Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who Remembers the Charge-It Card?

Sitting around watching TV, something I do way too much of, I waded through a commercial for Fry's Food Stores and suddenly an entire wave of memories started coming to mind. I'm REALLY old! I was around before they had supermarkets. Groceries used to come from the corner store, a place that had no name, that offered credit to people for the asking. They sent a bill once a month along with a delivery boy, that also brought you your groceries. As I got older, I was allowed to walk to the corner store and pick up a package of cigarettes for mom or dad. Dad smoked Chesterfield regulars and mom smoked Spring lights. Cigarettes were 24 cents a pack and an extra penny bought you a book of matches to go along with them. No note was required for a 5 year old kid that was required to hold his older brother's hand, all the way there and back. While you were there, you were allowed to reach into a large cooler that held cold water and pull out a bottle of your favorite soda (pop). They were a dime each and for that kind of money, you wanted to make sure of your choice. I was partial to Orange Crush, but also favored the Hire's Root Beer. One time on the way back, I gave my Fudgesickle to a panting dog just because he looked so hot. He sniffed it once and walked away. I'll never forget the loss I'd felt!

When I was 9 we moved to the suburbs and my mother used to wait for my father to take a morning off to go to the Jewel, she didn't drive. That was the end of the corner store for a long time. The Jewel didn't give credit either. Everything back then was cash. People spoke of a "buy now and pay later" society in a negative way. There was no such thing as credit unless you got yourself a personal loan from a bank. I remember my father's house payment was $104 a month and he paid it once a year for the previous year. No one spoke of foreclosure, just when can you pay. In January my father would get his fall commission check and get caught up then. No late charges, just a hand shake and a thank you from the banker.

Then one day and I think it rained, there in the mailbox was a letter from a bank and it was addressed to me. I was 16 years old and pretty surprised to be getting mail from anyone! Inside the envelope was a card that said "Charge It" on it and it had the same symbol as the MasterCard's of today. The two world globes that we're so familiar with today. Everyone who had a social security number was eligible for "Charge It". I read the pamphlet that came along with it and it said it was good wherever the "Charge It" symbol was displayed. I probably carried that thing in my pocket for several months before I tried it. I didn't trust it, frankly! Who was giving this credit to me and WHY? The news in Chicago was full of stories about Postal workers that were mugged for the Charge It cards they were carrying. They literally issued one to about everyone. I think my bill was up over a thousand bucks when I got the letter about making payments. OH payments, that's what this is all about. Well I started making payments and to this day I still haven't stopped! 

I really kind of miss the corner store and the mentality that made it work.

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