I remember back in the late sixties, when bill paying was a FULL DAY of running around with my Mom and Dad in the town of West Chester, PA. Literally, we would drive around and street park all day for about a quarter and head directly to the First National Bank of West Chester with its gothic stone columns and hard-edged marble stairs. I think we were going to cash “the” paycheck.
There were these HUGE revolving doors that always seemed to solicit giggles as my brother and I would try to dart into adjoining door “spaces” to follow our parents inside. Once entry was gained, it was like another world in there… so different from the outside streets and sidewalks. Certainly a palatial interior of tall gold leaf wall papered walls, marble floors and chandeliers with well dressed tellers working behind shiny gold caged counters. The building echoed with dress shoes and clicking high heeled rhythms. Voices were hushed as if all the money within these walls was a BIG secret. There was a floor to ceiling safe at the back of the bank with an enormous wheel on it and people shuffled lots of paper too. Thick ball point pens and watermarked onion skin paper were everywhere.
Lunch was sometimes scheduled during this jaunt about streets named Market, High and Gay with an occasional Chestnut or Walnut thrown in as well. We’d venture over tree shaded, brick-tossed sidewalks and saunter into Woolworth’s in the center of town to sit squeezed snuggly into a baby blue plastic coated booth with a Formica topped table. Chocolate milkshakes with whipped cream and “frankfurters” on top-sliced toasted rolls and potato chips would make us more than satisfied. Though I never ate them, the plates were always garnished with pickles. My dad would always eat mine.
My brother and I would beeline after lunch to the back of the store where they housed “the pet department.” Actually, it was mostly goldfish, hamsters, colored dyed parakeets and the occasional rogue gecko or snake. I DO remember once we were allowed to purchase a small green turtle and island habitat complete with plastic palm tree that we took home and probably had for a month or so before he went to “turtle heaven” (read: toilet).
After Woolworth’s, we’d head to PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) which I THINK was in the “Green Tree Building” on High Street, then over to pay the phone bill on Walnut Street at the Bell Telephone Building. We paid a Sears and Roebuck bill somewhere too, but I’m not clear exactly where that was. Sometimes, depending on our timing, we would head over to Mosteller’s Department Store or Grant’s to get some clothes for school before we headed home.
I miss those days of running errands with my Mom, Dad and brothers. Today, I pay my bills in about 5 minutes online while eating stale Doritos and maybe a banana.
Ahh… the power of convenience.