I was looking through my dad’s coin and currency collection with my mom. He had saved several $2 bills (consecutive years) from the mid 1950’s.
My mom said it was from his military pay. The local town was bitching about the airmen in their midst. To make a point, the base started paying the men in $2 bills. Within days that whole town was covered up in two dollar bills. Every merchant had them in their cash register. Very obvious, because cash drawers don’t have a slot for $2 bills. They must have done it for several years because dad had save a bill from each year. It was a reminder of what they base did for the local economy.
This was probably at Eaker Air Force Base (Blytheville, AR) when I was a baby. Or maybe NAS Pensacola when they were dating and first married. He switched from the Navy to the Air Force when mom was pregnant with me.
It sounds plausible because that has been used as a tactic by various companies, government entities and tourism bureaus to highlight the economic value that their presence brings to an area. There are a number of causal references on the web about military base commanders paying soldiers in $2 bills for that reason but it doesn’t appear to be an official or widespread policy throughout the whole military at any time. However, it is likely that it did happen on certain bases at certain times because soldiers really were paid in cash in the past.
Wikipedia mentions a similar tactic employed by tourism bureaus at various times.
“Certain conventions and tourism/convention bureaus capitalize on the rarity of two dollar bills in circulation, encouraging convention attendees and tourists to spend two-dollar bills in order to illustrate to the host communities the economic impact that the conventions and tourism bring. Variously known as “SpendTom” campaigns, the two-dollar bills linger in the community as a constant reminder. Some campaigns encourage people to participate in a hunt for the two-dollar bills in order to win prizes.”
Hm, not offhand, but I can believe it. I know my Dad had various scrip from military pay parades in wartime from various duty stations [he did WW2, Korea and Vietnam.]
I do know that once when he was at Fort Drum they asked everybody to not shop for a week at the local places to prove a point. This would have been in about 1957 or 8.
Just spoke with my father in law [staff photographer Blue Angels back when they first moved them to winter in P’cola] and he said that they would pay out $2 bills once a year, or whenever the town would complain.
That would explain why my dad kept bills from multiple years. It makes a better point to pay the men in $2 bills once or twice a year. If they did it all the time the town would get indifferent about getting flooded with them.
Anyhow, they are a nice reminder of my dad and his over 20 year military career. I have a Canadian proof coin and his receipt addressed to his barracks at England Air Force Base. Just weeks after returning from Nam. I remember how thin and gaunt he was. He had dropped at least thirty pounds serving over there. But I guess buying that coin was a return to his normal life.
During the early days of the Civil Rights battle, I remember one city telling its black folks to make a specific mark on every bill that went through their hands.
Pretty soon, every bill had that mark.
Kids: remember these tricks - they may again be useful.
According to my father (who wasn’t good for much, but was right on a couple of things): The $2 bill was produced because of the popularity of the $2 bet at horse tracks.
Don’t know if he got that right or not - anybody else hear of this?
Save you the trouble: Wiki says the Treasury had hoped to reduce the total number of bills printed, stored, transported, etc.
Yes, it is still in production.
A civil rights group did this in Los Angeles in the early 80s to illustrate the buying power of African Americans. It was targeted for one specific weekend. One part was to see how many two dollar bills were in the cash out at the end of the day and the other was for cashiers to notice because there wasn’t a slot for two dollars bills in the normal tray in the cash register.
A good friend of mine was seventeen years old and had just started working at Toys R Us when this weekend happened. The stunt made the news but my friend hadn’t heard about it. A black man with his two young kids in tow bought some toys and paid with a stack of twos. When my poor friend struggled with what to do with them he was gob smacked when the customer started shouting, “Everybody look! This nigger paid with two dollar bills and that white boy doesn’t know what to do” and continued in this vein for a few minutes. The customer clearly missed the entire point of the exercise.
When I was in USCG boot camp in 1979, on paydays (15th and 30th of month if they were weekdays), they gave you only a fraction of your pay (a whopping $419 a month for an E-1). It was something like $52 but the $2 was a $2 bill, not two $1. They didn’t explain why it was a $2 bill, scuttle was so you could buy something you needed at the exchange, like soap or razor blades.
I think when we left Tracen Cape May, they gave us back pay in cash, or it might have been a check (in those days paychecks were shaped like punch cards that the computers of the era used).
The OP’s story could be true. It could also be the bank that the base contracted with had an excess of $2 bills.
When did the supposed $2-bill payment event occur? The services went to mandatory direct deposit quite a while ago. On top of that, the logistics of paying the numbers of military personnel in just $2-bills would be prohibitive.
That’s two reasons right off the bat for why I would class the story as UL.
ETA an aside: Odd thing I’ve notice here in Asia (at least in South Korea and China) is that the US $2-bill is considered lucky. No idea on why.
Not military, but I used to jump at Archway Skydiving in Illinois (this was back in the 1990s) and they gave a lot of change in $2 bills for the same reason, so that when people went into town for lunch and so on they’d spend those $2 bills, reminding folks of the positive economic impact that the drop zone had locally. I think they also stamped the bills “Archway Skydiving” or something like that.
I can’t speak to whether any US military base did this but I’d say it’s certainly plausible, as others have noted, various businesses around the country have done this.
I can’t see how it’s plausible. Let’s look at how the military cash payments were conducted way back when the military did such a thing.
[ul][li]Pay officer reports to Finance to accept cash to issue to troops.[/li][li]Pay officer returns to unit to conduct pay issue.[/li][li]Troops muster and fall in line, with Leave & Earnings Statement (LES) in hand.[/li][li]Troops report to pay officer, present LES, watch pay officer count cash, verify the amount, and then move on.[/li][li]Repeat all but the first two steps for each service member in line.[/ul][/li]
That’s time-consuming even with the cash containing $100-bills. Paying the entire company, battalion, what-have-you in $2-bills would take an incredible amount of time.
Is it possible? Perhaps. Is it probably that the military ever did it? No; it’s simply not plausible.
Fair enough, but how about something like giving out lots of $2 bills as change at the PX or whatever? Some on-base mechanism to make sure that soldiers had a lot of $2 bills in their wallets so that when they went to town, people would realize who was spending all that money? I’ve never been in the military so I’m sure I’m missing reasons why this couldn’t work but the basic idea of getting a lot of odd currency into circulation to show people that your group is contributing is certainly a true enough story. I agree that paying hundreds/thousands of soldiers their entire salary with nothing but $2 bills would be unworkable.
That simply wouldn’t happen. The cashier at the Exchange or the Commissary would cause a great delay by counting out change that would take longer than the smallest number of bills required. The reason I say “great delay” is that the delay, of course, would be cumulative. On top of that, it’s simply easier for the customer to pay with a check or bank card.
Communities with a large military presence generally aren’t unaware of how much that presence contributes to the local community.
My VPN at home isn’t playing nice with Snopes, so I’ll check that site when I get to work. I hope there’s a mention there; but even if there isn’t, I just don’t see how it can be anything other than an urban legend.
I do not know about the military, but many of the logging outfits I have worked for always gave out one hundred, fifty, twenty, two, and none one dollar bills. Any need for a one dollar bill got one change, often fifty cent pieces.
Logistically it was no big deal.
FWIW, the local scrap yard pays out this way with two dollar bills etc.
I can remember pay windows still being on base as late as 1992. mrAru says that when he was first in sub school here in New London they were still having guards on paydays in Deely Center [where the pay window was] because it was not uncommon for squids to not have bank accounts so they would get the paper check and hit Deely to cash their paycheck. They would haul in something like $500K+ because the exchange and commisary didn’t take checks, there really were not a lot of debit cards and people did their biweekly shopping in cash. I can remember when the exchange went from a revolving charge account to a limited use ‘Star Card’ that was a charge card based on your old rotating charge account. We bought our first refrigerator for this house in 1990 when it was on a charge account and you had to make cash payments at the exchange upstairs in the business office.