I got my first REI membership card when I was a Boy Scout with troop 100 in Seattle Washington in the mid 1960’s. As I remember the membership as still $1.00
Back then the one and only REI store was in a basement space near downtown Seattle and instead of using retail store displays they would simply cut the tops off the cardboard boxes the items were shipped in and leave them in rows on the floor with hand written prices taped to the boxes.
My Dad told me that his aunt Nettie (my great Aunt) was the first paid employee of REI...he told me he remembered that she would fill plastic bags with trail mix out of a big barrel in her kitchen
I worked at the REI store here in Dallas TX several years ago, for about 4 years. It was one of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had. Great products and great co-workers. Good benefits!!
I am now 63 and I still shop at REI. The stores are much nicer now!!