A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Green Stamps Are Mine

 Back in the pioneer days of the 1960's, many merchants offered S&H Green Stamps as an incentive to draw in customers.  Green stamps were doled out according to the amount of your purchase; the more you bought, the more Green Stamps you got.  Upon arriving back at home, the stamps were generally tossed into a paper sack full of other Green Stamps, until someone took the initiative to start putting them in an official Green Stamp Book.  This usually occurred the day before a trip to Fort Smith, because that's where the Green Stamp Redemption Center (what a happy sounding name!) was located.

My sister Janet and I were active participants in the process.  The stamps had to be licked, then placed in the book to align with the squares that were printed on the page.  After a page or two of licking, you tongue had developed a toxic, yucky aftertaste, so at that point we would usually get a wet wash rag and start using it to activate the glue on the back of the stamps.  This stamp-licking process was usually done somewhat unenthusiastically, since we knew that the stamps were probably going to be redeemed for something like a set of sheets, or maybe curtains, or perhaps an iron.

But, every third rotation, the Green Stamps were mine.  That is, one trip to the Redemption Center was devoted to something for the house, the next trip to the Center would be Janet's turn to get something, and the third trip would be for me to get something.  Which worked out pretty good, since we probably didn't make it to Fort Smith much more than three times a year.  So, on those times when we were dealing with MY Green Stamps, I must admit I was a much more efficient stamp-licker.

Each year, they came out with a new Green Stamp Catalogue.  In it, you would find pictures and descriptions of everything that you could get with Green Stamps.  In the toy section, I found my goal:  a Tonka Road Grader.  I had always had a fascination for road graders, going back to the days when Pine Street was a dirt road and I would watch the county road graders as they worked on our road.  My Greatest Childhood Friend Randy Bottoms had a toy road grader, and I could use it any time I wanted, but I really wanted one of my own.  Four books of Green Stamps was all it would take, and we had it.  I couldn't wait to get to the Redemption Center.

The Green Stamp Redemption Center was located on Phoenix Street in Fort Smith, across from Phoenix Village.  I believe there is a restaurant supply store now in that building, but back then it was an incredibly fascinating place for a kid.  All the items in the catalog were there on display.  It was like a store full of free toys!  I had looked at my road grader many times before, when we were there to pick up sheets or an iron. So, I knew right where it was located.  I hurried over to the toy section, rounded the corner to the Tonka toys, and it wasn't there.  This can't be!  We asked the lady at the counter, and she said they were out of that particular toy.  Some chump had beat me to it!  I was terribly disappointed. 

Resigned to my fate, I began to look through the other Tonka toys for an acceptable substitute.  They did have a bulldozer, which was similar to a road grader.  However, being the savvy toy expert that I was, I knew that toy bulldozers had a common shortcoming - the rubber tracks would consistently come off every time you rolled them.  So, the dozer was out of consideration.  However, they did have a tractor that featured a fully functioning steering wheel.  When you turned the steering wheel, the front wheels moved accordingly.  So, I settled on the Oliver tractor. 

I still have my Oliver tractor.  It is identical to the one in this picture, except mine has the top half of the steering wheel broken off.  I did have a lot of fun with that tractor, but probably not as much fun as I would have had with a road grader.  Several years later, when Clyde Hawkins was county judge, I worked one summer between college semesters for the county road department, driving a service truck behind two road graders.  I got to fuel the graders every morning, clean the glass around the cab, and help the operators when they had to replace flat tires or change the blades.  I even got to ride along with them a couple of times.  So, I guess I got to have the "road grader experience" after all.

1 comment:

  1. Comments from Facebook:

    LeAnn Brigance Boy does this bring back memories!
    November 3 at 7:16pm

    Mae Offredi you are righy LeAnn that does bring back memories: haven't thought of green stamps in a long time LOL!!!!!!!
    November 3 at 7:23pm

    Diane Epperson Bill when Shawn was little my Mom & Dad took him to the green stamp store in Ft Smith. He found a stuffed bear & asked very loud, do we have enough food stamps to get this. My parents were very embarrassed and Shawn still has that bear today. Thanks for bringing up old memories!
    November 3 at 7:24pm

    Angela Broomfield Reeder I remember Green Stamps!! Jamie and I had collected enough at one point to go to the redemption store. We couldn't decide on what we wanted, until we saw something we both just HAD to have... bowling ball bags. However, we didn't have bowling balls. Needless to say, we eventually found bowling balls to go in our bowling ball bags :-)
    November 3 at 7:35pm

    Lorrie Hunt Davis i never got to redeem the stamps in my favor! i didnt know that was an option! lol! my mom always bought dishes or clocks with ours! but my sister and i were the elected officials also for stamp licking. ahhh...to be young again!!
    November 3 at 7:36pm

    Lydia Blalock Butler I have a jade necklace purchased with hard earned green stamps!!! Yes, I was the stamp licker too!!
    November 3 at 8:28pm

    Carolyn McCain Graham wow...memories of going with my granny
    November 3 at 8:51pm

    Joe Folsom Back in the 1950s the redemption center was on the right at Towsen and Garrison, I think it later became an Oklahoma Tire and Supply store, not sure what's there now.
    November 3 at 8:56pm

    Rosemary Perkins I remember when it was 1/2 block off of Towson on Phoenix Street.....
    November 3 at 9:12pm

    Phil Yates I think most of our stamps came from Robert Davis grocery store. I do remember how great they tasted.
    November 3 at 9:39pm

    Marilyn Fox I remember putting the stamps in the book. We traded them in Fort Smith for a briefcase for Mom for Christmas one year.
    November 3 at 10:42pm

    Janet Musgrove I got a boy doll that I named Bobby and and girl doll I named Debbie with green stamps. I still have them today although they're a little worn for the wear. Thank goodness for Robert Davis Grocery! They were so good to our family!
    November 3 at 11:15pm

    Cindy Libby Barber I still have a couple of books that never were redeemed. I was saving for something when they stopped it.
    November 4 at 8:59am

    Karen Boren Williams Sis & I got Tiger lamps for our bedroom. We both still have them I think Sis has the original lamp shade on hers. The electrical wires & socket have had to be replaced in mine. Great thing to tell hte grand kids about. = ) I use S & H Green Stamps as a way to explain Redemption.
    November 4 at 9:58am

    Teresa Culpepper I loved Green stamps ! I remember that store, also! There was also one in Russelleville, Ar, that I went to alot, as my grandma lived in Dardanelle. I was the official Green stamp licker , too !
    November 4 at 10:13am

    Karen Boren Williams I remember the more modern day system of saving the grocery store receipts, too.They usually had a great display of items to choose from & you had to save the receipts to amount to the dollar amount for them. I got our first set of china this way in Mena.
    November 4 at 10:19am

    Vickie Hale-Schuyler My mother-in-law and I put our green stamps together and bought my daughter a basinet at the green stamp store there on Phoenix. I was so excited! My daughter is 33 now...
    November 4 at 11:41am

    Doris Thompson Where has the good times gone? I remember the green stamps too, and that my mother used to use them too.
    November 4 at 8:53pm

    Lisa Wood My job was putting the green stamps in the book. My first green stamp purchase was the teddy bear!! I absolutely loved that store!!
    November 6 at 7:57am