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Author Topic: How was travel back in the good old days?  (Read 2981 times)

abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #50 on: February 11, 2019, 12:33:08 PM »

But according to AmEx’s locator, there isn’t a single retailer of their traveler’s cheques within 50 miles of Philadelphia.
Yeah, that's the issue I ran into - I think they may have even closed their Travel Services office in Washington DC.  That's the other issue I've seen recently - Amex doesn't seem to offer the same emergency travel assistance they used to (getting emergency cash as a cash advance against your Amex, assistance with obtaining a replacement passport, etc. if your cash/cards/passport were lost or stolen).

I worked at a typical mall clothing retailer during high school, and our POS system had an option for “traveler’s cheque” under the payment tenders.
Same story when I was a cashier at Target.  I remember once being presented with a traveler's cheque in USD from a bank in China, and the English translations of one of the legends written on the front of the check (in Chinese) was something along the lines of "Exchange for cash in New York."  Must've been a mistranslation/assumption that the traveler's first point of entry was New York, or that New York=the US in the same way some Americans assume London=the UK, but we accepted it at a Target in the suburbs of Atlanta with no issue.
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Life in Paradise

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #51 on: February 11, 2019, 01:09:23 PM »

I do remember when my family was traveling across the country in the late 60s and early 70s that additional motel chains were springing up such as Motel 6 and $8 Days Inn, and in both cases the numbers indicated the cost of the room.  Boy how inflation has changed things today!
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Rothman

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #52 on: February 11, 2019, 01:16:04 PM »

And, by the late 1980s, my father would spend a lot of time driving from hotel to hotel trying to find a room under $50.

And $100/night rooms are becoming more and more commonplace nowadays. :/
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hbelkins

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #53 on: February 11, 2019, 01:25:09 PM »

Credit card companies used to have policies requiring merchants to not charge extra for credit card transactions and to spread the fee in with the cash customers, but that doen't seem to apply to gas stations any more.

Seems like not all that long ago, there was a dispute between one of the major retailers (Walmart, maybe?) and one of the credit card providers regarding the merchant fee.

I do know that in Kentucky, if you use a credit card to pay a bill at a government office, there's a 3% fee added.
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abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #54 on: February 11, 2019, 01:29:41 PM »

I do know that in Kentucky, if you use a credit card to pay a bill at a government office, there's a 3% fee added.
It's the same in Illinois.  Pretty sure it was the same in DC, too.  I can see how governments wouldn't want to eat that fee the way business can.
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abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #55 on: February 11, 2019, 01:31:07 PM »

I believe the CARD Act also made it illegal for businesses to set minimum spending in order for a customer to be able to use a credit or debit card, although I don't think I've ever cared enough to report a business that's still doing that.
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1995hoo

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #56 on: February 11, 2019, 01:53:14 PM »

I do know that in Kentucky, if you use a credit card to pay a bill at a government office, there's a 3% fee added.
It's the same in Illinois.  Pretty sure it was the same in DC, too.  I can see how governments wouldn't want to eat that fee the way business can.

That’s also true if you pay your federal taxes with a credit card. Makes sense for exactly the reason you note. The fee can be worth it depending on the miles or points you may get, especially if there’s a double-miles promo or something similar.
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catch22

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #57 on: February 11, 2019, 03:44:57 PM »

Yeah, that's the issue I ran into - I think they may have even closed their Travel Services office in Washington DC.  That's the other issue I've seen recently - Amex doesn't seem to offer the same emergency travel assistance they used to (getting emergency cash as a cash advance against your Amex, assistance with obtaining a replacement passport, etc. if your cash/cards/passport were lost or stolen).

That was a great service.  I was in Colorado in 1976 and lost my wallet with all my cash and cards in it.  There was an Amex travel office in a nearby mall.  Once the I proved to them I was who I claimed, they gave me $100 in cash and $200 in checks, posted against my Amex card.  They even offered to call my other credit card companies on my behalf but I had already handled that.

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ErmineNotyours

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #58 on: February 11, 2019, 04:49:04 PM »

With the discussion in mind about using oil company cards to pay for other services, I found this on the back of a map of Portland, Oregon from 1969.  Notice that most of the country bears the "American" name, and the logo over the central states is blank on the name portion.  They couldn't advertise themselves as "Standard" in places where others used the name.

American Oil Company card advertisement, 1969 by Arthur Allen, on Flickr
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abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #59 on: February 11, 2019, 05:05:25 PM »

With the discussion in mind about using oil company cards to pay for other services, I found this on the back of a map of Portland, Oregon from 1969.  Notice that most of the country bears the "American" name, and the logo over the central states is blank on the name portion.  They couldn't advertise themselves as "Standard" in places where others used the name.

American Oil Company card advertisement, 1969 by Arthur Allen, on Flickr
There used to be all kinds of quirks like these with credit cards that were specific to a particular retailer.  You could use your Sears card to rent a car from Budget for the longest time (probably because Budget used to be Sears Rent-A-Car), and you could use your JCPenney card at CVS. 
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skluth

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #60 on: February 11, 2019, 07:30:28 PM »

I was a kid in the 60's, so I grew up with cars that only had an AM radio. It had five pushbuttons for your favorite stations. I don't remember 8-tracks before about 1970, so you were pretty much stuck with the local stations except after dark when certain stations would carry for hundreds of miles.

Self-service gas stations didn't really get popular until the 1973 Oil Crisis. Even then, it was pretty common for gas stations to have both a self-service and full-service options especially for the major chains. As mentioned, many chains had their own maps. I'd pick up the maps everywhere we went and would see how the proposed highways became under construction and then completed. This started to change with the freeway revolts in cities circa 1970. It can be fun to see what might have been (and depending on your POV, what was lost).

The interstate system wasn't complete, so you'd be riding happily along and suddenly hit a two lane section or be steered into a town. This was especially common out west. Glenn Frey was standing on a corner in Winslow AZ because I-40 had yet to bypass the town. That US 66 big bend in Arizona that was romanticized in "Cars" was actually a royal pain, especially for my dad as we were hauling a pop-up camper. Along with the hotel chain books, there was also a national campground directory though it's accuracy left something to be desired. And finding some of the campgrounds was an adventure in itself as they were often off the beaten path.

A lot of major roads would also get backed up. You could be stuck at a rail crossing for 30 minutes with a train building its manifest at a switchyard that was inconveniently next to the main drag. Or stuck at a drawbridge on the main drag. You don't see too many drawbridges on major routes anymore like the I-64 drawbridge in Chesapeake, VA.

A lot of roads had waysides, picnic areas which may or may not include a bathroom (which was frequently an outhouse). They still exist, but you don't see many of them. Especially the ones with outhouses. However, interstate rest stops have mostly gotten better, and with WalMarts and McDonald's almost everywhere it's pretty easy to find a semi-clean restroom these days.

Cable was pretty rare, so you only got the local stations in the hotels. This may mean not even getting the major three networks in some more rural areas, though sometimes there were repeater stations from larger cities. This is assuming your room had a TV. There were also some fun hotel quirks like the beds which vibrated for a quarter. There were also a lot of weird theme hotels (like wigwams) that are mostly long gone.

There were also towns where you wouldn't be welcome after sundown, especially if you were African-American or had long hair. This was true well into the 70's. You might even be warned to leave if you were an outsider if you were young and clean-cut. Especially if you looked Jewish.

Hitchhiking was far more common. It wasn't unusual to see a line of long-haired young people along the interstate or on a freeway ramp especially near the outskirts of any city. Ride-sharing was done mostly through college bulletin boards. I once got from SF to Milwaukee from a ride board listing in Berkeley.

Cars didn't have power steering. Drive a big old Oldsmobile or Chrysler from the early 60's sometime. It really is like driving a boat. You also didn't have power (much less anti-lock) brakes. The first time I experienced power windows I was amazed. They frequently didn't have AC, especially if purchased anywhere in the northern half of the US. I don't think my parents had AC in a car until the 70's.

That said, it was also interesting. Chains weren't nearly as ubiquitous along the interstates. It wasn't unusual to only have local restaurants to choose from. Despite what others said about traveler's checks, they weren't usually difficult to cash as long as you were buying something so they were frequently accepted at hotels and restaurants. (I used them through the late-70's and 80's with no problem.) Some of the worst chains are deservedly gone (e.g., Stuckey's). There were a lot more regional differences in food back then, even in the nomenclature. You might ask for barbeque only to get Sloppy Joes.

Finally, there was no such thing as a No Smoking section. People smoked everywhere. On TV. In the lobby of gas stations. Even on airplanes. I don't miss that at all.
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Sctvhound

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #61 on: February 11, 2019, 11:28:53 PM »

I-95 used to have a draw bridge in Jacksonville. It was a traffic nightmare there. They also used to have tolls until the late 1980s or early 1990s.

My dad was a trucker in the 1970s and he remembered having to get off of 95 in Brunswick, GA as the road wasn’t complete at that time. Also I-95 wasn’t complete through Savannah until the late 70s.
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kphoger

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #62 on: February 12, 2019, 01:01:11 PM »

I was always told growing up that stores could accept any credit card, but they chose to only accept certain ones in order to pay fewer fees for the processing.  That is to say, there's no real reason you couldn't have used your JC Penney card at the local Mobil gas station, except that they really didn't want to have to pay a processing fee to JC Penney.  I seem to recall there was one gas station chain that made a point of accepting all credit cards as a way of attracting customers, but I can't remember which one that might have been.
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abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #63 on: February 12, 2019, 03:39:20 PM »

I was always told growing up that stores could accept any credit card, but they chose to only accept certain ones in order to pay fewer fees for the processing.  That is to say, there's no real reason you couldn't have used your JC Penney card at the local Mobil gas station, except that they really didn't want to have to pay a processing fee to JC Penney.  I seem to recall there was one gas station chain that made a point of accepting all credit cards as a way of attracting customers, but I can't remember which one that might have been.
It's hard to say, but that is likely true for the major credit card issuers (I work for one, and our cafeteria and snack bars CAN accept our competitors' cards, but we tell everyone that they can't because we don't want to pay them to settle the transaction), but it's probably not true that you could walk into, say, Sears and pay for your purchase with a JCPenney card. 
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briantroutman

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #64 on: February 12, 2019, 06:27:31 PM »

I was always told growing up that stores could accept any credit card, but they chose to only accept certain ones in order to pay fewer fees for the processing.  That is to say, there's no real reason you couldn't have used your JC Penney card at the local Mobil gas station...

I’m not in the credit card industry, but that doesn’t seem plausible to me.

First, there’s the technical aspect: When a merchant swipes a card, the merchant’s processing service connects live with the credit card issuer to verify that the card is valid, has enough available credit, etc. For a merchant to be able to accept a particular type of card, the processing service’s systems need to be connected with the card issuer’s systems, and the data needs to interchange in a standard format that the processing service is able to handle. Even before modern electronic payments processing began in the ’70s, there was still the matter of compatibility in the paper era. (Does the card’s raised name/number data line up with your imprinter’s paper forms? What’s the procedure for submitting paper charge slips? Where do you send them?)

Then there’s the business aspect: Merchants issue proprietary credit cards because they encourage customers to buy now (even if the customers can’t pay now) and also because the store credit card serves as a disincentive to do business with the competition. In other words, if you have a JCPenney card, you’re less likely to shop at other department stores because your card is no good there.

The very small kernel of truth to the “any card, anywhere” theory would seem to be this: Yes, any merchant could enter into an agreement with another merchant to accept the other’s credit cards, and the two companies could work out all of the technical details to connect their payment processing systems. There’s no law standing in the way. But the costs for doing so would be relatively high, and the card issuer has little incentive to allow reciprocity at other merchants.

The above is essentially why Visa and MasterCard exist. They provide universal standards for the exchange of card data and the execution of transactions, so all processing services that accept Visa/MasterCard can handle all card transactions in uniform manner, regardless of what bank issued the credit card or what retailer may have co-branded the card.
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Brandon

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #65 on: February 12, 2019, 07:01:02 PM »

As far as I can tell, gas stations charging more for credit cards is getting more common, not less.  Used to be virtually unheard of in NY, but now it's pretty common.

Everywhere in Michigan Metro Detroit as well.

Cash and credit are the same price outside Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties.
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skluth

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #66 on: February 12, 2019, 08:05:47 PM »

I was always told growing up that stores could accept any credit card, but they chose to only accept certain ones in order to pay fewer fees for the processing.  That is to say, there's no real reason you couldn't have used your JC Penney card at the local Mobil gas station...

I’m not in the credit card industry, but that doesn’t seem plausible to me.

First, there’s the technical aspect: When a merchant swipes a card, the merchant’s processing service connects live with the credit card issuer to verify that the card is valid, has enough available credit, etc

This is about the good old days. I worked as a hotel desk clerk intermittently during my college days. We processed credit cards the old-fashioned way, placing the card in a manual machine and placed carbon-copy vouchers to imprint the card into paper. American Express had different vouchers than Visa/Master Charge (yes, I'm that old) which used the same voucher. There may have been distinct vouchers for Diners Club and Carte Blanche, though it's been almost 40 years so my memory is a bit fuzzy. Nobody called to check on someone unless they looked particularly derelict. Long-term hotel guests were required to create a new voucher every 7-10 days, but I think that was my Ramada Inns' policy.
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catch22

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #67 on: February 13, 2019, 07:49:44 AM »

I was always told growing up that stores could accept any credit card, but they chose to only accept certain ones in order to pay fewer fees for the processing.  That is to say, there's no real reason you couldn't have used your JC Penney card at the local Mobil gas station...

I’m not in the credit card industry, but that doesn’t seem plausible to me.

First, there’s the technical aspect: When a merchant swipes a card, the merchant’s processing service connects live with the credit card issuer to verify that the card is valid, has enough available credit, etc

This is about the good old days. I worked as a hotel desk clerk intermittently during my college days. We processed credit cards the old-fashioned way, placing the card in a manual machine and placed carbon-copy vouchers to imprint the card into paper. American Express had different vouchers than Visa/Master Charge (yes, I'm that old) which used the same voucher. There may have been distinct vouchers for Diners Club and Carte Blanche, though it's been almost 40 years so my memory is a bit fuzzy. Nobody called to check on someone unless they looked particularly derelict. Long-term hotel guests were required to create a new voucher every 7-10 days, but I think that was my Ramada Inns' policy.

I spent my summer between high school and college working at an Amoco station.  We had an imprint machine too, for the oil company's own card.  We never had to call for authorization for gas/oil purchases, just stuff like tires, batteries and repairs.  We accepted most of the other original Standard Oil descendants' cards as well as Diner's Club (but I never saw one of those).

The imprints were processed easily enough.  They were used as part of the payment to the fuel delivery man (all fuel dumps were COD back then) with the balance in cash.  No checks, if you please.
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briantroutman

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #68 on: February 13, 2019, 01:03:46 PM »

This is about the good old days... We processed credit cards the old-fashioned way, placing the card in a manual machine and placed carbon-copy vouchers to imprint the card into paper.

Oh I’m aware we’re talking about the good old days, and I brought up the days of pre-electronic with my comment about “compatibility in the paper era”. As you mentioned, Visa and Master Charge shared a common voucher form, but American Express had its own, and assumably retailers with their own in-house credit cards had forms unique to those cards.

That was due in part to the fact that the cards were physically different and the card numbers, cardholder name, and other pieces of information on the card were supposed to line up in particular areas on the form—and also because the processing company needed to know what kind of a card was being used so the charge could be processed accordingly. If you took an imprint of a 1970s JCPenney card at a Ramada Inn using the standard Visa/MC voucher form, how would the payment processor even know that the card was issued by JCPenney or know how/where to submit the forms for payment? How would the processor know that the impression is of a real credit card and not a 1973 Republican Party Sustaining Member card?

That’s why find it hard to believe the premise that a merchant—in the paper era or in modern times—could accept any credit card from any issuer but simply chooses not to because of having to pay higher fees for some of them.
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jdbx

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #69 on: February 13, 2019, 01:14:53 PM »

People covered a lot of angles regarding what travel was like back in the "good old days"...  I think one angle that wasn't really touched on was also the fact that cars were much less reliable than they are today.  Breakdowns were common, even among relatively new cars.  Whenever my family was ready to go on a long trip, like driving the 350 miles from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, or over the mountains to Reno, we always would drop the car off at the shop for a once-over.  Engines were manufactured with much weaker tolerances, belts, hoses, and similar items seemed to break frequently.  Tires were bias-ply and on an all-day drive having a flat was not unexpected.  Cooling of these big engines was not the best, and if you were going up a long grade on a hot day, you would frequently pass people with their hood up and steam billowing out of their radiator. 

We were not driving old junkers, these were Fords and Chevrolets from the 60's and 70's with less than 50k miles on them.  I think people today really take for granted just how much more reliable cars are.  Even if I was setting out on a 1000 mile drive in my vehicle that has 90k miles on it, the most I would worry about is checking the air in my tires and filling up my gas tank.  I haven't had a flat tire in over a decade, and it's been over 20 years since the last time I was on the side of the road with a breakdown.

An interesting note, the last time I drove I-10 through the desert between Los Angeles and Phoenix, there were still several radiator water stations along the long grade over Chiriaco Summit.  I think that is a reminder of those bygone days.



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kphoger

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #70 on: February 13, 2019, 01:29:19 PM »

Overheating in California and Nevada is, I believe, the basis of this album cover:

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abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #71 on: February 13, 2019, 01:30:07 PM »

Oh, and one thing that also tends to be glossed over when people gush over the Golden Age of air travel: There's a strong chance the driver or other passengers would be smoking in the car, along with other customers and staff at gas stations, roadside diners, and the like.
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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #72 on: February 13, 2019, 03:18:50 PM »



Starting in the 1980s these signs were your friends.  I guess not so mucn now with apps and stuff but companies still pay to be on them.
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abefroman329

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #73 on: February 13, 2019, 03:38:55 PM »

They still exist, and they can be easier to use than my iExit app in most situations.
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kphoger

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Re: How was travel back in the good old days?
« Reply #74 on: February 13, 2019, 03:43:40 PM »

Yeah, sometimes we simply don't want to bother whipping out our phones, using up data in the process, when we know we can rely on signs instead.
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