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Spring vacation in front of my house, 1973 atop some of my Hartmann luggage.

I helped Mom lick S&H Green stamps and put them in many, many books, but I have no memory of what she traded them in for. As I scanned the Internet, some thermoses looked familiar, so perhaps she traded them for those and the matching cooler, which would be used at Memorial Day picnics at a local park with family friends. But that is just a guess.

My husband was a much-traveled management consultant for most of his working life, so had millions of airline miles, which we converted to tickets, and years ago, through Hilton Grand Vacations, we bought a fractional ownership of a unit at the West 57th Club in New York City. If we choose not to use it, we convert the usage points to Hilton Points and have stayed at various hotels in London throughout the years for free. That was very useful, since David has lived there for eight years, and now of course, we have a granddaughter there, so visit multiple times a year.

But the source of a few wonderful gifts at home during my teen years from my dad came from “points”. I have no idea what was the source of these “points”, how he acquired or accumulated them but I do know that the rewards were great.

I took Home Ec in 7th and 8th grade, learning basic cooking and sewing skills. Dad was so impressed that, using those magical “points”, he got me my own Singer Sewing machine when I was in 8th grade; one that looked something like this.

At school, our teacher threaded the machine and I made a really nice, lined, burgundy wool skirt that I wore for years. I wasn’t as handy at home, as I never really learned all the functionality of the machine. I did, however, make outfits for my Barbie dolls representing the North and South when we studied the Civil War in 8th grade. That was a fun, interesting project that I presented to the whole class (I based my patterns on descriptions in “Gone With the Wind”).

Barbie dressed in my creations – navy blue for North, what used to be green for South (it has faded in the intervening 56 years).

The best, most useful gift was a three-piece set of Hartmann luggage that was my High School graduation gift. In the Featured photo, from 1973, you see me sitting on two of the three pieces. They consisted of a large and small “pullman” suitcase and a large hanging bag. They were all made of leather and lasted for years. They had zipper pockets inside, along with individual lined zipper bags, which I still have.

plastic-lined zipper bags came with each of the pullman suitcases – still useful, if somewhat ragged

I asked for Sapphire Blue, but Dad could only get Peacock Blue, so I settled (not a huge sacrifice). That was one of the downsides of the program. There seemed to be limited availability with some items.

Hartmann is a great, well-made brand and I was thrilled with the luggage, though as the years passed and I became a more frequent traveler, I learned of the delights of a soft-sided suitcase, and eventually, luggage with wheels attached. But that Hartmann luggage served me well for years and years. Dad’s points were well-spent. I only wish I knew how he earned them and what the source was. He took that mystery to his grave.




Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    How fascinating about your father’s mysterious “points” – did he refuse to tell you where he got them, or did you just never ask? A sewing machine and a set of good luggage are pretty fabulous rewards! And great photos – I love the featured image of you sitting atop the luggage, and so glad you still have those North and South Barbies! I’m also impressed by your unit at the West 57th Club in NY, sounds like you have made great use of those benefits, especially in London.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I don’t think I ever asked my dad what was the source of the “points”. I believe it had something to do with his auto dealership, which departed in 1967, (although that was long before my senior year in high school so the timing doesn’t work; the mystery remains).

      We haven’t stayed at the West 57th Club since before the pandemic, but having all those Hilton points has been very useful. We stayed in London for 28 days last December with no hotel cost, a very nice benefit.

  2. Leave it to you Betsy to have a photo of that points-acquired luggage set, and with you posing fetchingly on top!

    I’m not usually a savvy shopper but recently bought a Canon laser printer on Amazon using Amex points, and had to pat myself on the back!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I got lucky with that photo, Dana. I have so many great photos from my mother in my basement (I can’t leave the big house – where would I store all those boxes and albums?).

      AmEx points are great too, Dana. Sounds like you got a great deal.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Seems like points ain’t what they used to be—your rewards sound quite fabulous. As is your sewing skill! Great photos.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It is true, Khati. Points ain’t what they used to be. Companies got wise and greatly reduced their value long ago. Thanks for the compliment. My sewing skills are rudimentary, but I enjoyed the creativity.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I’m really impressed with your Barbie doll outfits, Betsy. I also received a 3-piece luggage set as a high school graduation gift. I used it for many years, even though the colors were a hideous green, orange, and avocado design. Also, no wheels or handle pulls, so kind of heavy.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Luggage seems to have been THE high school graduation gift (I heard from several friends who told me they, also, received luggage from their parents, and not in colors they wanted). I agree, your colors do not sound great. And also, luggage was HEAVY in those days before they came up with wheels and other features to make them more portable.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Brilliant use of your Hilton Points. I keep accumulating them almost accidentally, as it seems as if almost every mid-price hotel, regardless of how branded, is actually a Hilton property. But haven’t used them yet, though I do have a fair amount now.

    As to your father’s mysterious points, I, too, am most curious as to their source, but assume you’ll never know. Do you wonder if they were ever “real’? I ask because my wife saw a few years ago in a magazine a great suggestion for kids’ gifts: give them “coupons” for various future purchases, which were really just a form of promise to get them something when they came up with an idea themselves. You can then make the coupons yourself or print out blank ones online and then fill them out. She has done this for her grandkids over the years much to everyone’s satisfaction, and has even added some specific ones like “your favorite ice cream and my homemade hot fudge sauce next time you visit. And you get to eat it before the meal.”

    That said, your father’s points sound a fair bit more “real” than these are. And I loved that you had pictures of the products of your dad’s “program,” whatever the source of it might have been.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Your are right about Hilton owning SO many branded hotels these days, John. We stay at a DoubleTree by Victoria Station when to go to London, which is a Hilton brand (on the modest side, but a decent location for us, and doesn’t consume too many points).

      I am 100% certain that my father’s points were real because I saw the catalogue and picked out the luggage myself. I just don’t know how he accumulated them, or what the source of them were. It is possible that my brother would know (though he was already in college when I got the sewing machine and luggage), but no one else who could shed some light on the subject is alive.

      Your wife’s program is cute. I’ve done something like that with my family too, making a gift coupon for some specified future reward.

      • John Shutkin says:

        You’re right, Betsy. A catalogue is clearly the sign of a real rewards program. Though I may suggest to my wife that she now work on a catalogue as well as the coupons.

        On another note, isn’t it sad when we realize that no one is longer alive who could shed some light on a family issue? And, of course, it happens more and more. And we and our siblings are now all that remains of the knowledge.

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