I can’t tell you how many five dollar checks I wrote during my years at UNC. All told, they might have stacked three feet high. Writing small checks was simply a way of life in the sixties.
For one, we didn’t have charge cards. There were a few gasoline charge cards around, but VISA had yet to make an appearance, so if we needed money, we wrote checks. I can recall writing one-dollar checks sometimes, but five bucks was the standard.
Five dollars, though, could easily get you through the weekend. The “Student Special” meal at the school cafeteria was 50 cents, as memory serves. And it was pretty good – veal cutlets, barbequed chicken, fish sticks, meat loaf, plus tea and dessert and the breakfasts were huge. If you went to a movie, it was a buck. A pack of cigarettes was a quarter in a vending machine. Pabst beer was a quarter a can, and gas (if you had a car) was about 30 cents a gallon. A fountain soda was a dime. We could play 18 holes at Finley Golf Course for free. Football and basketball games were also free. Few, however, went to UNC basketball games. Carolina went 12-12 in 1963/64 and third year coach Dean Smith almost got fired. The Tar Heels played in Woolen gymnasium which would hold maybe – maybe- a thousand people and the stands were rarely filled – unless we played Duke.
We didn’t go to banks to write our checks; we went to any merchant in town and you didn’t have to make a purchase to cash a check. Stores did it as a courtesy because Carolina students spent a lot of money at those stores and the businesses wanted the good will. Besides, there was really no such thing as a “bad check.’ If you put your student ID number on the check, the University of North Carolina guaranteed it – or you would answer to them
In those days, there was no such things as check fees and if you overdrew your account, your banker would wait a few days, then call or write to say you needed to make a deposit.
Imagine today walking into a store and asking if they would cash a five dollar check? Imagine a burger at Hardy’s costing 15 cents? A pair of Bass Weejuns at $14.95? And can you imagine Dean Smith on the coaching hot seat?
Those, my friends, were quite the days.