When I was a kid, aluminum cans had not yet become very popular for sodas or beer. Most everything was bottled and when you purchased a carton of sodas, (we called them “pops” in Ohio), you would have to pay a two cent deposit for every bottle. When you finished drinking all of the pops, you’d put the bottles back into the carton and carry them back to the grocery store or quick mart. You would receive two cents for each bottle or even-credit if you were purchasing more pops. The bottles would get picked up by the delivery drivers and carried back to the bottling plants where they would be sanitized and reused for new product.
Two cents was nothing for adults, but there was a lot of penny candy when I was growing up as a child so each bottle that we could find discarded meant 2-4 pieces of candy (i.e. instant kid adrenalin rush). Certain candy like Chum Gum came as 2 pieces for a penny and it was one of my favorites, not only for the value, but also for its great flavor. So, often we kids would go out on our bottle scavenger hunts and zap up every bottle we could – and then there were the ‘special’ expeditions….
All of our vacations as children were spent in Vincennes, Indiana where both of my parents were born and raised. In addition to getting to see and play with all of our relatives, there was one more exciting feature of Indiana – the 3 cent bottle deposit! That’s right; we kids were getting our first early training in the currency markets. Forget trading Dollars for Deutschmarks or Yen, we kids yielded 50% return on every bottle we could find and smuggle across the Ohio/Indiana border!
My brothers and I would smuggle our bottles into the car, tucking them under the seats of Mom and Dad, trying to be careful to position them such that they didn’t jiggle too much. If they clinked around too much, we might suffer the wrath of Dad who might complain of the noise. Speaking for myself, I did everything I could to avoid getting on Dad’s bad side, (read me) though in his defense I can recall only once his complaining about the clinking.
When Mom and Dad were married, we always stayed at Grandma Wyatt’s house. How can I possibly forget the address; it was 1427 McKinley Ave. Vincennes, IN. Just down the street about 3 city blocks was the local family-owned grocery store owned by a lady we knew only by her first name – Audie. Audie knew Grandma and Granddad for years. She had told me that she had seen me as a baby and always seemed happy to see our check-in. I think the last time I saw her was when I was about 20 years old.
As soon as Dad would park the car, we boys would be anticipating the moment he would allow us to shoot down the street, carrying our bottles in a bag or carton, being ever so careful not to break one of our precious cargo. At 3 cents per bottle, we had become the Donald Trumps of the Indiana penny candy market and we were ready to make a deal! Ten bottles would buy a lot of candy.
Oh those loser Ohio bottle collectors – how we felt sorry for those poor little bastards.