Cash crunch? Why not simply print some money? That’s just what the Chico Chamber of Commerce did in April of 1933 (April 12th to be exact, my birthday–although a few years before my arrival).
It was during the depths of the Great Depression, and two prominent banks had denied citizens access to their accounts for well over a month. The Chamber’s newly-minted “Chico Currency” could be used to draw on up to one-fourth of citizens’ bank accounts (not to exceed $25!).
During its five-month-long circulation, local business owners gladly accepted “Chico Bucks,” even promoting their use in newspaper advertising.
By September, when the banks “thawed” their coffers, the city held a parade and mock funeral (complete with drum, bugle corps and coffin) in Children’s Park, with a young Ted Meriam (for whom Meriam Library is named, and–like Dr. Seuss’s “Lorax”–who spoke for Chico’s trees) acting as parade marshal. About $15,000 worth of the script was torched in a dramatic funeral pyre. Only a few specimens remain to this day.
(Note: A big “thank you” to Tina Aranguren for her research and for bringing the story of “Chico Bucks” to my attention!)