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Do People Still Pick Up Pennies?


When Richard Nixon was president, my sister and I would collect pop bottles that people would toss out of their car into the ditch.

This was before the government discovered Woodsy Owl lecturing litterbugs in El Segundo and recruited him for a national Give A Hoot campaign.

Pop bottles were made of green glass and were returned, washed and reused back then. People brag about recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles these days, but back then, they didn’t exist. Everything came in glass.

The bottles were worth 5 cents each, which was a princely sum for a kid. A nickel would buy you a Charms Sucker, a package of LifeSavers or five pieces of Bazooka Bubble Gum. Bazooka Joe was the gum’s mascot and his adventure cartoons were included on the wrapper of each piece. You could read the two-panel comic in about the same amount of time it took the flavor to leave the gum.

We’d clean the dirty pop bottles before we cashed them in at the Shur-Way, because Coca-Cola and the other manufacturers of soda water, as my grandmother called it, wouldn’t take dirty ones. On good days, we’d each come home with a quarter, plus candy.

The bonus of any trip to cash in pop bottles was to find money people had dropped in the parking lot.

Most of the time, you can hear a coin when it hits the pavement, so we rarely found anything larger than a penny. That was because back then, people would bend over to pick up most coins, but if their arms were full or they were in a hurry, they left the pennies.

For pop bottle collecting kids, whomever found pennies had the bragging rights for the day, even if they’d cashed in more pop bottles. Because, free money trumped pop bottle money.

All of this came back to me today when I found a dime in the parking lot of a convenience store. I’m not sure whether the person heard it hit the pavement or not, but if they did, they didn’t think it was worth picking up.

I thought, “A dime. Nowadays, people don’t even pick up dimes?”

I looked in the store for some Bazooka Bubble Gum to buy with my free dime, but didn’t find any. Checking the Internet, I discovered the company no longer makes it. However, I did find a company that still has some of the last batch for sale.

I’m going to order some. I plan on paying for part of it with my free dime.

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