My grandpa was a widower at the time and I considered him to be very old – ancient. He had a modest home and when I went along with my dad to visit his dad (in German) I remember one thing hanging on Grandpa’s wall: a calendar with a picture of the Dionne Quints.

The Quints were five beautiful identical little black-haired girls born in Ontario, Canada, in May of 1934. Their names were Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie and Marie. Every year they were pictured on the calendar Grandpa had on his wall. Grandpa certainly would never have bought a calendar, so I suppose the Dionne calendar had been sent out by his bank, grocery store or insurance agency.

In mid-January whenever I walk through one of my general merchandise stores, I can’t help noticing a whole section of calendars for the year 2020. The amazing thing about them, though not surprising when you think about it, is that they’re already discounted to 50%. I suppose the calendar buying season for 2020 is just about over, but there are still huge numbers of them on hand. They’re full of pictures: you can see Miss January busting out of her bikini, an assortment of puppies, the great mountain peaks of the world, antique tractors, churches, antique cars, main street scenes, prairie scenes, lighthouses, beach scenes, horses, skyscrapers, kittens, wild animals, one-room schoolhouses, farm scenes, old clocks, and just about anything that people collect, consider art or interesting.

Lynn Hummel
Lynn Hummel

As I have indicated earlier, I am optimistic about the year 2020. However, I am puzzled about the prospect of profit in the calendar business. In the business schools when they advise on promising opportunities for the year, they must list electric cars, new technologies, burgers without meat, life saving medicines and space age thinking. Certainly, no business adviser would recommend you print a product that will become obsolete in the first month of its useful life and discount it to 50%. Who wants to end up with a warehouse full of brand-new unsold calendars? After all, calendars are standard features on smartphones, aren’t they?

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As for the once-famous Dionne Quints, they’re not on calendars anymore. Only two are still living. The poor little girls were exploited for publicity and entertainment purposes (like being placed on calendars) and they generally experienced unhappy childhoods.

Let me finish these curious and not useful observations with a note of humility and caution. Those of us who make observations about what is going on around us tend to think that if we can’t understand something that is either a huge mistake or stupid. Like, why are they still making all of those calendars? We should pause and consider that there are smart people all around us. Quite likely, the people making and selling those calendars know exactly what they are doing and know that the old-fashioned way of doing things still work for those who stick with the basics.