Instead of having a cash register in every department of a store, there was one register operated by a single cashier on the mezzanine. From that position there were cables stretching down to the sales desks in the various departments. When you bought something the clerk would fill out the sales slip and put it with your money into a little container that ran on the cable with rollers. The clerk would then pull a lever which released a spring to shoot the container up the cable to the cashier, who took the money, made change if necessary, and rolled the container with the receipt and the change back down the cable to the sales desk.
There's a similar system using containers which are carried through tubes by moving air. I imagine this is later technology, and I've seen it still used in some stores and bank drive-throughs.
Does anybody besides me remember the system that used springs and cables? Is there a name for it?
j c penny nevada mo 1940s
J C Penney in the Ballard area of Seattle in late '40s/early '50s used what I recall was a wire and spring system. I was pretty young but went there with my Mom when I was too young to be left alone. I think the Kress 5 and dime had a similar system.
I remember some of the bigger stores in Terra Haute had them. I also remember the sliding (on rollers) ladders to reach way up high on shelves. They must of had 14 foot ceilings.
The spring & wire cash carrier I remember was in Wilmington, CA. I believe that was a Kress store.
I recall the Strawbridge & Clothier store in Philadelphia used pneumatic tubes similarly. In fact, I heard there remains an elaborate pneumatic tube system under Manhattan that hasn't seen used in decades.
After the Air Force, I was single, footloose and fancy-free so I decided to go live in Paris. I was there in 1968 and at that time, there was still a pneumatic tube system connecting a number of post offices around the city. If postage for a regular letter was something like Frs. 0.25, you could go to the closest post office and send a letter by pneumatique to someone in another part of Paris for two or three francs. The letter was put into a container and sent by pneumatic tube to the post office nearest to the addressee. When it arrived, a mailman jumped on his bicycle and delivered it right away. It worked pretty well. I think they were generally delivered within an hour or so.
I vaguely remember the spring and cable system, now that Steve reminds me of it. I have no memory of a specific store, but I can see the wheels spinning and hear the clicking and clacking as the little container changed direction on the cable. In Newark, NJ, the old Bamberger's department store (a subsidiary of Macy's at the time) had the pneumatic system. Much faster, and there was a whoosh when the tube was moved.
I never remember seeing a spring system in England in the Forties and Fifties, but several of the largest stores had the pneumatic systems.
I don't 'member that.
Had this for for over 40 years, never knew what to do with it. Just liked it so I bought it. I remember the pneumatic ones in Wanamakers in Philadelphia but never the wire ones like this.
The JC Penny's store in Snohomish Washington used that system until they moved to the new store in the late 70's
What fascinated me as a child watching those clips and flat boxes zinging up and down the wire.
The Kress's store in downtown Seattle had the same system, but someone added a small stuffed bird on the front of the box, As the box went up and down and the bird flew back and forth. For a small child it was rather fascinating.
My mother would give me a dime to spend at Kress's and I spent much time deciding on which toy to buy plus a bag of popcorn. As that was a much different time I was allowed to run around the store looking at the toys and puzzles while my mother shopped in another part of the store. Her only instructions were never go out of the doors just stay inside the store.
I was scratching my head, trying to pull from the mists just where I had seen these wire
trolley systems in use years ago. I have no specific memory of where, I just remember
being fascinated with the trolley and items going back and forth. I probably stood there
looking at the same ones as you mention, perhaps others in Oakland and/or San Francisco
before we moved to the Swamplands in 1966. Thanks for the memory "refresh".
J.C. Penny in Montrose Ca. had the wire with the cup which shot to the cashregister. Kress in Glendale, Ca had a vacuum tube system. Sears in Glendale, Ca. was more modern. On a hot day you could go into Sears to cool off. There's was the first air conditioned store that I remember.
Crosby's in my home town Gawler, had the flying fox system still working in the 1990's. There was one central station, and all the departments had a straight line to it. The cash went in the screw on container and the invoice on the clip below. While the carriage was at the cashier's, the shop assistant wrapped the purchase.
There were no springs in their system. The shuttles were propelled by a thick rubber band. The assistant pulled on a lever to stretch it and then tripped the release.
The system is still in the shop, with some kind of heritage protection. They just stopped using it and installed cash registers in each department. When they closed, the furniture store which took over the premises had to retain the set-up.
Allan from down under.
I remember the vacuum tube ones.
When I worked at British Motor Car Distributors in San Francisco in the mid sixties they used that system to send work orders from the service entrance on the first floor to the body shop on second and the shop foreman on the third floor where the cars were serviced and repaired and the trim shop on the roof or 4th floor.
They rolled the paper work up and put everything in a maybe 2" by 12" plastic tube, capped the end and inserted it into the right vacuum pipe, and the way it went.
I used a pneumatic system when I worked as a "battery storeman" at the Joseph Lucas warehouse in Auckland NZ in 1973. Customer would come in to buy a battery retail, we sent the cash and an order document upstairs via tube and got the invoice and any change by return capsule. I've seen that kind of system once or twice since, don't remember where.
I remember both the cable 'Flying Fox' system and the pneumatic tube system in a few Melbourne businesses many years ago (1950's). There is currently an operational flying fox at the General Store in Coal Creek Historic Village near Korumburra. It is unlikely that it is original to the business as the shop is too small to necessitate one.
I remember the pneumatic system in a "dime store" in Falls City NE. in the the late 50's early 60's, don't recall the name. Falls City is across the MO. River west of us and there was a toll bridge. Every Thursday was "Free Bridge Day". When you went across the bridge, you got a voucher that would be redeemed by the NE. merchants. It was a pretty big deal. All of the stores were busy and the streets were crowded. I remember the cable system somewhere in St. Joseph, MO. back around the same time. Not sure where it was, maybe Kresges Department Store, forerunner of K Mart. Those were good times for a kid! Dave
Here in Keene, Goodnow's Department Store had the mechanical system for ages. As a youngster I would look up with fascination as the flying canisters moved along the line.
The downtown Oregon City JC Penny's had that system till they moved to the Oregon City Shopping Center in the late 60's. I worked for the Beaverton/Washington Square JC Penny's in the late 70's to 1985 and when we closed down one of the small stores (McMinnville or Newberg) about that time and they were still using the same system.
The J. C. Penney store in Hominy, (Osage Co.) OK had the cable system in the 50's. The cables all went up to a mezzanine level, as Steve said. The store burned down in the late 50's or maybe 1960. The new store had only one level.
All these reminiscences demonstrate that a lot of stores used these devices. It's surprising to me that an online search for pictures of them in stores doesn't bring up much.
Montgomery Ward in my home town of Butler PA had the vacuum tube system and so did Troutmans Department Store. As a youngster we would love to watch as the canister was inserted in a pipe and listened as it made a "woosh" sound as it traveled to the cash office. Magic indeed.
I recall seeing the old wire/trolley systems in service in several old movies too.
Around here, every drive-up window bank uses those pneumatic tube systems. Every POS at our nearby Costco
uses them too. Not nearly as cool as the little trolleys running on the wire. If they used a clear tube, so you could
see the capsule traveling, it would be more interesting.
Costco uses a vacuum system at the service/returns desks. The cannister's are smaller but it is a genuine vacuum message sender.
Vacuum system was used at the Blue Chip Stamp Redemption Center on Rosecrans near Woodruff Ave. in Bellflower. I still have my White Stag sleeping bag I got there for 4-H Summer Camp in '71 when I was 10.
The redemption Center is now a credit dentist's office.