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Johnson achieves 50-year Tupperware milestone

Mary Ann Johnson has enjoyed her Tupperware career immensely. Karen Huber / Pioneer

Mary Ann Johnson started selling Tupperware in April of 1963.

She remembers that time well.

"I went to a party and I must have said something to encourage the dealer. Anyway she called me, we had lunch, and I said I'd give it a try, and 50-years later I am still trying," Johnson joked.

Her career has now come full circle starting out as a sales consultant hosting parties, serving as a manager for 12 years retiring from that in the early 90s, before returning to the consulting scene which still continues today on a very occasional basis. "They have been really good to me. Since I've gotten older they kind of let me do as I like." Johnson said. "Here she smiles when mentioning the 50-year birthday party marking her career milestone held for her April 15 at the Tupperware distributorship Evergreen Sales in north Fargo.

Recounting the years, Johnson said Tupperware has been the perfect profession for a young widowed mom with four children in need of an adequate income.

She grew in Galesburg, N.D., marrying grain manager Gordon Johnson, whose job required moving around. They found themselves traveling the small town circuit living in the communities of Inkster, Gardner and Shelly, just to name a few.

An injury at work ended Gordon's career.The couple moved to West Fargo in 1963. Gordon died in 1975.

Johnson forged ahead raising her children, who include: Christy married to Wayne Underlee, Hendrum, Minn.; Danny, Medora; Scott married to Jennifer, West Fargo: and Mary Johnson, West Fargo. She also has 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Another son, Rick, passed away in 2003.

Through the years, the family lived on 4th Avenue East, right across from Berger Elementary School. All the kids graduated from West Fargo High School as well as several grandchildren, including one this year. The family attended Faith Lutheran Church for many years with Johnson continuing to do so. In 1992 she moved to an apartment south of the Ramada and has lived there ever since. "West Fargo was a good home for all those years and I still have friends there," Johnson said.

After Gordon's passing Johnson was thankful she had her Tupperware to turn to. "Tupperware had been a good source of income for me with my husband sick and not working for ten years.before he died the age of 45."

She does admit that through the years times have changed. "When I first started if you had a $75 party that was wonderful. Now the average nationwide is $500."

The Tupperware pieces themselves are also constantly changing to keep up with the times. "Several pieces can be used anywhere, oven, freezer, microwave before going straight to the table, it's just amazing."

Johnson noted that new colors themes are also constantly evolving. "Tupperware is striving to keep up with times as far as colors to go with the modern kitchens," she stated, telling about a Jubilee she attended in northern Utah (conventions were called jubilees) with other consultants. "They revealed new product line colors -- orange, green, avocado -- and we commented on the way home in the car 'could they come up with any uglier colors?'"

Johnson laughed when she added that one of the first days back home she walked into Penney's and saw exactly the same color towels; and into her cousin's linoleum business featuring the same colors for flooring. "It finally dawned on me that they must be popular colors, but it was such a shock because we were so used to pastels."

Learning about the new products and getting the orders delivered was also a constant state of flux.

Sunday night was always the last chance to get orders in so often times Johnson would find herself dropping them off right before midnight.

"And every Monday night was rally night where we charged our batteries," Johnson added. "We'd have sales spell downs, hear about new products and updates, every Monday night for years and years."

Thursday was warehouse night. "We would pick up the Tupperware and the kids would help me pack it at night. Now it is ordered online and delivered right to the door."

She said that all in all Tupperware sales continue to go well for the product that is unique in its offering of a lifetime guarantee against cracking, peeling or chipping. "Tupperware is one of the top if not the top as far as home parties go. It's just seems to keep getting bigger and bigger."

Speaking of longevity here Johnson rattles off some of the favored, popular pieces that remain since the beginning -- the trio of Wondolier bowls, the 9x12 cold cut keeper, and the 8x8 snack storer.

She said there are always new pieces to bridge the gap. Like the fridge smarts for veggies and the freezer mates for the colder items. "Tupperware is always trying to keep up with the times and appeal to the busy consumer," Johnson touted, as she mentions her own very favorite piece -- the vent 'n serve, that can be put into the microwave from the freezer. "I sometimes get hungry for a particular food, so I fix a big batch and put individual servings into the container, freeze them and then pop them in the microwave for an instant meal. The vent 'n serve is definitely one of my favorites."

Reflecting on what she considered her prime sales years, Johnson said a good week would be four to five Tupperware parties.

And she took great pride in the type of party she conducted. " I was never pushy but I always tried to be helpful and suggestive. The product really sold itself."

She remember one party in particular, where two grumpy women criticized everything so after listening for awhile Johnson turned the table and starting quizzing them about particular Tupperware pieces. She didn't think they were going to buy anything and when the party was all said and done, they ended up purchasing the most."

Now Johnson's parties have now dwindled down to occasional happenings. "I've gotten old and lazy but I still have a party once in awhile," she chuckled.

But not too lazy, as she's also held down a second job for the last 20 years working two-and-a half days a week at Community Living Services in Fargo helping people with disabilities.

Johnson said her life to this point has been a grand journey and she has no regrets. "With my husband gone, it was nice to be able to be home with my kids, working and making money. I've enjoyed all the nice people I've met and a lot have become dear friends that I would never have met otherwise."