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The Trouble With Gumballs: The Story of an Expensive Venture into the World of Private Enterprise [Kindle Edition]

James Nelson

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  • Length: 224 pages (estimated)
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Book Description


This portrait of a gumball entrepreneur's life in 1950s America is a slice or retail business history and a funny freelance memoir all rolled into one.
When James Nelson decides to move his family out West to California in 1952, he takes the leap into entrepreneurship by buying a slew of gumball machines. The ad guaranteed quick profits and easy money, but comic frustrations were what he got. Savvy modern readers will laugh at Nelson's charming naiveté while millennial freelancers will identify with his determination to keep on after endless setbacks. The gumball machine is an iconic symbol of 1950s Americana, and while the story chronicles Nelson's foibles with gumball entrepreneurship, it's the funny characters he meets along the way that are the true stars of this funny memoir. His larger-than-life descriptions of the characters of San Francisco and Sonoma county paint historic California as a fun scene—even for a man who makes his living one grubby penny at a time.

A fun read for fans of humorous travel writing, Sonoma County or San Francisco narratives, or anyone wanting to get an insider view of start-up from the days before Silicon Valley.

Product Description

About the Author

James—Jim—was born in Denver, schooled there and in New Haven (code word for Yale), spent four WWII years in the Navy, then six in New York as an editor for Business Week. After marriage and the birth of their first child, the happy couple moved to Sonoma, California. Jim freelanced there for five years (code for until the money ran out). One of the original Mad Men of the more relaxed West-coast variety, Nelson spent 23 years on the creative side of a San Francisco advertising agency. His first novel, On the Volcano, was published in 2011. He and Mary-Armour now live happily ever after in Marin County, California.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2034 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rolly Bolly Press; 2 edition (9 Jun. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,345,441 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 4 Dec. 2012
By drjrharris - Published on
I read this book many years ago and never forgot about it. Recently re-purchased it and have enjoyed it over again. Referred and given as a gift to several friends struggling to start their own business. A fun read, worth your time and an great gift.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one hilarious trip down gumball lane 18 Jun. 2014
By Chris - Published on
My girlfriend gifted me this book because I live in Northern California (alas, in Oakland not beyond the Golden Gate Bridge where this book is set). It's funny, but not in that snarky way I'm used to (e.g. Louis CK). Instead the humor comes from how icredibly optimistic the author is, while every person he deals with is comically absurd.

It's about a guy who has to get a job to support his new family, so he starts running gumball machines. Doesn't really matter what it's about, it's less about the plot and more about the crazy characters he encounters. Not usually my thing, because I like plot-driven books, but this one is a good slice of life.

I'd be curious to compare his 1950s experience to that of modern freelancers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, witty, wise, and unwary 22 Jun. 2014
By Dorie Rosenberg - Published on
Jim Nelson's adventurous and optimistic spirit is expressed so vividly in this delightful tale. This spirit is a consistent spark that enlivens his personality and allows him to find the ray of hope in life's downturns. Jim's good-natured ribbing of the characters he deals with, and the patience he applies to the setbacks in his burgeoning business, perfectly reflect his strong and unique character. I can vouch for this from the hundreds of conversations we've enjoyed throughout the years, as I have the good fortune to be his neighbor.
I highly recommend all of Jim's other books, too!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and evocative 23 May 2014
By Randolph Scott - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Trouble With Gumballs offers up characters as colorful and appealing as its subject. Set in a time when flim-flam was still a surprise, and a good time could be had for a penny, it takes a good humored look at the basics of business and the joy of making an honest sale. The author's willingness to believe in a dream lands him in one tough spot after another but his indomitable spirit carries the day. Appropriate for entrepreneurs age 8 to 108.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The trouble with gumballs 24 Jun. 2014
By Vivi-Anne Riordan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I truly enjoyed this book, it was very funny and a new experience, learning about the trials and tribulations of the vending machine business, i.e. Gumballs. It was extra special for me since I know the Author and his wife (They are family.)

Vivi-Anne Riordan
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