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Pennies from England

July 17, 2004

Mark R. Madler

While preparing to move to Oregon, Ron England and wife, Judy, had

one million things they needed to get out of the way.

One million pennies, to be precise.

That's how many pennies England had collected over the past 30

years to win a bet with a relative.

Unable to get any bank to accept and convert the coins to

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easier-to-manage paper cash, Safeway Inc. stepped in this month to

solve the problem.

On Thursday, England and a group of children with the Make-A-Wish

Foundation of Greater Los Angeles dumped in the last of the copper --

$100 worth of pennies into a coin conversion machine at the

Pavilions, 1110 W. Alameda Ave.

Some pennies dropped to the floor as the children dumped them from

metal buckets into the coin converter's tray.

"Good thing we didn't put the whole million in," England quipped.

A Safeway official gave the Granada Hills man a $10,000 check for the

pennies. Pavilions grocery stores are a division of Safeway.

A discussion back in 1974 with his brother, Russ, and their

father, both engineers and "number crunchers," led to the bet,

although England said his brother, who lives in Bell Canyon, doesn't

quite remember the bet.

"He was saying how large a number a million was," England said,

recalling how the bet developed. "I said I could collect a million of

something and the bet was on."

Reaching the one million goal should earn him a dinner in Paris,

England said.

He originally kept the pennies in a woodpile, but Judy burned a

lot of wood so he moved them, England said.

"I placed them in the garage where they were out of the way," he

added.

Safeway paid for a mover to take the 3.6 tons of pennies from

England's garage Tuesday to a bank, Safeway spokesman Daymond Rice

said.

Safeway executives offered to take the pennies after reading news

reports on his struggle to cash them in. The grocery chain's proposal

was chosen because it involved a donation to the children from

Make-A-Wish, said Pearson Brown of Smith Public Relations, which

represents Safeway. Safeway donated $5,000 to the Make-A-Wish

Foundation of Greater Los Angeles on Thursday.

England, a Paramount Studios projectionist, will use the money as

a down payment on a John Deere tractor he will use on his 15 acres in

Oregon.

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