Thursday, July 28, 2011


I guess I’m really showing my age here. I remember S&H Green Stamps. For all the younger crowd out there, S & H (Sperry and Hutchinson) Green Stamps were given out at your local grocery, department store or gas station as a bonus. The stores purchased the stamps from S&H and used them to build customer loyalty. I believe you received one stamp for every 10 cents you spent. Of coarse, that was when a loaf of bread was 20 cents. You would then paste them in books and redeem the books for items in a catalog. In the early 1960s S &H distributed more stamps than the United States Post Office.

Saturday afternoon around 4 pm--somewhere between American Bandstand and Speed Racer, my mother’s radar told her it was time to come into my room, turn off my Sears Silvertone TV, dump the shoebox full of stamps on desk and tell me to “earn my keep.”  I hated this job. I prayed for a baby brother to come along so it would be his job.

The necessary tools for the job included a damp sponge on a plate to moisten the backs of the stamps. I almost always got them too wet. After an hour or so of the tedium, I would announce that I was finished by yelling,“I’m done!“ Invariably, there would be a vacant spot of 2-3 stamps in a book. I was thusly dispatched to the nearest store to buy a case of Faygo.

Filling the books was a chore, but nothing compared to the civil war that erupted when deciding what to redeem them on. Even the Brady kids had a problem regarding that expenditure.

I remember my mother being the authorized decision maker regarding the stamp books. She would almost always decide that she could not make a decision until she saw the item “in person.” We drove from 6 mile road to 26 mile road to the center. It was huge and in the middle of nowhere. It smelled like a new car.

My father pointed out that we needed a new carpet sweeper. My mother had her eye on an  Italian pottery lazy-susan. Mother dutifully tried out the carpet sweeper on the small piece of carpet laid out for demos. She decided to “look around.” Her eye then caught the object of her lust. The lovely Italian pottery lazy-susan she had seen in the full color catalog.  It was shinny and brightly painted with its round faux fruit bowl in the center. Dad knew he was out of luck. For weeks to follow friends and neighbors came to view the divine new centerpiece on the kitchen table. It was never used for food service, but it made a great catch all.

A  series of recessions during the 1970s decreased sales of green stamps and the stamp programs of their competitors.It was the end of an era. An end of dreams of possibilities.

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