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May 25, 2013

A prized purchase brings a life lesson

Back during the 1930s, the Kalman Family Clothing Store was operating their business on Pleasant Street in Newburyport.

The immigrants often stopped by their store. Kalman’s carried a line of clothing needed by the immigrants, while other clothing stores offered fancier items. The line of clothes at Kalman’s was less expensive, yet nice. They also had a payment plan available with no money down. It’s hard to beat that one!

For the immigrants, that payment plan was heavenly. Once a month, the oldest Kalman son would visit the house and ask for 75 cents or whatever one could spare. And, there was no interest tagged on to the balance. My mother would make sure she had at least 75 cents when the Kalman son came to our door monthly.

I would enjoy looking at the styles in Kalman’s display window. One day, I was surprised to see a beautiful, black, leather jacket — similar to a bomber jacket. I liked it so much I’d go each day and look at it. Nobody seemed to buy it. If I remember, the price was around $12, which was a lot of money during the Depression.

About two months went by and still nobody had bought it. And, I was still going by daily and looking at the jacket on display in their window. Evidently, someone in the Kalman family must have noticed me because one day the oldest son said, “I see you’ve been looking at the jacket.” “Do you like it?” he asked. I said, “Yes, I do — very much.” He responded, “You can have it.” I told him, “I do not have any money.” He offered to reduce the price in half. And, he would put it on their payment plan.

It was approximately 1935, early fall. I had returned from my five-month tour of duty in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). I’d decided I would go back to school in the fall and complete my high school education. I had given my mother my monthly CCC checks of $25. She informed me she had saved some of that money and told me she’d help me buy the jacket. She handed me $2. I ran to the clothing store and gave it to Mr. Kalman and told him I’d pay the rest monthly on their payment plan.

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