Riverside Elementary School in Coral Springs, Florida, fascinated by all the mechanisms, and what can be stored in them for sale. Sometimes I stayed after school in the library to thumb through the encyclopedias and read everything I could on vending machines. I'm not machine-minded, but it's just the concept, in that I can ride the escalator down to the first floor of Macy's at the Valencia Town Center Mall and there's an iPod vending machine. It's become advanced enough that credit cards are taken. And here's Nelson, selling penny gum and filling those globes with gumballs at home.
Now to the purpose of this series, the beginning of chapter 1, the first page:
"Sweetie-pie," I said to Mary-Armour one night not too long ago, "how do you suppose we got here, anyway?"
It was one of thise winter evenings we have in Northern California, cold and rainy and miserable in the fields outside, but warm and toasty beside the blazing fireplace of our rented farmhouse. I was lolling, shoeless, in our easiest easy chair, staring morosely into the flames. Mary-Armour was sitting on the sofa working away at the tan sweater she'd been knitting for me ever since our courtship days.
At my question, she looked up and smiled, which was quite a heart-warming sight.
"How did we get here?" she echoed. "You mean, did the stork bring us?"
"Listen," I said. "I mean, how come did we leave New York and everything?"
James Nelson is (or was, since this book was published in 1956, and he's probably long gone) the best kind of business writer, one who can see into the humanity of a business, and so we get to read about grocer Freddie Wing Duck, and his wife Moonstone, and his Bongo Board. We also read about the severe Primus Gideon, who hates making change for children wanting to get gum from the machines, with such a fiery passion usually reserved for the most intense preachers.
I found this book because of my continued interest in vending machines, searching my local library catalog for more books, hoping that Kerry Segrave's "Vending Machines: An American Social History" had a listing. It still doesn't, but about two months ago, I bought it off of abebooks.com, not minding having to pay close to $30 for it. I've wanted to read it for so long.
I love the cover of that one. It's a soda machine, with "Vending Machines" across the blue stripe of the can, "An American Social History" under it, and Segrave's name squarely on the drop slot.
I found Nelson's book in the library catalog, put it on hold, and checked it out twice, but never got to it. This morning, I decided to finally read it, and it was a wonderful experience that made me feel so good during it and after I finished it.