Ten cents and 1 million possibilities (in 1932)

By Bill Shepard

My mind slips away to a time when a small boy was celebrating his 10th birthday. I would like to share those thoughts with you — my readers. It was the 10th day of April. Now, to just about anybody else, there was nothing special about that date. It was a beautiful time of the year. Spring had already burst forth in the meadow beyond where I lived. The willows along the ditch bank were a yellowish green and from every bough, a black bird was singing. “No one in their right mind would want to be shut up inside on a day like this,” I thought. The year was l932. It was my birthdate, and for me, that made it Special! I kept saying to myself, “Today is the 10th of April and I am 10 years old!” It seemed there was something very unusual about that. I came home from school where I had spent another boring day. They were all boring as far as I was concerned. I had much rather been spending the day roaming the fields and woods. I sat at the table in the kitchen of the small three-room house where I lived with my mother and dad, two brothers, and one sister on the Mill Village. We were a close family. We had to be since there was not room enough to be any other way! I turned my plate over as was customary in those days. I did not know why the plates were always turned down and would be turned over only after grace had been said by someone, but that was the way it was. Now I was in for another surprise. Under my plate was another 10! No, not a 10-dollar bill, but a shiny dime! I remember thinking, “It is the 10th day of April, I am 10 years old, and I have 10 cents as a birthday gift!” Then followed the best gift of the moment. Mom brought from the stove a plate filled with fried potatoes. It was my favorite dish, and Mom had remembered! What a day this one had turned out to be! I was beginning to feel like royalty! My young readers today might be thinking, “Why all the fuss over a dime”? Before you scoff, allow me to recount a few of the things I could do with a dime. Keep in mind that the year was l932. I could see a movie at the Liberty Theater, and I could watch it over and over if I so desired. I could buy 10 “all day” suckers (large cherry or grape lollipops) and enough to last a whole week. I might opt to buy “brick-bats” (a large hard and chewy piece of candy on a stick). They lived up to their name; they were not called “brick-bats” for nothing. If I chose, I could get 50 Hershey’s silver bells. They were five for a penny. My most likely purchase would be 30 Mary Janes, a syrup candy filled with peanut butter. I might purchase a soft drink and five small packs of salted peanuts to eat along with the drink. If fruit was on my mind, I might purchase a whole dozen small red apples from the barrel that stood in the corner of Mr. Timmons’ store. I could also choose four golden ripe bananas from the stalk hanging by a cord attached to the ceiling. I might choose to go to town and visit McLellan’s Dime Store. There was such a variety of things one could purchase at the 5-and-10-cent store for a dime. At the head of my list might be a whole pound of peanut brittle laced with strips of fresh coconut. What a treat that would be! I might choose a pound of chocolate covered peanuts or a pound of orange slices. I would have a hard time at the candy counter deciding which of all the tempting delicacies to choose. If I decided to browse through the store and consider other options, these are some of the things I might purchase. Two pairs of boys’ socks for a dime, two pocket handkerchiefs, a box of pretty handkerchiefs for Mom, or a brightly colored necktie for Dad. I could get 10 pencils or three packs of notebook paper, or two large writing tablets. I might decide on a kite to replace the one I had made, or a large bag of marbles, or even a ric-rac paddle or a top! I might settle for a pocketknife or some fishing hooks. In the hardware department, I might choose a can of red paint with which to paint the wagon I had made. Gee, with so many options, I might just cross the street to Metropol’s Ice Cream Store. There I could exchange my dime for a triple-dip ice cream cone, and a nickel’s worth of freshly made candy. Now that would be a real bargain! I am worn out trying to decide what to do with my birthday gift. I bet you will agree that I had many options, and that memory is a great gift and with memories like these, the gift is greatly enhanced. I know now that the best part of that special day was the memories it left behind. (This past Saturday was April 10 and Bill once again turned over his plate before dinner, and to his surprise found nine dimes and nine pennies for his 99th birthday. Next year, he will have a tenfold increase in his gift.)

Author: Stephan Drew

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