Sometime during the late 1950s when I was about 12, I came across an intriguing magazine ad. The RCA Record Club was offering one of those “too good to be true” deals. The first three records were free. All I had to do was to buy one a month for the next three years at the regular price. Like all those too-good deals, this one didn’t stand the test of time. After the initial three records, the selection went south in a hurry and it seemed to me RCA was trying to stick me with a bunch of junk no one wanted. I wrote and told them that I would pay full price for the first three, but not to send me anymore of their junk. They totally ignored my letter and sent me my “record of the month” for another four months along with an ever increasing bill for their products. Before joining the record club, I hadn’t received much mail, so I was enjoying the attention.
Then they told me they couldn’t send me anymore records until I paid up and I was kind of disappointed, but the next month, I got another bill with the added information that if I didn’t pay up they were going to ruin my credit. Credit? The only credit I had was with my two granddads and my dad and I didn’t think RCA had much influence with them, but I was glad to know they were going to keep up the correspondence.
The credit threat went on for another four months before they threatened to turn my account over to a collection agency. To put all this in the proper perspective, I should mention that I lived on a ranch with my parents. We picked up the mail about every 10 days when we came to town, and most of the time we didn’t have a phone that worked. I looked forward to getting my RCA mail each month.
RCA did finally turn my account over to a collection agency that dunned me regularly for about six months. Then I got letters from RCA again for a while before they informed me they were going to turn my account over to their attorney. This was pretty exciting stuff! Sure enough, after a few weeks I got a letter from the attorney, who was also going to ruin my credit. Not only that, he told me my name was on a list of people he was going to sue! I recall that Tillie Emmett was pretty impressed with the letter and the fact that a big-city lawyer was coming all the way to Payson just to sue me.
Tillie and I decided to write a letter to the lawyer. We told him that my Granddad Walter Lovelady was the constable, my Uncle Howard Childers was the deputy sheriff and that this was pretty much the law north of the Salt River. Then I added that if he came to Payson, I would have my granddad arrest him and chain him to the tree in front of the Womans Club.
I got letters from the attorney for about a year before he finally gave it up. I suppose he figured it wasn’t worth flying into Phoenix from wherever he lived, renting a car and driving up to Payson, which then was about a six-hour trip if everything went well. After he got to Payson, he would have had to find a place to stay while he tried to get my Granddad Walter to serve papers on me. Maybe it seemed like overkill to collect the 20-some bucks RCA said I owed them.
The whole thing kind of dried up and I quit getting letters about the time I went into high school. I missed the correspondence so I wrote to RCA and asked them if I didn’t owe them some money. They responded with great enthusiasm. The entire sequence of events repeated and I was back in the saddle for two more years when again they just seemed to give up. So, I let them rest for a couple of months then I sent off another letter to RCA and asked if they would review my account because I thought they owed me $50. Wow! As Yogi Berra said, “it was deja vu all over again.” RCA and their posse of letter-writing cohorts once more gave it their best shot and continued their paper bombardment until I went into the military.
So, what’s it going to be? Are you, my witless critics, going to write some more letters to the editor blasting me, or must I contact the RCA Record Club again?
Como Siempré, Jinx