Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Tale Of 2 Manchesters And 1 Half-Crown

When I was a small boy, the Manchester Guardian sent me a half-crown, contained in a small handsome slick cardboard portfolio telling the history of the half-crown and that it was about to go out of circulation and become a collector's item.

Why did they send it to me? ("With the compliments of the Manchester Guardian Weekly," it sez on the cover of the portfolio. I still have it, the half-crown is still affixed within it.)

I don't know exactly, but I think it had something to do with the people who eventually would become my parents having attended a small college called Manchester College (it has since become Manchester University), in the small town of North Manchester, Indiana. They met as undergraduates and married at about the same time as they graduated. It was within a couple of months. Then about 4 years after that I was born, and 9 or 10 years later the half-crown mysteriously arrived.

It was more mysterious to me back then, in 1970 or '71, than it is today. Today I picture something approximately like the following, in the Guardian's circulation department: "Oy, whatcha gonna do wif that great bloody pile of half-crowns? Ya can't spend 'em much longer, Mate!" "Oy! I fought, maybe a subscription scam: vere's a small college out in the boonies somewhere in the States called Manchester College. I fought: Maybe we could mail a half-crown each to some alums, in a nice little package to look very British an all, an send a subscription form wif each one, see if anyone bites. Whatcha fink, woulddat work?" "I fink dere's one way to know for sure, Mate!" And they sent a subscription offer to my Dad and he thought I might find the coin interesting so he gave it to me.

Back then, when I was 9 or 10, it all seemed much more official and important. I was very impressed by the name of the Manchester Guardian. What were they guarding? I'm not sure whether I realized right away that the Guardian was a newspaper. I think that at first I pictured this Guardian as being some sort of secret society. As to why I'd been given the coin -- I didn't know, but I thought it best to keep it just in case in turned out to be something terribly important, like after I grew up I might take a trip to England, and someone might see that I had the coin it its shiny little portfolio, and a little gaggle of English gents in fine suits might put their heads together and murmur, and I might half-overhear phrases like "the Chosen One," and then one of the dapper gents might turn to me and say something like, "Excuse me, young Sir, this may seem a bit odd, but -- would you mind trying to pull this sword from this stone?"

Maybe it was just a subscription scam, or maybe it was slightly more than that. Perhaps there is some sort of official friendship between Manchester, England and North Manchester, Indiana and/or with Manchester University (previously Manchester College), for no real reason other than the names. I've heard of such official friendships between communities in different parts of the world, and I like them. I'm glad that such official friendships exist. More friendship in the world, I say! For whatever reason you choose!

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