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WOSTER: Going green (stamps)

When Nancy and I were first married, we had little extra spending money, and we purchased several household items with S&H Green Stamps.

I read a bit of S&H history that says the 1960s were the hey-day of the company's success. Nancy and I weren't the sole reason, but we contributed as often as we could. My all-time favorite Green Stamp purchase was a Kennedy-style rocking chair. It was black with a colorful design running along the back rest. It wasn't as solid as the real Kennedy rockers of that period, but it was as solid as a guy is going to get from a chair obtained with a few books of stamps.

From the first day we had it to the last day (more on that later), it made a comforting little squeak each time someone rocked in it. I sometimes thought that rhythmic squeak, as much as the rhythmic rocking, was what calmed children when they were tiny and frightened. We should have had it when our oldest child was in the colicky stage, but we didn't get it until we moved from a tiny place near McKennan Hospital out to what then seemed the edge of Sioux Falls, way out on Conklin, just north and east of the I-229 exit on 10th Street. That was 1968.

I suppose there exists a generation that doesn't know Green Stamps. Back in the 1960s, gas stations and department stores and grocery stores would give Green Stamps for purchases. The number of stamps depended on the size of the purchase. The stamp were licked and pasted into Green Stamp books -- 24 pages to the book, I believe. The Green Stamp Catalog contained wonderful items, each of which could be purchased with filled books of stamps.

For Nancy and me, it sometimes seemed to be a miracle. We had a tight budget (Nancy had a tight budget), and it was pretty amazing to know that the things we absolutely had to buy -- soups and milk and baby formula and oodles of jars of strained peas, carrots and other Gerber choices -- came with stamps that sent us dreaming to the catalog and setting priorities on the next purchases. Of course we had paid for the stamps one way or another. Still, when a guy took a bunch of books of stamps into the redemption center and came away with a Kennedy-style rocker, well, life didn't get much better than that, did it?

As I said, we got our black Kennedy-like rocker with Green Stamps. Our rented house in Sioux Falls had an L-shaped living-dining room, so there was plenty of space for a rock and a sofa and swivel chair. We got the sofa and matching chair at a railroad salvage place down near the entrance to Falls Park. The set fought rather nicely with the rocker.

When we moved to Pierre in the fall of 1969, we brought our furniture, of course. The rental house a block from Capitol Lake wasn't as spacious as the one on North Conklin in Sioux Falls, but it had a fireplace on the west wall, and the squeak of the rocker harmonized with the snap of the burning logs. That Green Stamps piece of classic furniture would fit any house anywhere and make it a home, it seemed to me.

The rocker moved with us when we bought our first home, and it came along when we moved to the place we've lived since 1972. Over the years, I glued spindles and arms and the back together after one mishap or another. It grew frail, and on a trip to Rapid City, we visited an antique shop and found a sturdy replacement. We brought it home and placed it in the living room. With no suitable spot for the old rocker, we decided to throw it out.

Instead, I took it to my newspaper office and used it until I closed the bureau for the last time in December of 2008. When I walked out and left it, I felt like I was abandoning an old friend.

What happened to it? I never asked. I didn't want to know.