Remembrance of Things Past: When check-writing skills came in handy

I wrote two checks last week, about a third of my usual monthly total since I pay the majority of my bills on-line or using a debit card. However, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. It wasn’t long ago that most of us wrote checks frequently, even though many banks charged 10 cents per check; something you had to remember when balancing your checkbook.

Today many of us use an ATM for quick cash. Not too many years ago we’d write a check at the grocery store for $25 or so over the purchase price. I used to joke that I did my banking at Colonial Market.

While I don’t write many checks today, I still remember the first check I ever wrote. It wasn’t long after my eleventh birthday, when I was old enough to shed my blue Cub Scout uniform and put on the khaki-green uniform and garrison cap of the Boy Scouts. Nowak’s men’s shop was the local Boy Scout distributor, and he had a large inventory of everything from hats to socks, in enough sizes to meet the needs of the growing boys in Mystic’s Cub Pack 17, Boy Scout troops 17 and 34, and, of course, Explorer post 34.

(By the way, I don’t know who sold Girl Scout uniforms. Was it Junior Town Shop?)

It was to purchase necessary uniform items that I wrote my first check. Certainly as a pre-teen I didn’t have my own checking account. My mother signed a check, warned me not to lose it, and sent me to Nowak’s to get some specific items, emphasizing that I needed to bring home the receipt so that she could enter it in the check ledger. She gave me a quick tutorial in check writing, and then told me to ask Mr. Nowak (whom she’d known for years) to watch and make sure I did it right.

He did just that. I wrote the date and he told me what to put in the “Pay to” line, and the amount, both in numbers and words, warning me, as had my mother, to fill in the entire line so that no one could add another number or word. He also echoed my mother’s admonition to be sure not to lose the receipt.

I’ve written many checks since that day and I’ve used my debit card in many places, including grocery stores. And, I still come home with a pocket full of receipts!

Robert F. Welt of Mystic is a retired longtime Groton Public Schools teacher.

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