Sparkle Schoolhouse
FIFTY Study Page- Wyoming: "The Golden Rule"

FIFTY Study Page- Wyoming: "The Golden Rule"

“The Golden Rule” is a story about the genesis of one of the most famous department stores in American history - and it all started in a small coal mining town in Wyoming. The “Golden Rule Stores” were developed and expanded by James Cash Penny and built on the idea that customer service was the most important part of business: that the staff must always treat people the way they want to be treated. And the idea worked!

Note: Though this is historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.


Wyoming History

  • History of coal mining and railroad in Wyoming and the Rocky Mountains
  • Biography of JC Penney (and Sam Walton - founder of Walmart who worked at JC Penney)
  • History of department stores in the USA

Wyoming Geography - Map of the spread of JC Penney Stores from Colorado to Wyoming, to Utah and then beyond - Map of Rocky Mountains and coal mining country - Map of Kemmerer downtown triangle

“The Golden Rule” Study Topics - The culture of historical coal mining towns and the many civil rights violations - How capitalism and ‘the golden rule’ can be complicated.


From a Child Development Perspective:

In this story, your child might learn that:

  • The Golden Rule does not just mean being nice, it means that you treat others how you want to be treated because it's what's best for them, not necessarily because it's what's best for you. You will certainly benefit from the exchange of kindness, but the Golden Rule’s magic lies in considering the needs of your neighbor even before you consider yourself. Cal Reinhold said he would be kind to the man who had ripped his coat, but still, he did not say he would offer him any gesture of generosity, and so he did not get the job for Mr. Penney.
  • It is important to remember that following the Golden Rule is not just about doing it when it's easy for us, but in following it in all of our affairs, even when it's challenging. It can be very easy to be nice to people that we like, or to be generous with people by giving away things that we don't much care about, but it can be harder to extend a loving hand to someone of whom we are not terribly fond or to give away something that we actually treasure. James Penney wanted to help people to understand that the Golden Rule didn't just apply to people when they were in church, but in all aspects of their work and home life as well. "It must apply to everything."

  • When we are looking for friends (or when our children become adults and are looking for coworkers) it is important to find people who uphold similar moral values. These kind of workers that Mr. James Penney is looking for are ones who are kind and who treat others fairly. Finding such people proved to be far more difficult than he had planned, but he persevered! And the good thing he did, because that's when he met Evelyn Barnes.

    Now, the only thing he needed was a manager and the sales people. And this was no small thing. He believed that the people who ran the store and did the selling were the most important part of the equation. They were why the store was named after the Golden Rule - they needed to be men and women who deeply believed in the Golden Rule - who tried their hardest to be kind and treat people with respect."

Following the golden rule according to Mr. James Penney may not at first seem like it's the most profitable way to run a business but in the long way he believes it's the only way to run a business. But treating people fairly and with kindness that is simply good business and again whether that is in your job or just in your life.”

  • Be very careful when someone wants to share secrets. Sometimes people share secrets because "they are embarrassed for they have something to hide". It is fine to share personal information, but if you are told to keep a secret, just be careful about why. James considered this when Evelyn wanted to share something with him that she asked to be secret. But because she was giving him advice, he realized the conversation could safely be confidential. There was no harm in the secret she was sharing.

  • It may be hard for people to trust you if they are used to not trusting others, but if your actions remain consistent and honest, eventually people will see that you are trustworthy. Candidates for Mr. Penney’s store were used to being taken advantage of, so it took them a while to trust the goodness from Mr. Penney's heart. And eventually the just right people came to work in Mr. Penney store, just as the just right people will come to be your friends in your life, too!

About the Authors

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

Meredith Markow

Sparkle Schoolhouse Head of School

Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.

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