FOULDS: Opening a passbook and stepping into a glorious past
The bills were wrapped around themselves, tight like a prairie tornado, forming a perfect funnel in the old plastic drinking cup.
Lean over, close one eye, squint into the paper crevasse and an overlapping sea of coins stared right back at you.
Onto the Scotiabank counter it plopped, the cup of cash and two cheques constituting the entire net worth of my 10-year-old son — $212 in all when added to the $25 already occupying the savings account at the bank.
We know this because of the trusty and nostalgia-inducing passbook, that magical flip-open booklet that, to this day, is still inserted into a machine and updated with a font that transports generations of Canadians back to their childhoods.
Through the advent of ATMs, telephone banking, Internet bill-paying and smartphone deposits, the simple but effective passbook has persevered, bringing that special smile to every kid whose eyes widen when seeing the ink magically increase their wealth.
At 10 years of age, two-hundred bucks is Warren-Buffet wealthy.
For me, saving money began with seeing Anne Murray star in TV commercials for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (never CIBC).
That led to my first luxurious gold-laminated square passbook that fit perfectly snug in its plastic cover.
Many was the time my paper-route cheques were deposited in the bank of the Canadian Snowbird, with my golden passbook duly updated.
Many more were the times my paper-route money was withdrawn, to be spent at nearby Toys ‘N Wheels on such necessities as DoodleArt, Hot Wheels models and bouncy balls.
That fancy Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce passbook got as much wear and tear as Murray’s big album of the era, New Kind of Feeling.
Its hit single was Shadows in the Moonlight, which could aptly describe how hard it was to find my savings, spendthrift that I was.
Today, however, the passbook that has succeeded my dog-eared version is as rigid as the economy circa 2008.
It has been firmly in the black since early last year when the account was opened with the exchange of $25 for an NHL-themed savings can and accompanying mini-poster listing all Stanley Cup champions through 2010.
Whereas I itched to withdraw, my son withdraws from the itch to withdraw.
Alas, that initial $25 deposit grew in 11 months to . . . twenty-five dollars; such is life in the era of historic-low interest rates.
I try to explain compound-interest ratios to my son, but the fact his $25 has gained no interest in a year increases the danger of making any kid lose interest in the art of gaining interest, something in which the current economy has no interest in making interesting.
Back in the day of Anne Murray and my golden passbook, I tell my boy, the interest rate as posted mirrored the digits on a thermometer in Kamloops in the middle of the summer.
The swollen numbers were good and bad, I tell him — good if you had money in the bank; bad if you had a mortgage about to be renewed.
Back then, it was more bad than good as more people had mortgages due than had money in the bank — from one recession to another, only the interest numbers change.
But, the rite of passage that is the bank savings passbook endures, through prosperous and hard times, from the pre-debit-card age of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to the cutting-edge era of confusing acronyms: CIBC, TD, RBC, BMO, ISCU, to all of which I can only exclaim OMG! in exasperation.
Let’s keep passing the book and fuelling the font that funnels something more valuable than money — memories — into our all-too-hectic lives.