It was a weekend morning as I recall and, as usual, my father was playing golf. I don’t remember the exact year as it seems like time was measured differently when I was a kid. I was only 11 or 12 years old and didn’t know much about golf, or anything else for that matter, but my father sure must have loved the game for he spent every Saturday morning at the golf course.
I was sitting on the living room floor and the morning sun was just shining through the picture window panes and meandering its way between the Venetian blinds. My mother and grandmother were in the kitchen cleaning the morning dishes I supposed, but I had other and far more important things on my mind.
Alongside the most massive of the living room furniture pieces, a brown cloth sofa, sat a magazine rack. I suppose it contained at least 15 or so various magazines, most of which held an interest for my mother and not my father. There were my mother’s seldom read “Good Housekeeping,” “Look,” and “Time” magazines, as well as the not-to-be-without Sears, Montgomery Ward and Spiegel catalogs. Each paper item’s measure of use was apparent as the magazines looked fresh and new while the corners of the catalog covers were bent and bits of paper, bookmark substitutes, protruded from the pages of each wish book.
“Watcha doin’,” my mother asked as she exited the kitchen and began to make the righthand turn into the hallway. “Why aren’t you out doin’ something with your friends on a nice day like this? Why are you piddlin’ around here?” Little did she know that I had important business and had no time for frivolous outside activities.
“Oh nothing, just looking at something,” I replied. I knew full well that the barrage of questions and the unwanted inquisition had not yet run its course. “Here, let me see what you’re reading.” “It’s just the S & H Green Stamps book.” “Now why in the world would you be looking at the S & H Idea Book? Is it the one with Dinah Shore on the cover?”
“Who cares whose picture is on the cover,” I wondered and almost, without thinking, blurted out my lack of concern. I knew very well who Dinah Shore was. She had her own Chevrolet sponsored weekly TV show and she always sang that song, “See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet.” I wonder how many easily influenced watchers of her show actually ran out and bought a new Chevy after hearing Dinah sing that song. It was, I had to admit, a kinda catchy tune.
“Yeah, Dinah Shore’s picture is on the front. Is this the newest one,” I asked.
“Yeah, are you just looking and wishing or is there something you’re particularly interested in.”
Now was the time to tactfully identify the item of my desires, but the case for its actual need had to be made very stealthily.
“Some of the kids at school got new radios and I know that it’s not Christmas, or my birthday or anything special, but they really are neat.”
I expected an immediate dismissal of my interest in a radio but was rather surprised when my mother said, “What’s so special about the radio in the catalog?”
Ah ha, she had fallen into my shrewdly crafted and implemented trap.
“This is a transistor radio. It’s small and you can walk around with it because it’s powered by batteries. I know it’s a good one because it’s made by Westinghouse and it even comes with a genuine imitation leather case.”
There, I was convinced that my case had been made as succinctly and convincingly as possible.
I knew my glowing description of the radio had struck a chord when my mother asked, “How many books of stamps does the darned thing cost?”
I had no idea what number of books might be considered too many but I couldn’t avoid answering with the correct number: “only five books.”
I didn’t know the dollar value of a book of “Green Stamps” at that time but later learned that each book was worth about $1.20 in dollars and cents.
“That seems like a lot for a darned old radio. I only have 14 books and I’ve been saving for a new electric coffee pot. The cord on the old one is shot and I have to wiggle it to get the thing to work.”
How could I argue the benefits of a transistor radio over that of an electric coffee maker?
“OK, I guess the coffee pot can wait. We’ll get your radio. After all, God forbid that you would be the only one at school without a transistor radio with a genuine imitation leather case.”
I think she was in a small way making light of my radiant description of the radio but I really didn’t mind. The important thing was I was getting my radio.
I suppose a couple of weeks passed. Then one day as I walked through the front door, following a day of school, I saw a package lying conspicuously on the sofa cushion. I guess my mother heard the door slam as she promptly rounded the corner just enough to expose her face.
“I didn’t open the package, but it’s gotta be that old radio you wanted. Now you can hold your head up at school.”
Sarcasm once again, but I brushed it off like a piece of insignificant lint and opened the package. Sure enough, it was my radio and how beautiful it was. I removed the radio from the box and oh how gracefully and effortlessly it slid into that black genuine imitation leather case.
Leaving the packaging materials strewn about the sofa and floor, I ran into my bedroom, opened the top desk drawer and removed two slightly used batteries. I then turned the radio on and while moving the dial from side to side finally heard what I had wanted, rock and roll music. How utterly perfect a piece of engineering that source of beautiful music was.
My life went on with very little change, but I was often seen walking the neighborhood sidewalks with the radio held near to my ear listening to Chubby Checker’s rendition of “The Twist.” I don’t know whatever happened to that radio; broken and discarded I suppose.
The S & H Green Stamp rewards program was a marketing and rewards program initiated by the Sperry and Hutchinson Company. The company was founded in 1896 and the rewards program was popular between the 1930s and lasted until the 1980s. When purchases at selected stores were made, shoppers were rewarded with stamps. The number of stamps dispensed was dependent on the amount of the purchase. The stamps were then licked and placed onto identified spaces on the S&H Green Stamp book’s pages and filled books could be redeemed for merchandise; like transistor radios and electric coffee makers.
A week or so after the receipt of the prized bit of electronics, in the morning before school, I do recall sitting at the kitchen table and enjoying my bowl of “Kellogg’s Corn Flakes” and milk, when I overheard my mother remark, “I’m gonna throw this darn coffee maker away. I guess I’ll get electrocuted someday while I’m wiggling this here cord and nobody will give a damn.”
Then, and under her breath and only barely audible, I heard her say, “When I was growing up, me and my friend Maxine never even thought about getting a fancy radio. Why, if we wanted to listen to music we dragged our butts down to the malt shop or just sang to ourselves; kids these days!”
My mother was a chronic grumbler, but she was also someone who always put my needs, and yes, childhood dreams, before her own; hence my “Westinghouse 8 Transistor Radio with black carrying case and headphone jack.”
Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel, Mo. Stan’s connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
General News on 07/11/2019