(In honor of the recently released Mr. Rogers stamp.)
As a young child, I was just like any other rambunctious rapscallion. As the Terror of the Neighborhood, I was ready to get down and dirty with the best of them. There was nary an ant I wouldn’t burn with a magnifying glass, (by the way, who lets kids go around with magnifying lenses? We clearly aren’t looking for clues to solve murders, nothing good can come of it.) Nary a fly whose wings I wouldn’t pull off. Pushing kids into mud was a pastime of mine. Petty arson, light breaking and entering and vandalism? Sign me up!
But of course, all that is par for the course, and I’m sure you knew that stuff about me already. But I bet there’s something about me as a kid you didn’t know…
…I collected stamps!
In my youth I was an avid Philatelist.* My interest has died down over the last few decades, but there was a time when I’d go swimming in pools of stamps like Scrooge in his money bin. Of course, all of the stamps had been previously mailed, so they were absolutely worthless, but I always hoped that I’d get that one upside-down airplane stamp. You know, the one from Brewster’s Millions**. Literally the only stamp anybody thinks of when they think of valuable stamps, (except for that topless Harriet Tubman stamp, but those are really hard to find.)
I grew up at the bottom of a dead-end street. A few houses up from me was a nice old lady named Mrs. Smith. She was called Mrs., but she lived alone; her husband having died years earlier. I’m not sure why, but she had boxes and boxes, (and boxes) of stamps from all over the world. American stamps, French, British. Stamps from Greece, Italy, Oompa Loompa Land. It was a treasure trove of mostly valueless, but still very interesting, little pieces of paper. The interesting part was in imagining where the stamps had traveled, what they’d seen, what kind of letters they’d been involved in. Love letters? Dear John letters? Ransom demands? (I imagine a really dumb kidnapper who sends the note by mail and stupidly puts his*** return address on the envelope, making the entire police force piss themselves laughing.)
I’d go with my friend Alex and my sister. We’d sit on Mrs. Smith’s living room floor for hours, sifting through the boxes, taking whatever caught our little numskull eyes. I only collected American stamps, because I’m a goddamn patriot, through-and through; I bleed red, white and blue! But the other two Philistines took their collecting international. A pox on them, I say! Who needs a stamp of Queen Beatrice of South Hamptonbergshire or wherever, when you can have a Fat Elvis stamp? (he was actually “Young Elvis,” but I would draw his belly to the size I desired.)
I collected a lot of pointless stuff as a kid. I have hundreds of Garbage Pail Kid cards, MacDonald’s toys, Mad Magazines, Pauly Shore movies, morning stars, bellybutton lint. You know, the usual. But by far and away the most pointless thing that I collected was also a pastime for my entire family. The whole Hutcheson Clan got involved in this foolishness: collecting Kool Aid points.
Remember those? On the back of Kool Aid packages and containers were little parts of the label you’d cut out that’d say something like 1 Point, or 5 Points, or what-have-you. And then you could redeem for all types of “prizes” like a beanbag chair, or a Kool Aid Man stirring spoon or other vital sundries. What fun! For years, nay, decades! My family of Kool Aid junkies would collect and horde these points, just waiting for the day Kool aid would finally offer something good, like the Batmobile or (if I had my druthers) a Japanese hooker. Instead, Kool Aid just stopped doing the whole points thing entirely, thereby making our years of collecting incredibly pointless.
And don’t get me started on Pepsi Points and the Harrier Jet.
*Japanese for “He who fornicates with stamps.”
** Classic Richard Pryor!
***Or her. It’s the 21st century after all!