Thursday, 10 April 2008
The Silver Dollar Scheme
By Nancy Leitz
Most of the time, a small town simply tolerates a large military base that dominates the area. That was the case at the United States Air Force Base where we were living in 1962. There was no love lost between the airmen stationed at the base and the home-town folks.
It got to the point that the commander of the base issued an order for all military personnel to wear civilian clothing while off duty. That lessened their presence in the town. The townsfolk didn't notice the Air Force people so much out of uniform, so it made it difficult for them to blame everything that went wrong on the Air Force members.
That worked for awhile and then things heated up again. The townspeople resented the young fellows looking at their daughters and asking them for dates. Something had to be done to settle this animosity once and for all. The business people in town had to be made to realize how much of their business came from these people that they were so critical of.
The commanding officer called in his comptroller/ paymaster and proposed a scheme that he hoped would put an end to the trouble between the two factions. Here is what he did.
He ordered that all personnel from himself on down to the newest airman (about 3,000 people) be paid in silver dollars on the next payday. There was no such thing as direct deposit in those days so everyone was used to getting a pay envelope - but not a pay envelope that he could hardly pick up. The silver dollars were very heavy and each person got an average of $200.00, so they were carrying around 200 silver dollars.
The scheme really hit that town like a ton of bricks (or dollars). Those dollars were deposited in the local bank, they were used at the gas station, the dry cleaners, the movies, the drive ins. They were put in collection baskets at every denomination's church. They had to hire extra people to count the money at the various businesses and get huge bags to carry the dollars to the bank.
It worked!!! The town council invited the commanding officer to the next meeting and implored him to go back to paper checks in the pay envelopes. The business people had only to look around their businesses and see the silver dollars stacked up EVERYWHERE to realize how much of their livelihood they owed to the Air Force personnel who patronized their shops and restaurants and movie houses and car dealerships.
Things were never the same in that little town again. They were better.
[As a point of interest, this is story No. 300. If you would like to contribute to The Elder Storytelling Place, the guidelines are here. We would all be pleased to read your stories.]