Wednesday, April 21, 2010

S&H Green Stamps

This sign is in Hudgins at Bill Dixon's old service station, the very same service station where we waited in long lines during the gas crisis of the '70s. Although the service station shut down a long time ago, the S&H sign still stands proudly, winking at me every time I drive by.

S&H green stamps remind me of one person and one person only.

My favoritest* grandmother from Gloucester was one of the thriftiest people I've ever known. On a very fixed, very limited income, she scrimped and saved every last penny she earned, so this whole green stamp thing--a way to get stuff for free--was right up her alley.

Whenever she went to the grocery store, she received green stamps which she'd tuck away neatly in her purse that then was tucked neatly on her arm as we walked the couple of miles through Gloucester Court House to her house on Corr Street, by the old Boutetourt High School.

Once home, I'd be stuck licking the daggone things and pasting them in the little booklet. If enough were accumulated, you could redeem them for stuff you didn't really need housewares or other items from a catalog.

I seem to recall dishes and silverware being acquired, but I could be confusing that with another store promotion, like the ones at the end of the aisle where there was a "plate of the week" that you had to buy to match the "saucer of the week" you just couldn't pass up earlier in the month, and before too long you were up to your earballs in junk of the week dinnerware.

Speaking of catalogs, who didn't love the Sears and Roebuck and JC Penney catalogs around here in the '70s? My sisters and I lived for those things. Montgomery Ward was another good one. This is a topic for another day, though.

Anyway, I was stuck licking those green stamps for the coupon book, while she took out every single item purchased at the grocery store to double- and triple-check the math on the receipt. She owned several stores earlier in life, including one at Flat Iron and one at the current Ware Academy, and there was no way she was going to let an error on the tab slide. As I said, every penny counted.

In the mean time, I'd be starved half to death, mouth drooling, hoping for one taste of something that came out of that grocery bag, but couldn't touch or open anything until she checked the math. Sheer torture for a bottomless pit growing tomboy.

Whenever I drive by Bill Dixon's and see this sign, I'm reminded of starving to death waiting for her to check the math on the cash register receipt my favoritest* grandmother and her ability to stretch a dollar from here to Alaska. She loved those stamps.

For some factual data on S&H Green Stamps, here's what my friend Wikipedia has to say:

"S&H Green Stamps' (also called Green Shield Stamps) were a form of trading stamps popular in the United States from the 1930s until the late 1980s. They were distributed as part of a rewards program operated by the Sperry and Hutchinson company (S&H), founded during 1896 by Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson.

During the 1960s, the rewards catalog printed by the company was the largest publication in the U.S. and the company issued three times as many stamps as the U.S. Postal Service Customers would receive stamps at the checkout counter of supermarkets, department stores, and gasoline stations among other retailers, which could be redeemed for products in the catalog.

Sperry & Hutchinson began offering stamps to U.S. retailers during 1896. The retail organizations that distributed the stamps (primarily supermarkets, gasoline filling stations, and shops) bought the stamps from S&H and gave them as bonuses to shoppers based on the dollar amount of a purchase. The stamps—-issued in denominations of one, ten, and fifty "points"—-were perforated with a gummed reverse, and as shoppers accumulated the stamps they moistened the reverse and mounted them in collectors books, which were provided free by S&H. Shoppers could then exchange filled books for premiums, including housewares and other items, from the local Green Stamps store or catalog."

Do you remember S&H Green Stamps?

How about the JC Penney or Sears & Roebuck catalog? Was it just us freaks folks in Mathews who went hog wild over them?


*Yes, favoritest.

22 comments:

nativedevil said...

I remember saving up S&H green stamps. You put them in a book, then took them to the redemption center in Newport News, which was also close to an IHOP.
Growing up in Mathews, there was a certain post-mistress (is that the female for post-master?) who thought that people should shop locally. She was caught several times throwing away all the Sears catalogs so that people would shop in town.
I always loved the Sears Christmas toy catalog. It had things we never saw in stores, even if we got to go to Newport News or Richmond. The Best catalog was a big favorite at my house, too.

Autumnforest said...

I'm curious. When we had our summer home in the 60s/70s in Newpoint, everyone on every corner was named Hudgins. Is it still that way? Loads of Hudgins running around?

Bayman said...

My Grandmother saved enough for me to have a first baseman's mitt, as no self respecting ball player could play first with a fieder's glove. Or maybe I was just spoiled rotten.

Bayman said...

That should have read, "fielder's" glove. Catchers and first basemen wear mitts, the catcher's mitt being more heavily padded.

Pueblo girl said...

We had them too! Over in the UK we called them Green Shield Stamps. My parents weren't very well off when we were kids, and my mother was exactly as you describe your grandmother. And it was me sticking them in. I can't remember a single thing that we got, but I remember the books, all thick stiff warped pages from pasting in stamps.

Ellen said...

Wow, now that takes me back. Not only do I share some of the same memories of licking and pasting stamps, but we had an S & H stamp redemption center near us, so I remember going with my mom to redeem her stamps. My parents still have a towel tree in their bathroom that was from redeeming those "S & H Greenies."

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

I took a trip down S&H Green Stamp Memory Lane a while back, too: http://soupisnotafingerfood.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/sometimes-my-life-feels-like-a-house-of-cards/ Nothin' but fond memories of those things. I think we got a card table and chairs - something big.

Fighting Mermaid said...

Too funny...yes, I remember those things as my Grandma used to get them. I don't think they ever got redeemed though. Looking back, I can see the hints of the procrastination and ADD way back in the line. It makes me smile sometimes to be so connected to my ancestry...even if it is through the traits that drive me nuts.

Golden To Silver Val said...

Here in Michigan we had Gold Bell gift stamps and also Holden's Red Stamps. It was a dream come true for frugal housewives. My husband used to work part-time at a gas station in addition to his regular job and sometimes when the semi truck drivers would fill up on diesel they didn't want their stamps. PAYDIRT. They would give them to him and I think I liked getting those more than the money from that little job. LOL

Trisha said...

Green stamps. I remember. I really do!

Daryl said...

Amazingly none of the food stores in the Bronx participated ... I always thought it was so cool to collect stamps and get stuff for them. But Mom did get into the plate a week or whatever it was called... you know all these were precursors of online shopping ...

foolery said...

I remember them, too. My mom was frugal in lots of ways but I think she sort of gave up on all the work of pasting stamps. I remember highball glasses that we got from a gas station promotion, I think? JUST WHAT WE NEEDED! I called them our "gas station glasses." SOOOOO fancy.

deborah said...

I remember S&H Green Stamps well! My bestest grandmother (whom I called Mom...my mother is Mother) saved green stamps and one other kind of stamps. She was very frugal, but loved beautiful dishes and fine china. I remember carefully putting the stamps in the books! Back then, our grocery was only 2 blocks away, but since they didn't give out stamps, we made a weekly trip to the A&P a few miles away:) Wow, what else did we have to pick out Christmas presents other than the Sears catalog? I remember when I was very young going with my parents to the train station to pick up the Tonka trucks they had ordered for my brother's Christmas present (from Sears!). Did you have a Western Auto in your town? Another great place for us youngins to shop.

Mrs F with 4 said...

Like Pueblo Girl, I remember Green Shield Stamps... and I can even remember our Co-op number.

Somehow, Airmiles just aren't the same....

marta said...

My best friend Patty and I would wait eagerly for the Sears catalog to arrive in the mail. Then we would get on the phone with each other and go page by page and comment on every clothing item.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

ND-I pity the fool who might have tried to throw our Sears catalog away! In those days, there was no Wal-Mutant, only Silco, Sutton and Kline, Ben Franklin and the drug stores for shopping (Grant City/Murphy's Mart and Drug Fair and earlier Tuckers over in Gloucester). The Sears catalog was our only glimpse at the outside world. I cannot even imagine someone throwing those away. They were gold.

Autumn- YES. Loads. Yes.

Bayman- If you were spoiled rotten, and you might have been for all I know, you sure turned out unspoiled.

PG-Isn't that something? I can't remember any particular thing bought either, just recall that sticking in the booklets process. Agony. Sheer agony.

Ellen-That you still have something originally purchased from S&H is very impressive. My sympathies on the licking and pasting part, see above. Agony.

Meg-I'll have to go back and read yours, haven't had a chance to do so yet but will.

Mermaid-Procrastination runs quite strongly in my family as well. If you tell me you got sucked in by those "record of the month clubs" except you never sent back the negative reply to stop the auto shipments, because that would require discipline and organization, I might swear that we're blood relatives. In any case, we share the same affliction.

Val-For someone (especially truck drivers who are the biggest spenders at the gas pump) to give away tickets would be a dream for my grandmother. Hopefully you redeemed them for something greater than a set of dishes.

Trisha-Good memories, I hope.

Daryl-Being the incredibly fortunate recipient of one of your mother's possessions, I feel confident that she purchased only the best of the plates of the week.

foolery-Gas station glasses, jelly jars, what's in a name?

deborah-we DID have a Western Auto, close to our A&P. GREAT stores, both of them.

mrs.F. - Airmiles might get you a free trip here, esp. if you find that visa. I'm counting on it.

marta-That is amazing. Would love to have been a fly on the wall.

deborah said...

Oh, and my mother still has this horrible piece of furniture she bought when the Western Auto was going out of business. A record player in a cabinet the size of a small car.

nativedevil said...

Western Auto was one of the places where I could buy 45 records. I remember I asked them to order "Seasons in the Sun" when it came out. Only cost 69 cents.

Country Girl said...

I absolutely remember the S&H Green Stamps and licking them and pasting them into the savings books. You could get all kinds of things with those stamps, although I can't remember all the things my mother did end up getting.
Loved the Sears catalogue.

Diane said...

Dearest CBW.

I remember those stamps. I almost poisoned myself licking them during my first exposure visiting my grammy in Oregon. We did not have such things in Alaska. My grammy gave me a sponge to moisten the stamps with and thus, a happy ending.

We were crazy for the Sears catalog in Alaska. Crazy I tell you. Montgomery Ward was a distant second. My grammy (who was a character) called them Monkey Wards. In Alaska, we called it Caribou Wards. That's where you went for snow tires.

Good lord, I'm a hick.

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

yeah licked a few of them too! back in the day.
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cahar3 said...

I just found the last piece I needed to complete my mother's china that she acquired one piece at a time with S&H Green Stamps. She never completed the set. Luckily, in this day and age, we can find virtually anything online. I sought out the brand of china and behold... ebay! For the first time since she started the collection in the early 1960's, the china set is complete with 12 settings. What was acquired for free certainly isn't free now. I spent nearly $200 finding the remaining pieces. And now this set is priceless in my home. But in reality, worth at least $1000.