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Taking wooden nickels

July 24, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

Remember the old sayings that guided our lives? I do! One of my grandchildren asked me how I could remember those old sayings. Not a problem, they were part of our growing up. All our elders used them, and, in many cases, they expected us to follow those words of wisdom.

"A rolling stone gathers no moss," was not easily understood, but, "who asked for your 2 cents?" was easy. "A stitch in time, saves nine," could be explained since the women of the household were always sewing and darning something that had been torn or was wearing out. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" has lost favor in modern times. And, the one that rises up today, "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil!"

"Don't take any wooden nickels" is timeless and warns us against some of those scams of today. Of course, wooden nickels had no monetary value, but advertisers and publicists saw their potential for good publicity and produced a plethora of them. I guess that I did not take the "don't take" saying to heart; I took so many that I have a collection.

Wooden nickels were widely used to promote anniversaries, centennials, and bicentennials of organizations and communities. I have wooden nickels from the Montgomery County Bicentennial of 1972, the New York Forestry Centennial of 1985, the Johnstown Bicentennial of 1958, and the St. Johnsville United States Bicentennial of 1976.

Those promoting events made good use of wooden nickels. Examples in my collection include the 1984 Johnstown Colonial Market Fair, the Black Hills Passion Play in Lake Wales, Florida, and the 1976 Fort Stanwix Days in Rome. Apparently, "taking" wooden nickels was paying off for the advertisers.

Businesses found wooden nickels to be another means of getting name recognition. I have found wooden nickels from the Nicks Villa Tap Room, Spiaks Maplewood (good for one drink!), the Aqua Circus in West Yarmouth, Cape Cod (one dollar discount), the Oldest Store Museum at St. Augustine, Carousel Center at the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, Stetson Flower Shop in Deltona, the Fulton National Bank, J. and J. Beauty Supply, Amsterdam, the Alabama Theater at Myrtle Beach, Woodland Museum in Cooperstown, Avis, the Cape Cod Cooperage, and a "wooden ruble" for Stolichnaya Vodka.

Those running for office could also gain name recognition by passing out wooden nickels. My examples include Lion Ted for District Governor, Gates for Treasurer, and a "Vote Democratic" complete with a donkey picture and a slogan, "The Democratic Slate is Great!"

E. Snyder of Northville made her own version of a wooden nickel. Howe Caverns and Fort Klock used wooden nickels to attract the tourists. Adirondackers made good use of wooden nickels over the years. Wells had a 175th Anniversary coin in 1980 and a 200th in 2005. The Wells Improvement Group had an "Old Home Days" wooden nickel in 1968. Hoss's Country Corner in Long Lake produced a wooden nickel and the North Country Scenic Railroad produced another. Also, our Adirondack wooden nickel collection would not be complete without a wooden nickel from the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.

In my estimation, my wooden nickel collection is probably not worth a "wooden nickel." But, I remember, "Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out!"



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