“At our March Writers Group meeting, we had to write about an item either lost or found- like a show & tell. After putting my hands on it after so long, it was more fascinating still, learning its true purpose”
Patented by the B & R Manufacturing company in 1930s America, the dime bank has a long history on both sides of the border. Running along its outside are graduated markings of quarter inch increments denoting monetary values. A slit at the top allows for dimes to drop in and slide outby loosening a screw..
In August 1921, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family were vacationing in New Brunswick, Canada. After a few days of yachting and fishing, the former Secretary of the Navy began to feel ill. Within two days he was paralyzed from the neck down. Roosevelt did recover, but never walked again.
Working hard in the years that followed, Roosevelt attended and received treatment at the Georgia Warm Springs spa in an attempt to regain his strength. Concerned for those of the American public not as fortunate as he, Roosevelt started the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in support of children suffering the effects of infantile paralysis.
When the Polio vaccine went into modern circulation, these banks were used to gather $5 in dimes. An initiative inspired by America’s greatest entertainer at the time, the device measured just 2 ½ inches tall by ¾ of an inch in diameter.
Known as Mr. Radio, Eddie Cantor made his name on 1920s radio programming by setting aside time during each set to introduce good, new talent. People like Gracie Allen & Dinah Shore were but a few acts adored by audiences. In social circles, Eddie was nobody’s fool and knew what side his bread was buttered on.
During a radio spot in January of 1938, Cantor asked his listeners to mail a dime to Roosevelt to help fight Polio. Copying from an old news reel popular at the time, Eddie called his enterprise The March of Dimes. And march they did, as the White House mail room was deluged of 2,680,000 dimes- stuffed to the rafters.
. . . Early last weekend, I listened as CKON radio played a song from 42nd Street called ‘Shuffle off to Buffalo’. Never hearing the song before, it soon left my conscious mind. It turned out that a voice over for Eddie Cantor sang that song for a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes collection of‘ Baby Bottleneck’.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_ Bottleneck, which referenced the not so clean backstories of that generation’s entertainers.
While pondering which lost and found item I could write about for March’s show and tell, I happened upon that vintage dime saver device of my grandfather’s. At the auction held at their home on Pleasant Valley Road in 1989, my partner and I were standing in the barn- itself a trove of memories. The smells alone of old milk, pigs, fresh cut hay, tractor oil and cow shit brought me right back to familiar mysteries.
The shelves barren of tools and old radios, my mother reached across cobwebs, brown from age to hand me the cylindrical tin-plate of rusted metal.
Raised on sacrifices made of saving single dimes – to what they bought, of oranges for stockings, to handfuls of nuts and humbug rock candy: I am the generation of savers.
How it all connected this way; from the radio song, to the winds that blow-is out of my hands but for those who came before us comparing their vaccination marks- we thank you all.
And, for Franklin D., whose likeness has been stamped continuously on the U.S. dime since 1946 -recognition never goes out of style.
Lisa Gray Copyright © March 2023