Giving is a gift in itself, part 1

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2016

was 11-years-old in late October of 1966 when I began thinking of Christmas gifts for my parents and grandparents.

I did not get a weekly allowance, and was told I wouldn’t receive one until my teens. Despite that, I still was able to put occasional coins into my rocket ship piggy bank or into an animal cracker box hidden in attic rafters containing birthday money of several quarters

Even though they told me often not to worry about giving them gifts, that my crafts from school were wonderful, I really wanted to go to a store that year and select gifts for each of them: Mom, Dad, Nana, and Gramps. And that would be difficult with $3.26, even in 1966. 

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As I complained about it to my dad one chilly morning as we were taking groceries out of the car into the house, he told me to wait a moment. He went to the car’s glove compartment, took out a packet, and gave me a few green stamp books with stamps and a flier.

It seemed the Esso gas station, where my family went for gas and car maintenance, had a holiday green stamp special, available only at Esso stations.

With one to three stamp-filled books, collected from purchasing gasoline, I could choose from any array of glass Corningware-like bowls and casserole dishes with orange Pennsylvania Dutch etchings on the sides of them.

Perfect! But what about Dad and Gramps? I turned over the product flier. Wow! There were also ashtrays and coffee mugs I could also get with the stamps!

The mugs were etched with a Victorian-looking man with a handlebar mustache. Definitely a mug for a man!

My dad always enjoyed a mug of tea in the evening with his dessert, and my grandfather had coffee every morning with his breakfast. So they would be perfect gifts. 

Adding up each item’s “cost,” I discovered I would need 7 stamp-filled books in order to get Nana a covered casserole dish, Mom a mixing bowl, and Dad and Gramps mugs for their hot beverages.

I had about 8 weeks to do this. Like an ambitious sales agent, I asked my uncle, grandmother and grandfather for the stamps whenever they stopped for gas at Esso. 

My parents shared one car, and I went with my dad every time he took our Rambler station wagon for a “fill up.”

The next week, I let a few of my great aunts, who were visiting us, know I was collecting the Esso stamps.

Soon I was getting envelopes stuffed with stamps tucked onto our porch door grille every few days, as I came home from school. 

As soon as one or two books were filled, I got to “shop” at the tobacco-musty Esso station office and choose from the cardboard boxes stamped with the words “ casserole” or “mug” for my gifts.

Not exactly holiday shopping in a store, but I was delighted to have something that could be useful and that I could wrap to put under the tree for my parents and grandparents.

See next week’s Item for the rest of the story.

By Deborah Craig