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

James Nelson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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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 Details

  • File Size: 2034 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rolly Bolly Press; 2 edition (June 9, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,564 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read December 4, 2012
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one hilarious trip down gumball lane June 17, 2014
By Chris
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, witty, wise, and unwary June 21, 2014
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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The trouble with gumballs June 24, 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and evocative May 23, 2014
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have to love gum balls to love this book!!! October 15, 2014
By Babsy13
I won this book in a giveaway...thanks.

This little gem is celebrating its 57th Anniversary so you know it has to be good!!! This is a true story that takes place in the 1950's and since I grew up in the 50's I was eager to read the book. The author becomes a gum ball entrepreneur but suffers many set-backs and keeps going on. It's also a memoir that's very endearing and a pleasure to read. Highly recommend.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Trouble with Gumballs by James Nelson is a must-read for anyone who thinks they want to go into business for themselves.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, easy read July 9, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that is easy to read and full of chuckles. A good read at the beach or on the deck. Don't read this if you're looking to be philosophically challenged,but do pick it up if you'd like to be entertained with a quirky story.
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More 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), then spent 23 years on the creative side of a San Francisco advertising agency. He and Mary-Armour now live happily ever after in Marin County, California.


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