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AUTHOR SUNDAY – Do you remember the pneumatic tube cash system?


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Jean Butterworth

I love old buildings. Recently one old building in Tuscaloosa was saved from possible destruction through the efforts of many Tuscaloosa citizens. The building is the old Allen & Jemison Building located on Greensboro Avenue and 7th street. It has had 107 birthdays.

From left to right, Brown’s Corner, the Alston Building, the water fountain, Allen & Jemison Hardware, City Hall, & the McLester Hotel photo from Tuscaloosa Trolleys

Tuscaloosa street old

Once, this building housed a very modern upscale mercantile and hardware store for West Alabama. It was close to the railroad where merchandise could be transported in and out, first by mule and wagon, and late by motorized vehicles. Many years later this building became a furniture store.



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I have fond memories of shopping in this hardware store in my early teens. This hardware store was not like today’s Home Depot and Lowe’s.

I was going to be taught how to knit by an older lady in my country neighborhood. At her suggestion I went to Allen & Jemison and purchased skeins of yellow wool yarn. The outcome resulted in a yellow scarf before I called it quits! This was my brief encounter with knitting.

Sometime ago I was rumbling in my cedar chest in the basement and came across this very same scarf! Later, I purchased different colored wool yarn to try my hand at needle point on canvas. I enjoyed this but it was a very time consuming. This time I made a dining room chair cover of which I was very proud.

The old building will be renovated and some of the old aspects of the store will be preserved. One interesting item in the store that will be kept is the pneumatic tube cash system. Remembering this, I can recall how it worked. When I into the store to purchase the yarn I gave the money in cash to the sales lady. She took the money for the yarn and wrapped the receipt around it and then placed it in a small cylinder about the size of a small can of frozen orange juice can. Then she placed the cylinder in the pneumatic tube and pressed a button and the cylinder and money was send zooming up and down to the pneumatic system to a central place where the cashier was located. There were about ten of these tubes.

Pneumatic cash tube system in a store

pneumatic cash tube

The cashier was kept busy making change and sent it back to the appropriate department via the tube system. Of course, this took a little bit of time, waiting for your change. I have to remember that in those days we did not used credit card or write checks.

Allen & Jemison now will become the Tuscaloosa Cultural Arts Center. It will house art galleries, space for rehearsals, and other cultural space needs.

Old buildings have historical significance and certainly fond memories. I am delighted this one was saved!

Chinaberries and Other Memories of Alabama by Jean Butterworth

Chinaberries and Other Memories of Alabama



  1. Yes and it was awesome for its time!

  2. I think my grandfather Lee worked in the hardware store there for a while, about a century ago (big generation gaps in the family).

  3. That’s still used at the car dealership I used to work for.

  4. I remember them in stores in Birmingham years ago. My bank uses one in their drive through now!

  5. I remember them from a store in Grants Pass, OR in the 1950’s. As a small girl, it fascinated me as to how they worked.

  6. I remember the one in Loveman’s especially and the sounds it produced.

  7. Tepper’s Dept. Store Selma, AL had one and fasinated me 1930’s-40’s. Worked a treat and quickly as I can recall…

  8. Jim Burke Buick used to have one from service dept and business office.

  9. Hammel’s in Mobile had one

  10. Patti Buckner
    I worked in Birmingham Department Store that had the pneumatic cash tube system…….

    1. Thanks, June, I was trying my best to remember where I’d seen those tubes in downtown Selma!

  11. J C Penny had one in Ensley. They also had a fascinating item in the shoe department to help determine a proper fit. Slide your foot into the opening at the bottom, Look through the view screen at the top, and see your toes in the shoe , BONES and all. EVERYONE then wiggled their toes ,EVEN the adults , and giggled.

  12. Cole’s Department Store in Natchez, MS had a tube system.

  13. I remember the Allen and Jemison Building—–Tuscaloosa citizens —-thanks for saving it : )

  14. Penney’s in Lakeland, Florida had a tube system.

  15. They showed this in the movie Brooklyn. I had not even remembered this until I watched the movie

  16. Yes. When I worked at Sears, on Soto and Olympic in Los Angeles back in the 60’s, we had one to send money and to get change. Cool device!

  17. Kresses’ downtown Huntsville , Alabama Glenn Mann

  18. Ivan Leonard Chevrolet in hoover, now Hendrick chev, still has one. Used it to send paperwork to parts dept and cashier office.

  19. Sad for lack of tubes. Want more pneutubes!

  20. Rosenberg’s in Troy, AL had a tube system for the money and a basket system for the merchandise.

  21. The department stores in Montgomery also had those tubes.

  22. Montgomery Wholesale on Commerce Street used to have one of these tube systems.It was used to send orders from the display floor to the warehouse.I heard quite a few kids and adults call it the “Pneumonia” tube system.

  23. I remember those. WVOK in Birmingham had one for visitors to send requests to the DJ on-the-air.

  24. I remember! And, my bank still uses them in the drive through.

  25. Downtown Waukegan had the Globe Department Store with the tubes

  26. Oh yes, in Decatur I remember them in stores such as Warren’s and JCPenney’s, as well as in Rogers in Florence, and Loveman’s and Miller’s in Chattanooga. So fascinating!

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