88 Cents

By Mike Johnson

Target was our big store when I was a kid. It was the third one ever opened. I had no idea of its historical significance.

It was launched as the discount division of Dayton’s, a regional, upscale department store. The first four Targets opened in 1962, three in suburbs around the Twin Cities. We were fortunate one of these was in our suburb.

Early in life, my brothers and I were dependent on tagging along with our parents. We were too young and it was too far to walk. Later, with a 10-speed Schwinn, the store was well within our range. Paper route money burned a hole in our pockets. We visited often.

In 1968 I awoke to music. Target sold those 45rpm records for 88 cents. This was a lot of money to a kid but was the only viable way to acquire your favorite songs. My first purchased record was “Hello, I Love You” by The Doors. One measurement of wealth was the height of your 45 record stack.

Kids without money would spend hours listening to WDGY or KDWB, waiting to capture their favorite song on the family tape recorder. But the DJ’s yakking and the scratchy recorder always produced a sub-par result.

I also fixated on Matchbox cars. They too, sold for 88 cents. This price was just within my reach if I bought them one at a time. I paced the purchases to about two a month. In those days, we had far fewer choices in everything. Which provided the benefit of appreciating everything. When you received a new toy, you fixated on it, played with it exclusively and wore it out.

Today, Target still sells Matchbox cars for about 88 cents.

Apple still sells your favorite songs for $.99 to $1.29.

I find it amazing that these two items have avoided 60 years of inflation.

But more amazing is my memory of 88 cents. That number was tattooed onto my brain. Great desire cost 88 cents. Fulfilling that desire took hard work, weeks of time and required saying no to every other tempting desire.

Every time I walk through Target now, I find the Matchbox cars. I become 11 again.

I admire the many styles. I remember the challenge of picking just one. I remember 88 cents being 100% of my cash. And I remember exchanging all of it, for one little car.

Today, I squeeze the money clip in my left pocket. I could buy them all.

But I don’t.

Just knowing that I can, sends a message to that 11-year-old: Your time is coming.

That makes us both feel rich.



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