By Norris Chambers

             We country boys had our nickels and dimes and occasionally a dollar or two when we sold our ‘possum hides. We didn’t have a long list to spend our money on. We needed .22 cartridges for our rifles and as we grew older we looked for tools for the blacksmith shop. I squandered enough hide money to get material for a crystal radio. We hadn’t reached the stage where we needed a dollar to take our favorite girl friends to a movie on Saturday night and a little change for a treat after the show.

            All of our financial transactions were performed on a cash basis. If we didn’t have the money we just didn’t buy the goodie!

Of course we knew about credit and some of the evils of going too far in debt. We knew that Mr. Dodge lost his home because he had borrowed money from the bank and couldn’t pay the debt when it came due. John Crimm had borrowed to buy a thresher and hadn’t been able pay for it. He lost the thresher and two good horses that he had offered as collateral. We just didn’t try to buy anything without being able to pay with cash.

My first temptation came a few weeks after I graduated and came to Fort Worth for further schooling. I had a regular income of about three dollars a week that my sister sent me from a savings account to which I had been reluctantly contributing for several years. An uncle had given me a calf when he got rich from oil and moved to the city and told me that if I saved all the earnings from the calf and it’s offspring it would send me to college. My parents never let me touch any of the calf money. It went into the savings account and eventually grew into a nice accumulation!

There was a big store at about Main and Seventh with a nice looking table radio in the window display. The price was somewhere around twenty dollars but the cheap weekly payments was the big deal. For only 35 cents a week I could have that nice little radio to listen to. I could afford that since I was working for my meals and my room rent was only $1.50 a week. I walked boldly in and told the man in charge that I wanted to buy one of the nice little radios in the window. He smiled like a donkey eating prickly pears and set one out on the counter. He told me the price and stood by for the money. I knew he was anxious to make the sale because transactions of this magnitude resulted in a small commission for him in addition to his meager salary.

“I want to buy it on the thirty-five cents a week deal.” I told him. “I can easily make a payment like that.” His grin faded a little and he said he would have to ask a few questions first. His first question was, “Have you bought on credit before?” Of course my answer was “No.” Then he wanted to know how much I made and where I was employed. He then informed me that the store manager would have to approve my credit and to come back the next day to close the sale.

When I went in the next day to pick up my radio and pay my thirty-five cents he sadly informed me that I didn’t qualify for credit but he would be glad to sell me the radio for cash. That much money looked like the national debt to me at that time so I walked out without a radio.

About this time I started the radio service class at school and in a few days had built my own radio for practically nothing. My radio instructor was very good and I learned just about all the electronics there was at that time.

I didn’t try to buy anything else on credit until years later when Ella and I lived in San Antonio. We were in a second hand store looking at furniture for our recently rented house. A table radio was playing and it sounded terrible. I knew that it needed a filter condenser in the power supply and I told the owner I would fix his radio for a dollar. That was the first repair job for my home repair shop. A fifteen-cent condenser made the radio play like a dream and made a friend out of the furniture man. I fixed several other sets for him. We needed all kinds of furniture since we had moved there with none. He was happy to sell us anything he had on credit.

We bought a refrigerator from another store and gave the furniture store as a reference. Soon the refrigerator store became a reference. By the time we left San Antonio we could buy just about anything on credit. We were negotiating to buy a new car for about eight hundred dollars but just before we closed the deal the government closed all sales to individuals. This was necessary because the war effort required all necessities to be rationed and restricted and we did not qualify for a new car. We were stuck with the same old 1937 Chevrolet for several years.

But we had credit to buy anything we wanted including houses, automobiles, furniture and merchandise from the store at Main and Seventh!

Is there a moral to this tale. Of course there is. If you are denied credit, just fix a man’s radio for a bargain price and ask him for credit!