by Larry Wilcox
Bartering was quite normal during the depression. I recall traveling salesmen coming by selling their wares and trading for chickens, eggs, etc. One salesman comes to mind. A young college graduate came by selling ironing boards. This peddler sold my mother an ironing board in exchange for several chickens. His name was Donald Murk and would later become a science schoolteacher, coach, principal and finally superintendent of the Russett school. Like a lot of other Okies, he had gone to California and came back to Oklahoma. He owned a 16 cylinder Mercury Zephyr car that was extremely fast.
But, our most favorite peddler of all was Mr. Scarberry. Mr. Scarberry had built on the bed of his pickup a wooden box looking a great deal like what we now call pickup caps or campers. The box had doors that opened to reveal shelves of wonderful merchandize. He stocked his shelves with items you would find in town at the dry goods store like shirts, overalls and even straw hats. His shelves also contained things normally found at the hardware store, like tools and pots and pans.
But, the one thing that we liked most of all was he sold candy. Our favorite penny candy was called “Guesswhats”. The Guesswhats contained caramel candy along with little prizes. The idea from the name was to guess what was the prize.
He had a route throughout the county and came by our place once a week. When one of us children spotted him driving down the dusty road with his “rooster tail” of dust rising from the rear of his pickup, it was a festive occasion hailed by the shouting of “Mr. Scarberry is coming, Mr. Scarberry is coming…” which brought everybody running. He had a chicken coop on the top of the wooden box into which he would put chickens my mother and others would use in exchange for his goods. The Guesswhats were a penny apiece, for which we could trade old zinc jar lids with the glass seal broken out. They were worth a penny each.
There were other types of peddlers trying to make a living during the depression. Remember the Watkins and the Rawleigh peddlers? They sold everything from liniment to vanilla flavoring.
Addendum by Carolyn (Henry) Massey
Some of my memories of our Peddler, Mr. Scarberry:
I remember Mr. Scarberry coming to our house when I was about six years old. He always came on Thursday afternoon. Seems it was mostly in the summertime that he would come. Gwendolyn, Margaret Ann and I couldn't wait until then. It was so much fun to run out to the truck and anxiously wait for him to open the big flap door and ask what kind of candy we wanted.
I remember I loved the "chicken leg". It was a long narrow cylinder type of stick candy and was SO GOOD. After he left, we would sit on the front porch in the shade and enjoy our candy. I remember one time Mother bought some powdered butterscotch pudding mix and she would make us pudding once in a while. It was so good. With the things she bought from him, came along lasting memories, and exciting times for me as a little girl on those happy Thursdays in Russett, Oklahoma.
Addendum by June Boyer --
I am sure everyone who ever grew up or lived at Russett in the 30's and 40's has a story about Peddler Scarberry. All the kids loved Peddler Scarberry and he loved them. My Mother also purchased things she needed with chickens as no one had any money in those days. He called on us once a week and like Larry we always knew when he was coming and watched for the dusty truck to come down the road, we would yell to Mother, "Peddler, Peddler is coming" and usually she was always out there before his truck stopped too.
We had this great dog, named Zero I will have to write a story about him, the finest dog God ever let live, but this day Peddler Scarberry got out of his truck before Mother got out into the yard and he picked me up and tossed me in the air as people use to do to make kids giggle and when he did Zero made a lung for his throat and I do not know to this day how he escaped except God was looking out for Peddler Scarberry that day. God knew what a wonderful man Peddler Scarberry was but unfortunately Zero did not. He got back into his truck very fast and never got out of it again until Mother was outside beside us.
Peddler Scarberry loved us so much and he always gave me and Joan a piece of penny candy. I remember each time I got a chance to see him when I would come back home to visit I would love to see him and he lived to be way up into his 90's. I am not sure exactly how old he was when he died but I remember seeing and visiting him when he was in his 90'. He was a wonderful man and God was good to him and let him live a long life.