Several days ago I purchased some replacement bags for our vacuum cleaner. I knew the brand and looking over the choices used the 50-50-90 rule. (Any time you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, a 90% probability you'll get it wrong). So after bringing them home and trying them out for size had the wrong ones. Returning the wrong bags for exchange was no problem and the clerk asked me if I had a penny? I had, so received $3 back instead of $2.99. I don't know about you but I invariability find a lot of loose change in my pocket including plenty of pennies.
The above exercise brought to mind to write an article about the penny. I suppose you don't care a fig but there are over 180 billion pennies in circulation. A billion is hard to comprehend but one billion seconds ago it was 1959 and Jesus was alive one billion minutes ago. We are writing about 180 billion so how many pennies is 180 billion? A lot!
Remember all of the things you could buy for a penny when you were a kid? Many times we would go to the Variety Store or Dime Store and thoroughly examine all the selections. We could buy sticks of gum, jawbreakers, licorice sticks, suckers, candy canes, valentines, pencils, erasers and even some chocolate. Wow, what a deal!
In those days we could earn pennies by running errands, but best of all was to find one on the ground or sidewalk. Today people won't even bend over or stoop low enough to retrieve a penny. Many years ago some joker placed a penny in the cement walk near our activity center and I would hate to count how many of the residents or visitors have tried to pick it up. Old Abe must chuckle every time somebody rubs his face but it also reads, IN GOD WE TRUST.
A little history about the penny I think is in order, so here goes. When we were kids, although the Indian penny had gone out of production in 1909, there were still many circulating. The Indian penny was first introduced in 1859 and depicted an Indian princess on the obverse side. A popular story about the design claims a visiting Indian chief lent the designer's daughter his headdress so she could pose as the Indian princess. Indian pennies were minted during the Civil War (1861-1865) to pay the Union soldiers.
The Lincoln penny appeared in 1909, as it was the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. In addition the Lincoln penny used LIBERTY and the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST appeared for the first time on a coin. On the reverse side are two wheat heads, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the national motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, which means, "One out of many." In 1960 the penny design was changed and the Lincoln Memorial was placed on the reverse side.
The penny seems to offend some people, as there is a bill in Congress to do away with it. I personally don't subscribe to that as the penny has so many memories for me. I think of the penny in relation to the 16,000,000 persons who served in World War II. By ourselves we don't count for much but if you put a huge number together you have a force that was unbeatable. If we do away with the penny what can kids put in their piggy banks? Credit cards?
Let us see if you can recall some of the following words or sayings: A penny saved is a penny earned (Ben Franklin). Have you purchased nails lately? Nails are sold and marked in pennyweight: 10 penny, 6 penny, etc. Have you every been penniless? Are you penny wise, meaning to be careful or thorough? How many of you have played penny ante poker meaning to ante is limited to one cent? Today if you really want to insult a panhandler, give him a penny or tip a waiter or waitress with a penny?
Several years ago in the Iowa Great Lakes Region we had the campaign to "Save the Park." People contributed a goodly sum from pennies to big bucks. The contributor who impressed me the most was the little lad who came forward at the Roof Garden and dumped his piggy bank into the kitty and most of the coins were pennies. Pennies add up!
Did you ever or do you recall playing a quiz game with a penny? Let's see if you can identify the following from a Lincoln penny:
1. The name of a song.
2. A privilege.
3. A foreign fruit.
4. An ancient honor.
5. A building.
6. A Chinese beverage.
7. What a ship sails on.
8. A gaudy flower.
(Answers at the end of the article.)
Have you examined your telephone bill or sales receipts lately? There are one-cent taxes like state, county, local, school, excise taxes; meaning our governments and certain business couldn't exist without the little one cent-penny. Several years ago I asked the operator why all the taxes and to explain them to me. She did pretty good but was stumped by one. She asked her supervisor, but neither could give an answer. So here we are paying one cent to who knows to what and why. If you add how many customers they have it adds up. I wonder how many other penny taxes we have that nobody can explain?
The penny figures in the U.S.A. in many ways such as the one-cent stamp. In 1860 a federal act was created to charge a fee of one cent for mail carrier services in all cities providing such service. Many of you have in your possession letters that were mailed in the mid 1800s with a one-cent stamp affixed on the envelope. You don't have to be too old to recall using and buying a penny post card.
Remember the Penny Arcades? For a penny one could have your fortune told, test your grip, peek through a hole at some pictures, play mechanical games, use a punching bag, win some candy or doll with rotating forks and even buy a postcard. During The Depression years the penny arcades keep the name but the price went up to a nickel.
Do you have a penny postcard collection? One of my prize possessions is a collection of penny postcards with pictures of the Iowa Great Lakes. My aunt and uncle corresponded with each other with these penny postcards. Several days ago I booted up on the web post cards from Iowa. The two places I viewed were Dickinson and Clay counties. The Dickinson County collection included "Moonlight Scene on Lake Okoboji," "Railroad and Wagon Bridge Between East and West Okoboji" and a picture of "Harry's Kurio Kastle." Clay County postcards were "Milwaukee Depot, Spencer" and "Entrance to the Clay County Fair Grounds."
Many years ago the American Red Cross had fund raising campaigns to raise much-needed money. I recall that while in the elementary school, if you brought a penny or two you received a red cross to pin on your shirt or dress. One girl in our class was really proud to contribute several pennies. I knew she didn't have much in the way of material possessions but she brought her pennies tied up in a little handkerchief and shyly took out the knot, pulled out the pennies and handing them to the teacher. The teacher made a great deal out of that contribution. I don't think it was uncommon for little girls to tie their coins in handkerchiefs in those days. How about it ladies?
Don't take the penny away from us! It is part of our history and how would the stores ever sell anything in round numbers like $3 because it sound so much better to have a sale for $2.99. Many of the cities and schools keep going by only a one-cent tax. We need the penny!
SAVE THE PENNY!
Answers for Penny Quiz: 1. America 2. Liberty 3. Date 4. Wreath 5. Lincoln Memorial 6. Tea (T) 7. Sea (C) 8. Tulips (Two lips.)