|GREEN STAMPS AND BASEBALL
I recall getting home after the family grocery shopping trip at what I believes was Miller Super Market. Along with a
half dozen brown paper sacks filled with groceries were also these bunches of green stamps which mom would toss
into a shoe box for safe keeping.
It seems that back 1896 or so a company called Sperry and Hutchinson began offering retailers these stamps to
distribute to their customers, at a cost of course, to help promote customer loyalty. The customer would then take
these stamps which had a gum back, lick them and paste them into books of some 24 pages to later redeem them at
local Green Stamp stores for products, mostly household items which were also displayed in catalogs or as they were
call Idea Books.
Within the Quintana household was this ritual which took place when mom was getting ready to redeem these rather
wrinkled books containing the pasted stamps which were held together in bundles with a rubber band. We would sit
around the kitchen table licking and pasting the stamps in the books. Shortly after the evening of pasting the stamps
in the 24 page books mom would take them to the Green Stamp store and redeem them for some item for herself
which in most cases was an item that the entire family could use or at least benefit from.
There was the toaster that would toast two slices of bread which was a big step up from placing your slice of bread on
a hot plate if you desired having toast in the morning. If by some chance you were a bit more affluent you had a
toaster that allowed you to place a slice of bread one each side, close it and allow the bread to get toasted, but this did
not compare to the toaster that popped the toast bread up in a minute or so.
The other big item mom got with here green stamps was the waffle iron which allowed the Quintana household to
enjoy real waffles instead of just pancakes all the time. About once a year mom would make her journey to the green
stamp store and bring home some unique household item she had received for her collection of those green stamps.
Can you imagine an electric mixer to mix the ingredients for that chocolate cake instead of mixing everything with
either an egg beater or a lot of elbow grease and a spoon.
Mom’s journey to the Green Stamp store was an exciting event for mom because this was her opportunity to indulge
herself with that one item that made life a little easier for her, mainly in the kitchen. Collecting the green stamps,
having us kids join her in licking the stamps until our tongues were pasty and dry and then bundling them up to
redeem them was perhaps her pay or at least allowance for the hours, days, weeks, months and years of life as a
I do recall one trip to the Green Stamp store that did wind up a bit different in the spring of 1955. Like most kids
growing up in the fifties spring meant going to school with a sock full of marbles, a baseball and bat and of course a
baseball glove or mitt. I manage to find a mitt or my folks found a mitt for me at a church rummage sale. It had to
be the ugliest glove in Derby if not the entire state of Colorado. My first task after getting this yellowish looking
glove was to lace it back together, part of the web was separated from the thumb and finger and so with some old
shoe laces and bits of leather so I laced it back together.
The biggest problem was with the pocket of the mitt. The pocket had disintegrated to a thin layer of leather which
would serve as the impact point when you caught a baseball or softball. I padded the inside of the mitt with a scrap
piece of a rag to soften the blow when I caught a ball in the palm of my hand. The greatest challenge was figuring a
way to keep this cloth pad in place and in fact in the glove itself as I soon found catching a well tossed or hit ball
without the padding witch was no different than catching the ball barehanded.
Like so many of the other kids who carried their glove to school I also carried mine although I did not display it quite
so proudly as my classmates. Other kids brought their baseball bats and either an official baseball or a softball,
which incidentally was not so soft. Our favorite game at recess was a game called work up. The game was
structured so that two batters were chosen and then the members of the infield and the outfield. As a player you
would advance one position when a batter was put out or if you caught a fly ball you would trade places with the
batter hitting the fly ball. This game usually started at first recess continued through lunch recess and afternoon
On one of those spring days we ran out for recess and started our usual game of work up, after our 15 minute
morning recess I had advanced to third base on my way to hopefully getting a chance to bat. Lunched time came and
after a quick lunch we were out playing work up again, little by little I was working my way up and I knew by
afternoon recess I would be holding the bat at home plate. My biggest problem at this point was keeping my mitt
together as the shoestring laces were falling apart and by now I had to try to keep my glove together with both hands.
However by the third recess period I was now in the place of the pitcher with a glove that was quickly falling apart.
I was now at the pitcher’s mound trying to keep my glove together and at times holding it under my armpit and
pitching with my right hand. I would then grab my glove put it on and hold it together with both hands, however this
would not prove to be my salvation. I pitched the ball and in a flash the batter had hit a line drive directly toward me,
no time to put the glove on, it dropped to the ground and I attempted to stop the ball bare handed. I can still recall
the impact as I reached out to stop the ball and the sudden pain to my right hand. The ball fell to the ground the
batter reached first base and I was holding my right hand gripping what would be a broken right index finger twisted
out of shape.
In 1955 there were no school health clerks or nurses to provide relief for any illness or injury incurred during school
hours. At best your parents would be called to see if they could come and pick you up and take you to the doctor. In
my case I knew I would be in trouble if I had the school call home to inform my parents of my injury and at any rate
no one could come and pick me up as mom did not drive and dad was at work. All I could do was hold my injured
finger as tight as possible to keep down the pain of a now swollen and disfigured finger, which to this date remains
twisted slightly away from the rest of the fingers on my right hand.
Upon arriving home I told my mom of my finger and the pain it was causing me and was told to go and soak it in hot
water and Epson salts, this I did until my dad came home from work. Dads answer to this non life threaten matter
was to rig up a splint with popsicles sticks and some tape he would bring home from work and so he yanked on the
finger and sealed it in a splint. This accident ended my participation for the next few weeks in our daily game of
work up as first I had to wait for the pain to go away and then see if the finger would fix itself and as I noted before
it never did.
So by now you may be asking what does this have to do with green stamps. The school district was starting to begin
spring break, of course back then it was called Easter Vacation. Back in 1955 the Derby community and the school
district was allowed to recognize the fact that Easter was a special time of year. As a community and as a nation we
had values that recognized that there existed a deity greater than any man or woman and their education. Let me get
off of my soap box and back to my story.
As we were getting ready for Easter vacation mom pulled out the box filled with green stamps and empty green stamp
books. She called us to the kitchen table and instructed to start licking the stamps and placing them in the 24 page
empty books and for the next hour or so we licked and pasted until all of the stamps were in the books.
Derby, Colorado did not have bus service in those days so you either had to have a car or some method to getting to
the bus stops in Denver so the next day mom pack up her kids and when dad drove to work we loaded up the car and
went with him. Once we were at dads job off of Washington and 46th Avenue we went to the bus stop so we could
catch the bus that would eventually get us to the S and H Green Stamp store which if recall correctly was on Speer
off of Federal Boulevard.
The S and H Green Stamp store was well lit and along the wall were hundreds of items you could redeem for your
stamps. There were also displays in the center of the room with neat stuff and dragging my younger brother behind
me I headed to the toy display so I could look and wish I had some stamps to pick one of them. Mom and my younger
sister went over to the items that mom desired most of which would have added to her kitchen or maybe the living
room of our house on Poplar Street. This had been my first time at the Green Stamp store and after a bit I got bored
and just wanted to leave and get back home, knowing of course we would have to wait until dad got off work to get us
from Denver to Derby.
Mom after what seemed like forever called us over to her where she was waiting to pick up the items she had selected
to redeem with her green stamps. Standing next to her as the clerk brought over her items I swore one of the boxes
had a picture of a baseball mitt. My thought was who and why did mom get that baseball glove for? Actually maybe
it was my eyes playing tricks on me and it was not a baseball glove but something entirely different. In a short while
the items mom selected were stuffed into a paper bag and we all walked out together to start the journey to the bus
stop and back to the stop dad had dropped us off earlier in the morning.
Try as I may I cannot recall what we did to kill the four or so hours between the time we left the Green Stamp store
and the time the bus dropped us down the street from the packing house where my dad worked. Did I really see a box
with a baseball glove pictured on the outside of it or was I just imagining this? Then if I did see the box with the
baseball glove who was it for, a cousin, one of my dad nephews or maybe it was for one of the kids much less
fortunate than myself at the church, the folks did things like this. The one thing I knew was not to get my hopes up
to high because the disappointment would be less if I just did not think about the glove that in fact I really may not
Dad met us and the family drove back to Poplar Street in Derby and as was the normal routine in the Quintana
household mom began to prepare dinner for the family. Dad expected to see dinner on the table when he came into
the door however this time he sat watching TV while we scurried to get dinner ready and he did not get too excited
about having to wait. By now I had forgotten about the bag with the items mom had picked up at the Green Stamp
store and was now thinking of how I was going to spend Easter vacation and not having to go to school for a full
We had dinner as usual and the next piece of activity was my brother and I having to do the dishes, with no school
there was no homework to worry about and our next desire was to watch something fun on TV or better yet go
outside and play until it got real dark. As my brother and I were putting away the last of the dishes we had just
washed and dried mom came in with the items she had picked up earlier in the day. In all honesty I cannot recall
what it was she got for herself but mom handed me a box and I could see it was the baseball mitt.
Affection or emotions were not displayed within the Quintana household during those days, except maybe anger or
disgust, at various time for various reasons. In all honest I cannot recall despite the fact I was over joy at just
receiving a real baseball mitt to stop and say thanks to mom for this special gift, but like everything else that happen
in our home I sure mom just assume she had received a thank you.
I unpacked my new glove and headed for the room I shared with my brother and found both a hard and soft ball and
started tossing it in to the glove as hard as I could. I waited for the sting of the ball hitting the palm of my hand but
no sting. Time after time I tried to get the force of the ball impacting against the glove to bring pain to my hand,
again no pain, wow!
After forty or fifty minutes of tossing both the hard and soft ball in to my glove hand I than headed for the bathroom
where I reached for the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. I scooped out a handful and began to rub the petroleum jelly all
over the glove as I had either been told or read that this was what real baseball players did to properly break in a new
glove. My next step was to find a piece of cord and with a baseball place in the pocket of the glove I tied the glove as
to properly shape it. I then located the old yellow glove and took it outside and tossed into the trash can.
The glove given to me by my mom back in the spring of my fifth grade year that she traded in her green stamps to get
today hangs on the wall of my office. Next to it is a glove I was issued when I made the battalion softball team some
eight or nine years later, I would end up keeping that glove, but while I cherish that professional model, custom built,
which incidentally has a yellow tint, does not compare with my Denke model glove. I can still put it on and toss a ball
into it as hard as I can and still no sting. Mom was not the huggy, kissy kind of person back in 1955, but she was the
kind of mom to give up her green stamps for a baseball glove.