In the days before global banking and credit cards, there were store accounts, layaway and small banks with Christmas clubs.
It all seemed to work pretty well.
I miss Christmas “clubs” at my hometown’s Peculiar Bank. No, the bank wasn’t peculiar, but there were a few peculiar people that banked there, including me. In those days, Peculiar was a small town in southern Cass County, but it’s now evolved into a sprawling suburb.
My family was well-entrenched in Peculiar: dad worked for the water department, mom for the Braun’s local grocer, and I worked for the small phone company: Continental Telephone — which has since merged and merged and merged and is probably is now a part of Sprint.
Every December, mom and I would go “cash” in our Christmas accounts at Peculiar Bank. The money was to shop with. And each January we would open a new account for the following year.
The accounts were in several denominations to be paid each week: $5, $10, $20 or $50. To pay, we’d go into the bank (no drive thru), and put down our money. The teller took it, ripped the weekly coupon from the book and stamped the stub paid.
I usually contributed $5 weekly, so at year’s end I had about $260. At a time when I bought my first used car for $200; the $260 was more than enough to buy gifts.
And if not?
Well, there was layaway at King Arthur’s in Harrisonville (kind of like a local, smaller Walmart), TG & Y in Olathe (yes we drove all the way to Olathe for the “good” TG&Y on the square) or Duckwall-Alco. The idea of layaway was to select the items you wanted, take them to the back, pay a down payment , and then each week you would make a payment until it was paid off.
There were also store accounts with local businesses. I remember working a few hours a month at the local service station where I mailed monthly bills. They sold tires on time. Also, you could get a tune up and pay it off with a monthly statement. Bought my dad some windshield wipers and battery cables for Christmas one year. He loved it, and I got his old cables. Perfect gift.
Somehow we all managed to survive with only local businesses in the days before the internet. Small towns and their economies survived and thrived. Money circulated within the community rather than passing to major corporations and foreign countries.
I miss Christmas clubs, and being able to purchase gifts without the “pain” of paying off credit cards at exorbitant interest rates.
According to a recent post on the sheriff’s social media page, “According to Adobe Analytics Holiday Forecast 2020, it is estimated that U.S. holiday online sales will total $189 billion, up 33 percent over last year’s holiday season.”
That’s $189 billion in sales not with local businesses.
We were sold on the idea bigger was better. Looking back, I’m not sure that’s true.
Memories of Christmas clubs, layaway and store accounts