I don’t know why, but I am becoming more nostalgic as I get older.
One thing that I vividly remember in the ’60′s was my mother’s collection of S & H Green Stamps. These stamps were an American middle class ritual and women all over the country were addicted to collecting them. Every woman had her own special place where she hid her stash of coveted stamps. My grandmother hid hers in a 1920′s vintage cookie jar. My mother hid hers in her bedroom dresser drawer next to her hidden box of See’s Chocolate Candies.
A catalogue was mailed to everyone’s household which featured all of the amazing items you could aspire to own. Toys, appliances, furniture, knick knacks, and even family vacations to Disneyland! There were redemption centers all over town, they were amazing places! You handed over your books at the counter and claimed your prize. My best friend Judy (refer to Fly Me to the Moon blog) and I could hardly wait for the updated catalogue to arrive. We had our hearts set on getting the famous Easy Bake Oven which required only 12 books of stamps!
You could get stamps from the milk men and gas stations. Grocery stores gave them out with your purchase. They even advertised double Green Stamp days which really thrilled my mother! She had been saving a long time for a card table and chair set. My father loved to play cards with his friends, so mom thought this table would be the perfect birthday gift for him. Each stamp was valuable to her, she even persuaded my grandmother to let go of some of hers. I can remember many a morning watching the two of them sitting and glueing together at the kitchen table.
One Sunday night, while we were watching The Ed Sullivan Show, mom brought out her large plastic baggie of Green Stamps. She let my sister Karen help her glue the stamps into the books. It looked like so much fun and I felt left out. I pleaded to let me glue too. Karen warned mom, ”Don’t let her do it, you’ll be sorry. She’s gonna ruin them!” I suppose my mother felt sorry for me because she let me glue away. I was having so much fun glueing and dreaming about that Easy Bake Oven that I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing.
When Ed Sullivan ended and Candid Camera came on, that was our cue to get ready for bed. That night I had visions of dancing vanilla cupcakes freshly baked in my new oven. My dream was shattered when I was awoken by the sound of my mother’s scream. ”They’re ruined, all ruined!” Terrified, I jumped out of bed and peeked into the family room. Dad was trying to calm and comfort mom. I heard him say, “Don’t worry dear, I’m sure it can be fixed.” Mom’s eagle eye spotted me hiding behind the door. “Dianne, look what you did! You glued the stamps upside down and in the wrong direction! They’re ruined! They’re all just ruined!” It had taken almost an entire year for mom to collect all those stamps. I felt terrible and said, “It’s not my fault, it’s because I’m left handed.” Mom didn’t buy that one either. Karen came into the room and was about to say, “I told you so” but dad stopped her before she could get the words out. This was no time to be right.
The following day, in the heat of the Phoenix summer, my mother brought me to the S & H Green Stamp redemption center to explain. I told the sales lady that I was sorry for destroying my mother’s hard earned stamp books. Hoping for some sympathy, I told her how long it had taken mom to fill up all those books and… by the way, do you happen to have the Easy Bake Oven in stock?? My mother glared and reminded me that I was still grounded. Meanwhile, the woman unhappily agreed to count each and every stamp in my mother’s tall stack of stamp books.
About an hour later right before closing time, the tired woman finally came out and told us we had the exact number of books needed to purchase our prize. All was forgiven as we walked up to the stock department to pick up our set. A grumpy old man returned with our ticket and said “I’m sorry ma’am, we have the chairs, but the table is out of stock. It’s on back order and won’t be coming in until Christmas!”
Eventually my mother did get the card table to go with the chairs. Many memorable bridge and poker games were played on that table not to mention all the use it got from our family parties and homework projects. In fact, mom and dad passed it down to Karen who will someday pass it down to her daughter.
I never did get the Easy Bake Oven but Judy did and she never let me forget it…