Lately, while redeeming frequent flyer miles and points earned from credit card purchases, I wondered if this was a post-modern version of S&H green stamps, and my thoughts drifted back to 1965.
Every Wednesday, my mother, grandmother and I were rewarded for our supermarket excursion by sheets of green perforated stamps in numbers corresponding to how much we spent. These stamps were stuffed in a kitchen drawer until Mom declared it was time to do something about them.
The S&H Ideabook was always about the house, a little dog -eared, but with none of the allure of the Sears Christmas catalogue, the Ideabook filled with oh-so-practical things.
Green stamps were hot currency for young housewives, who redeemed them for decorative plates, and lamps, and coordinated oven mitt and apron sets. Some states were so concerned about green stamp trading that it was considered gambling and merchants were required to be licensed.
Often, on an afternoon after school when the sisters had not loaded us with too much homework, Mom might declare it was time for the green stamps to go into the books. Green stamps had to be affixed to the pages of green stamp books in order to be redeemed, and this enterprise required precision efforts.
Mom, in her middy blouse and pedal pushers, positioned the three of us in isosceles formation about the gray boomerang Formica-topped table. Because green stamps had to be securely attached to the pages, our juvenile licking skills were deemed insufficient, and to the right of each of us was a moistened, new colored sponge set upon a weekly special supermarket saucer.
Stamp work was tedious, and our reward was the trip to the Sperry and Hutchison store in the old humpbacked Chevy when Mom redeemed bag loads of books of green stamps for her treasures. One I remember particularly fondly was a gravel art kit, a creation Mom let me help with that hung on our living room wall. The best part was that these were her treasures, a great luxury for a woman who put everyone before herself, but she had earned them by saving stamps.
Ah green stamps! Somehow I don’t think my children will wax eloquent over Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program, even with the free drink coupons. It was, indeed, a different time.