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Section A: General News


The Watkins man visits the farm


The Watkins man visits the farm
Watkins vanilla


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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
July 16, 2014
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The Watkins man was a light shining in an otherwise dark lonely day for my mother. When we were living on the farm in the 1940s, we kids all were excited too, when the Watkins man came.

Life on the farm for my mother was sometimes lonely. The only company she would see for days or even weeks, was my daddy and us kids. She didn’t have friends, except Mrs. Gloor down the road about half a mile from us, but she had a husband and three boys and a girl, and she was just like Mother. So Mrs. Gloor didn’t get to visit much either. I am sure Mother yearned to talk to someone about grown-up stuff. Daddy would sometimes be working in the fields from daylight to dark.

As I was reading a book about a family growing up in the early 1900s near Fredericksburg, I read about how happy the woman was when the Watkins man came. It brought back so many warm memories of that time in my life.

J.R. Watkins in Plainview, Minn., who began selling liniment in 1868 door-to-door, founded the Watkins Company. Can you believe that was 146 years ago? In 1885 he added a number of products to its lineup. In 1895 baking materials like pepper and vanilla extract were added.

Mother always went out to his car, which was like a panel truck, and it always seemed to me like it had hundreds of bottles of medicine, and liniments, salves, and cooking stuff like spices, vanilla, and tapioca. Yes, tapioca. I don’t why I remember that. We loved that tapioca.

We all crowded around the Watkins man, because he always had a stick of gum for each of us kids. Mother would stand there and talk with him and look at the tray of goodies. After awhile she could go in the house to get her hidden savings out and count out the money for him, come back out and pay him.

I vaguely remember sometimes Mother also bought something called Cardui. I didn’t know what she took the Cardui for, so I looked it up today. It was a medicine for general female problems. It was advertised as a vegetable bitter tonic, which had a 19 percent alcohol content, plus: blessed thistle, black haw, and golden seal. In 1935 it cost 79 cents a bottle.

He would get in his automobile and drive down the dirt lane, leaving a cloud of dust behind him. Mother would go back in the house with her bottle of Cardui, vanilla, liniment, cinnamon, and black pepper.

That would probably be the only visitor we would have for weeks. We all looked forward to when the Watkins man would come again, maybe next month. And I still think Watkins Vanilla Extract is the best vanilla in the country!

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at loiswauson@yahoo.com.
 

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