September 23, 2012
Did you sell the New World in school?
New World staff members Frank Ryan, Maribeth Yandel, Vince Hartnett and Madeline Guerrieri prepare packages to be sent to Catholic schools participating in the 1955 crusade. Catholic New World file photo
Children's Crusade poster contest entries from 1942. Catholic New World file photo
A drawing of Cardinal Albert Meyer encourages children to participate in the crusade. Catholic New World file photo
New World crusader Billy Jeffries tries to sell a subscription to a doorman in 1943. Catholic New World file photo
A Children's Crusade rally in the Chicago Coliseum in 1943. Catholic New World file photo
Students read the Chicago Catholic in their classroom in this undated file photo. Catholic New World file photo
Catholic New World file photo
Once upon a time, the New World had an army of salespeople on the streets every year. Thousands upon thousands of fresh-faced Catholic school pupils sold the paper door-to-door in their neighborhoods, to their families and friends, competing for individual awards as well as recognition for their schools.
The New World Crusade ran from 1939 until the mid- 1960s, involving enough children that even now, when the Catholic New World contacts people of a certain age, it’s not uncommon to hear, “I sold your paper when I was in school.” Among the erstwhile Crusaders was Bishop John Manz, who only a few years ago was presented with a plaque in honor of his efforts — a plaque that was probably some 50 years overdue.
The Crusade was strongly supported by the cardinal-archbishops of Chicago. In 1965, Cardinal John Cody wrote this to school principals in advance of the two-week crusade.
“The part that you have had in the development of The New World has been truly edifying, and it is a source of happiness to me to know that it is extensively circulated. … I regard our Catholic newspaper as the most effective instrument possible for bearing the message of Christ to every Catholic home in the archdiocese.”
The crusade period was kicked off with four separate regional rallies on the same day. Awards were given not only to top sellers, but also to winners of poster and essay contests.
Alice Klauser Dillon, now of Westchester, said she sold the paper all eight years she was at Maternity BVM school, between 1940 and 1948. Dillon said she had an advantage in being the oldest in her generation of a large family, but she also demonstrated a knack for marketing.
“Periodically, our parish published a list of the amounts of money which parishioners had given in the offertory collection along with their names,” Dillon wrote in an email to the Catholic New World. “I always saved that list, looked up the addresses of the top donors, and went to their homes to ask for subscriptions. This was usually quite successful.”
Every afternoon during the drive, students would wait for the announcement of which classroom was in the lead, she said. Since the school did not have a public address system, the information was conveyed by the school bell. Four rings, for example, meant that Room 4 was ahead.
“I remember the Crusade as being fun, not a chore,” Dillon wrote. “It was a different era when allowing a young girl to go door-to-door to strangers’ houses did not worry my protective parents. My father did drive me to some addresses that were too far for me to walk, but I went up to the doors alone. In those days, toys and treats were not abundant, and we loved any extra gift, even a new holy picture or bookmark. One year I won a bride doll for being the top seller. It is still among the treasures on my closet shelf.”
Mary Anne Sigel, who attended St. Frances de Paula School near 78th and Ingleside, doesn’t remember being anywhere near as successful in her neighborhood of apartment buildings and two- and three-flats, but she looks back on her days as a newspaper salesgirl — especially on some of the rejections — with some amusement.
Once, when she was in second grade, she rang the bell for a third floor apartment. The woman who lived there buzzed her into the building and then called down from the top of the stairs to ask what she wanted. Sigel, then 6 years old, yelled back, “Would you like to buy the New World?”
The woman yelled back, “No, thank you. I’m very happy with the old one.”
Another time, she said, she tried to sell a subscription to the owner of the neighborhood drug store. He told her he couldn’t buy it because he was Jewish. “Well, what’s the difference?” she asked.
Her husband, Robert F. Sigel, attended St. Cajetan School and had better luck, selling about 10 subscriptions each year. That might have been because he had a bigger extended family, or it might have been because his school gave students that sold at least five subscriptions a day off of school.
“My school never did that,” she said.