Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where It All Began -- Part 2

One summer, I worked as a checker (cashier) in a grocery store in Pinedale, Wyo.

It was 1972 and my husband and I, with our infant son, had moved to this bustling town of 1,000 people (in the summer) the previous fall. Pinedale is county seat for Sublette County, population 3,000 at that time, and Falers' General Store, which I remember as an IGA but which I can't verify at the moment, was the largest grocery store in the county.

IGA stands for Independent Grocers Association. This one was owned by Harold Faler, a local resident and -- yup -- independent grocer.

Most people, then as now, struggled to make their paychecks stretch. Toward the end of the month, the grocery baskets coming through the check-out counter weren't quite as full. Payment sometimes included lots of coins scrounged from various hiding places.

When the money ran out, people signed the slip.

Coming from the megalopolis of Southern California, I was taken aback by such trust.

Bank loans, I'd heard of. But they were hard to come by and you didn't take one out to cover everyday expenses. You got a second job instead.

Charge cards, I'd heard of. We even had a JC Penney card that my husband had obtained after being steadily employed by an aerospace company for a number of months.

Gas cards, I'd heard of. Shell, Texaco, and others were fairly common by this time.
Cards for each individual company.

But signing a grocery store receipt as a promise to pay it back -- WITHOUT interest -- when the next paycheck arrived? All I can say is that more than one Sublette County family had Harold Faler to thank for not having to go to bed hungry back then.

So what was the difference between Faler's extending credit and today's creditors selling credit?

Stay tuned for Part 3.

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