We Lost Jimmy (1984) was a two story chapter—a story within a story. The main portion of the story was a move we were making from Indiana back out west. As we were loading the car, I noticed my brother and his bike were missing. Then I begin recollecting one of the reasons my big brother was my hero.
I recorded a podcast this week with an old youth ministry friend who is now a worship pastor, musical artist, author, and podcaster extraordinaire, Rick Lee James. (Lee added to remove confusion with another Rick James) Rick asked me about that fun story within a story where my brother and I rode our bikes fifteen miles over to the next town to exchange food stamps for actual coinage that could be spent on audio tapes for my dad.
The rules about food stamps and how they were used in the 80s differs a bit from today. Food stamps were actual printed money that were allowed to be used on any food item only. When you purchased a food item, the change from the purchase was given back to you in actual coinage that could be used on any item. Our goal as kids was to get the most coinage for our dollar without being suspected of food stamp malpractice. (This particular method has been corrected, at least in Ohio since they now use EBT cards that do not give change back.)
We took about $30 in food stamps to that larger small city in Indiana. Our goal was to buy $20 in audio tapes with the change for Dad and of course, the best part was we got to keep whatever was left over. A typical purchase consisted of a small candy bar, which at the time was around twenty-five cents. That was fine, but that also meant only a 75% exchange rate and a greater potential for being caught in our scam.
We discovered a better method. If we purchased an onion, just a single onion, the exchange rate was much greater and the potential for being caught was reduced. A single onion might cause somewhere around ten cents, giving us an exchange rate closer to 90%. Of course, onions weren’t as tasty as a Butterfinger, but one could only eat so many Butterfingers anyway.
After riding our bikes to Columbus, Indiana, exchanging all of our food stamps, and buying Dad’s audio tapes, we were headed home when we passed by the theater and noticed that Return of the Jedi was debuting. Our eyes lit up after seeing the original Star Wars on television a few weeks prior. We were caught up.
We spent the next few hours watching laser beams, ewoks, and The Rebellion overcome the Galactic Empire. When the movie ended and the curtain closed, it was 9:30 pm and the sun was going down quickly. We still had fifteen miles to head home on the two-lane highway back to our town. I was ten, my brother was fourteen and we didn’t have a cell phone to call home.
Rick and I laughed about that story and what happened next. I hope you have an opportunity to listen when the podcast is released on Wednesday at Voices In My Head (The Rick Lee James Podcast) – Episode 420 – NEVER SETTLED with Shawn D. Congleton (rickleejames.substack.com).
As for Lessons Learned from this chapter, they are obvious once you read the chapter.
- Never leave a family member behind when you are moving.
- This was one of the most challenging factors that affected me growing up. I lost one of my heroes (my brother Jimmy) and I quickly became the oldest in the family and garnered all of the responsibilities at only eleven years old.
- Don’t inappropriately use government funds meant to help your family survive on frivolous items such as candy, audio tapes and movies.
- Okay, well maybe one candy bar a month.
- If you’re ten years old and have a two or three hour, fifteen mile bike ride home, don’t go watch a movie at 7 pm because when it is over, it will be getting dark as you are just heading home and it is not safe on a two-lane highway with no lights (nor reflectors, probably).
- Also, it gets cold at night in the summer too.
Until Wednesday, have a great week. Summer is almost here!
By the way, the loaded car depicted in this chapter was a sight to see. We’ve lost all pictures of it. However, it was captured a few times and published in a newspaper. I’ve been unable to find said picture in any archives. If anyone else finds that picture, I am offering a $100 reward/finder’s fee. Somewhere around summer/fall of 1983 in Washington, Indiana & Missoula, Montana was our best guess.