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Rosie the Avon Lady

On this date in 1986, a 90-year-old Avon lady appeared on NBC’s Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She was Rosie Gries of Goodrich, North Dakota. She called it the second biggest highlight of her life. The biggest was a free trip to the national Avon convention.

Rosie made her first Avon sale in 1938 when she sold a 10-cent tube of hand cream. By the time she appeared on the Tonight Show, she had been selling Avon for 48 years. When she got Johnny to buy the entire stock she brought for $100, she was unruffled. She said, “I’ve had bigger doings than that.”

Rosie was cool and collected on the show. The Fargo Forum quoted her as saying, “I wasn’t nervous. Not a Speck. It was just like talkin’ to my cousin. Singing at a church for a wedding is worse than that.”

During the show, Carson rolled a film clip of Rosie driving on her sales route. Carson asked about the 1950 Chevy with a “slow vehicle” on the rear. Rosie said the car was “slow but sure.” She bought it from her Avon earnings for $150. She also told Carson that her Avon income helped remodel her home, add steel siding, install running water and build a garage.

Carson asked, of course, about North Dakota’s weather. She acknowledged that it gets cold, but said, “I like my state, North Dakota. The state that feeds you, you should stick up for.”

Gries gave Carson several presents: a North Dakota map, a letter from Governor George Sinner and a cap from the town of Goodrich.

When asked if she hated to go home, she said implied she wasn’t all that impressed with Hollywood, and wouldn’t want to stick around. “No, no, no, no. I don’t want to,” she said. “I want to go home and sell Avon. My (latest) shipment is waiting.”

Rosie made the news again ten years later. On her 100th birthday, she said, “I feel like I did when I was 16. I don’t feel my age. I can’t believe it.” She was now Avon’s oldest salesperson and had hired a driver to take her on her rounds. And she also went back to the Tonight Show, this time with host Jay Leno. It was June 28th, 1996, and Leno’s other guests were Richard Lewis and Dennis Rodman.

Wouldn’t you love to know what she discussed with Rodman back stage? Or what she sold him?

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

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