Two Cents a Cut-Out

From Behind These Doors, a Family Memoir

1945 • Sonora ~ At six, Betty opened her first business. She admired the ads featuring beautiful cigarette girls wearing long gloves, short skirts, high heels, and satin pillbox caps—and particularly applauded the ingenuity of the lacquered trays they carried like a personal shelf, supported by a handy strap encircling their pretty necks.

Getting up early one Saturday morning, she set to work constructing one of s-l225those trays from a cardboard box she got from the store, borrowing a belt of Dad’s for the strap. Then she made a little flat-topped cap from stiff butcher paper, mixing flour and water in a bowl for paste to glue it together, and braided a half-dozen rubber bands for the chin strap. Waiting for the pasted flaps to dry, she spent the next couple of hours carefully cutting out glossy pictures from Mother’s stack of Colliers, Cosmopolitan, McCalls, and Good Housekeeping magazines with Mom’s good sewing scissors.

By midday Betty set up shop in front of the Sonora Inn, sporting a pair of Mom’s long black gloves and clomping back and forth in a pair of her dress heels, hawking pictures to passers-by, singing, “Cut-outs, cut-outs, two-cents a cut-out. Or get yourself a deal: three for a nickel and you get yourself a steal!”

Within the hour Mom heard from a customer about the new commercial endeavor, hotfooted over to the Inn, and with smoke steaming from her ears snatched Betty by a braided brown pigtail and stomped around the corner on home, hauling my sister by her hair, pictures flying, heels dragging, chewing her out royally for embarrassing the family.

Betty didn’t mention the thirty-two cents she’d made that was jingling in her coin purse at the bottom of her shoulder-strap pocketbook.

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  1. Very fun read. You paint a vivid picture Catherine.

  2. John Duchi says:

    Oh, my mother. Always was a sharp one, wasn’t she? And enterprising, as well. When it comes down to it I’m not sure who I got it from more, my mother or my father. Or why I got over it so quickly when I got the opportunity to do so.

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