Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Green was the Color of the American Dream

In the 60s, women always took off their glasses when a man entered the room.

So, I meant to stay home and make artwork today, but our building is under attack by multiple contractors. Between the water being shut off and all the weird drilling noises coming from the elevator shaft, I decided to just give up and go out into the world.

must. generate. more. saliva...
I ended up at the Broadway Antique Market, where I picked up a 1962 S&H stamp redemption booklet. 

I'm just old enough to remember a time when little green stamps were one of the more important tools in a housewife's arsenal. I guarantee that at least one household item in your grandmother's house was purchased with books of S&H stamps and lots of family saliva.

I was particularly intrigued by the local advertising on the back. National is before my time, but I'm very familiar with the now-defunct Wieboldt's chain. I particularly remember the Harlem-Irving location, mainly because of its constant smell of burnt floor wax, after the store caught on fire one year.

Sadly, Harlem and Irving looks nothing like this now.
(The Department Store Museum)

I don't remember any of the Wieboldt's having redemption centers. They may have just stopped running them; S&H didn't adapt well to the 1970s. The Supreme Court ruled that the company couldn't prohibit "stamp exchanges" or force customers to only hand in entirely filled redemption books. Whether as a direct response to the ruling, or because of the general bad economy, the amount of stamps needed to acquire wanted items went up. I remember a general feeling that it was no longer worthwhile to collect them.

Who wants to learn the guitar, anyway? (TheWriteSteph.com)

And so now, instead of stamps, we have all kinds of frequent buyer programs and reward points. Sure, it may be a lot easier to just swipe your credit card and save up for that free groupon, but it takes away the satisfaction of forcing a S&H redemption clerk to handle your spittle-caked pile of green-colored dreams.

Redemption Center available for 520,000 Green Stamps

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