This old-time book could have been called “The Family Of Entrepreneurs”. All through the story you see members of the family sizing up things and figuring out ways to make a little more money or get things for free. Mother loves taking in boarders, and cooking for them. She even has a second house built on their lot that is rather like a dormitory, for extra income. The father is a land speculator, and often impulsively buys up land that he thinks will increase in price. Sometimes he’s right, but other times he loses money, and then it’s Mother’s boarders that carry the family budget. The kids collect scrap lumber from construction sites, change bed-sheets, help entertain the boarders, and sell flowers from their yard to people passing by. And then there was the hot-tamale business.
But this family is not about just getting, they’re also very giving. They are generous to a fault with hobos coming to their door looking for food. They help individuals down on their luck get back on their feet again, and often lend money to those they know will not be able to repay them.
The book is chocked full of lovable, crazy characters. Miss Sally, who took multiple baths a day, and was obsessed with how her hands looked. The hen-pecked young man Jeffery who didn’t know how to do anything but write sad poetry. Neighboring Mr. Mendoza with his chickens that he refused to pen up. Mr. Pryce, who didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift car. The missionary couple that was convinced God was punishing the Taylors for not properly observing Sundays.
This is one of the books that was printed in a special Armed Services version during World War II. It was part of an effort to relieve the terrible psychological stress that the soldiers endured while waiting for orders to move forward, or while huddled in foxholes. (To read more about books and World War II, check out this book:)
It was one of the first books to be mass-produced as a paperback by the publisher so that it could fit into a soldier’s pocket.
Because of its age, this is a hard book to get your hands on. You can buy it used off Amazon for between $8 and $155, or you can do what I did – borrow it with your library card. My own library didn’t have it anymore, so it was borrowed through a program that searched state-wide for it, and found a library willing to lend it out. I’m glad some libraries still keep these old-time books!