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Remember when ... J.C. Penney handled cash transactions using vacuum tubes

Remember when ... J.C. Penney handled cash transactions using vacuum tubes

February 11th, 2019 by Floyd Fenix / Columnist in Features

I am old enough to remember when our local J.C. Penney store had vacuum tubes.

When a customer purchased an item, the clerk put the money and ticket in a capsule and placed it in the tube, and the tube carried the capsule to the office upstairs.

All cash and change was handled by the office staff upstairs. The change and paid ticket were sent back by vacuum tube to the clerk on the sales floor. While waiting for the office to process the purchase, the clerk frequently wrapped it. J.C. Penney gave specific training to all sales clerks on how to wrap a package correctly. The sold item was wrapped with brown Kraft paper and then tied with a string.

The J.C. Penney training taught the store clerk how to pull the string tight, then hold the string in place with the ring finger while using the thumb and first two fingers to tie the string in a knot. The operation was done quickly and efficiently with only one hand. The wrapping technique used a minimal amount of paper, string or ribbon. J.C. Penney personally trained Sam Walton during a trip to his Des Moines, Iowa, store in 1940 on how to correctly wrap packages.

Floyd Fenix is a Texarkana businessman and educator.

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