‘Red Quarters’ Were Once Popular in Lewiston, but Do You Know What They Were For?
Lewiston once had the largest circulation of red quarters in Maine, but where did they come from and what were they for? The answer is simple.
Growing up "back in the day", there were a lot of interesting tidbits and fun facts that some people considered commonplace then, and have nearly been completely forgotten about today. Red quarters should probably be classified on that list.
The Facebook page "I Was Born In Lewiston..." shared a photo of a red quarter a couple months back and posed a question, "does anyone remember seeing these and know what they were used for?" The answers came flooding in and rather than something deceptive, dirty or deceitful...the answer is simple. Fun.
Red quarters were used throughout bars, clubs and arcades as a way to keep patrons satisfied and happy while in the establishment. Need to keep that jukebox humming so Bill and Tommy throw a couple more back? Hand them a couple red quarters. Ned and Sandy are about to leave until they realize they can play a couple games of pool for free? Red quarters. Is Jimmy close to completing the hottest new arcade game? Maybe a couple red quarters will help. Red quarters were used to manipulate the entertainment inside these establishments and keep them busy.
How did they become red? Nail polish. Red was the most prominent color of nail polish when this trend began coming about, so that is why the color was chosen. At the end of the night when the machines were emptied, the red quarters would be separated from the silver ones, determining how much help the establishment needed to keep the party going. The red quarters were supposed to be kept in-house, but over time, many of them found their way into regular circulation.
It wasn't just a Lewiston thing, so have you ever run across red quarters? Or do you still have some?