Four Bits

November 10, 2017

I’m just going to come out and admit that I’m oddly shaped. My legs are short but my torso is long, so long, in fact, that whenever I’m seated at a group gathering I’m always the tallest person present, that is until I stand. Because my legs are short I experience a problem when sitting that most people don’t have: change is constantly spilling out of my pockets. The last time I gathered up the change beneath cushions in our house the amount totaled $128.00.


Several months ago I was in a particularly nostalgic mood, remembering when movie theaters had velvet curtains that opened and closed, and cars had curb feelers, metal whiskers to alert elderly drivers (probably younger than I am now) that they were about to make contact with the curb. I flashed on my grandpa who passed away in 1976. It occurred to me that I’m built much like he was.


When I was a kid my brother David and I would often spend Saturday nights at my grandparents’ house while Mom and Dad painted the town. On Sunday mornings after church and a huge breakfast, Dave and I would sit on the front stoop and wait for Dad to pick us up. Grandpa would appear, his bulldog face shaded by his trademark fedora. He’d thank us for the visit, reach into his pocket and pull out a rubber coin pouch, extracting four bits for me and four bits for my brother. I later learned that two bits was a quarter.


These coin pouches (purses sound funny) were sent in the mail emblazoned with advertising. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, and insurance agents all gave away these rubber squeeze toys that held change. Most were tossed in the garbage. I hadn’t seen one in decades but suddenly I was determined to acquire one. I searched everywhere, toy stores, drug stores, shops that sell advertising swag, but none were to be found.


A few months ago Mrs. C. and I drove out to the Columbia Gorge to see the waterfalls before winter set in. We paused at the small town of Troutdale and enjoyed lemonade in a store designed to look like a turn of the century ice-cream parlor. On a rack by the cash register hung a collection of vintage toy replicas, including half a dozen, brightly colored rubber coin purses, er…pouches. They cost $2.50 each. I selected an emerald green one and handed the kid behind the counter three bucks.




I was so elated to obtain the focus of my quest that I said to the kid behind the cash register, “You can keep the four bits.”


“Four bits?” He cocked his head and looked at me with that expression young people have that translates: How f****ng old are you?


“Never mind,” I said, taking my change.


He handed over my quarters and I deposited them in my new rubber coin purse. Yeah, it’s a purse—wanna make something of it?  Now if only I can find those metal feelers to keep me from scraping my damn tires on the curb.





What are you nostalgic for?   




I remember seeing those change pouches before. A lot of people now probably don't use much change. I keep mine in the car to use in the drive-thru, except quarters that I use for laundry.
By: PT Dilloway on November 10, 2017
They have coin "purses" at the Container Store if you need more. I'm nostalgic for the energy I used to have.
By: scott park on November 10, 2017
I remember those coin purses & curb feelers. They were good, why don't we have them anymore?
By: Fran Fischer on November 10, 2017
I also remember those coin pouches and curb feelers too, but haven't seen either in years. I miss the simpler times when the whole family did things together, like everyone going to Granny's house on Sunday or out to the lake for a picnic and a swim. Seems nobody does this anymore.
By: Jimmy on November 10, 2017
My legs aren't short and I have the same pocket change challenge. I blame it on the clothing manufactures.
By: [not necessarily] Uncle Skip on November 10, 2017
They always seemed such a good idea, but were never really popular here with men or women. I only know "two bits" etc. because of the "shave and a haircut" stuff.
By: Jenny Woolf on November 10, 2017
Well at least now if the change holder falls out of your pocket, it will be easier to retrieve. You have me wishing now that I had one so didn't have to rummage in the bowels of my purse looking for change.
By: Arkansas Patti on November 10, 2017
I remember both of these items. Haven't seen them around for ages. Some of the newer automobiles now have park assist an electronic version of the feelers.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 10, 2017
I remember those coin purses; actually I had one. But I never saw the whiskers. Those sound like something I could use; I'm always scraping my rims on the curb :) I'm glad you found your little coin holder. I can't recall anything I'm too nostaligic about except places like the park I used to go to as a kid or the little river we used to paddle around in. Otherwise, I'm fine with all the new-fangled stuff like automatic washers and dryers and dishwashers and . . .
By: jenny_o on November 10, 2017
Hah! Years ago Blue Sky Gallery in Portland OR used to give Members a little trinket as a Membership card each year they renewed. I still have the "Membership Card" from 1992! I'll email you the image! now as far nostalgia? Hmmm....not too nostalgic about material things, mostly memories of friends and family that are no longer here.
By: Kathe W. on November 10, 2017
OMG I remember those!!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on November 10, 2017
Some of those "old" items were perfect and made sense. Maybe we could start a trend with those curb feelers. My father in law used those coin purses until the day he died. My wife still uses one. I gave up mine when I stopped carrying change in my pocket. When I get change now I take it home and segregate it-pennies, nickels and dimes go into a ceramic bowl and the quarters go into a monkey pod that I occasionally dip into for my coffee shop fund. Thing about starting a national movement to bring back curb feelers!
By: Tom Cochrun on November 10, 2017
I haven't seen those coin pouches in years. They're handy. I have short legs and a short torso and a short neck. Pretty much a short everything for someone who is of average height. I don't know how someone as short and dumpy as I am can be 5'5". Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 10, 2017
I'm nostalgic for a full head of hair. Thanks a lot Kyle and Hayden. =) Great story, Stephen. Thanks for sharing. I haven't seen a coin pouch in ages and I don't think I have ever seen those metal feelers in person.
By: Mr. Shife on November 10, 2017
Never seen those pouches before. Maybe a North American thing? I'm nostalgic for the smells and sounds of my parents' house on Christmas morning, while dinner was cooking. We still cook a turkey for our family, but nothing seems quite the same when you're the one doing the work :)
By: Botanist on November 10, 2017
Yes, i remember those coin pouches, i had a couple of them at one time. Sofa diving/couch beachcombing is such fun, you never know what you will find.
By: messymimi on November 10, 2017
When you said squeeze purse I didn't know what you were talking about and then it hit me. Yes, I had one of them but unlike you I don't want another one!
By: red on November 10, 2017
I had a couple of those coin purses. They're probably still laying around here somewhere with my childhood stuff. I'm nostalgic for those pencil topper erasers that came in the Frito multipacks. Seems like there were some plastic dinosaurs about that size in some kind of multipack, too. I couldn't wait to see which prize it was.
By: Val on November 10, 2017
Thanks for this morning's smiles!
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 11, 2017
I would have purchased two or three!
By: Tabor on November 11, 2017
for years, I had one of those!
By: Sage on November 11, 2017
I've never had coin purses or curb feelers, but your story reminded me of how confusing it was to me to hear people call a 5-cent coin a "nickel" and a 10-cent coin a "dime." (The "quarter" for 25 cents made a bit more sense to me). I remember I had to ask what a nickel and a dime was. And I remember the looks I got when I used to call the coins a "10-cent piece" or a "5-cent piece." At was all so very confusing to me in the beginning... fun memories!
By: Pixel Peeper on November 19, 2017

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