Diana is a student of mine who has completed the Legacy Series and is currently working through the advanced class session 2! I know many of you will be able to relate to her experience of growing up…Enjoy!!
I am a baby-boomer. I was born in 1946, after WWII ended. My dad never served in the military because he was rated 4F due to flat feet and TB scars on his lungs. Most of his friends served in the military and he wanted to as well. Fortunately, his teen years as a delivery boy for Western Union led to full time employment that lasted over 40 years. He advanced into supervision along the way, and made a good living for his growing family.
During the depression years, Dad was a young boy, and his parents struggled to keep food on the table for their large family. When Dad was only 13 years old, my grandfather, Calvin Olvey died from tuberculosis. To provide an income for her six children, Grandma Sallie did housecleaning, ironing and sewing for other people; all the children found ways to earn money to help out. Dad’s married siblings had to support their own families, so it was my dad who mostly supplemented Grandma Sallie’s earnings from housework until he was 23 years old. When he and Mom got married in 1935, he felt bad about reducing his support to his mother, but his priorities were clear.
Mom’s family fared only slightly better than Dad’s. Her dad, my Grandpa George Kelly, worked on the railroad and was able to provide the basic necessities for his large family. Each of Mom’s older siblings held jobs, not only to help out, but to obtain those extras that they wanted – stylish clothing, movies and gas money. My Aunt Margaret was an usherette at the local movie theater.
The depression left lasting scars on so many people of my parents’ generation. I saw it in the way my parents handled their money. Dad worked all the overtime he could get. So much so, that the older boys, Vic and Ed, remember him at work or napping on the couch during their early years. My folks paid cash for everything except the house we lived in. They lived humbly, never seeking to be rich, just wanting to give their kids a little more than they had growing up, with opportunities for higher education and a better life.
Mom and Dad didn’t believe in paying for major purchases “on time,” as we called it back then. When he received his paycheck once a week, Dad would give Mom her weekly household allotment for food, clothing and household necessities. She in turn handed out allowance money to each of us. When I was 10 years old, I received $1.00 a week, and my older brothers got $3.00. I was thrilled, and I loved to save it for awhile to see what I could buy with a “large amount,” like $5.
Mom would use the lay-away plan at J.C. Penney’s for new school clothes for the four of us each year. Christmas money, however, came from her household allowance, as she managed to put some away each and every week. When we kids were all grown, that became her “mad money”. One time she saved enough for a new dining room table and chairs. That was pretty impressive!! Then another year she purchased a beautiful Ethan Allen hutch so she could display her china and special glass pieces.
Mom taught herself to cook, bake and sew; later on, she took night classes to learn advanced skills in sewing and baking. Socks were darned, seams mended, hems let down and knees patched. Easter dresses for me were hand-made. Clothes were handed down from Vic to Ed to me. I never minded wearing faded boys’ jeans and shirts. The rolled cuffs on the jeans made them last through growth spurts. Besides, it fit my tomboy ways perfectly; I was able to climb trees and play in the dirt without fear of ruining my clothing. Brother Steve was nine years younger than the next older brother, so he pretty much got new clothes all the time.
In the ‘50s, Dad’s union went on strike. When the strike funds ran out and a contract hadn’t yet been signed, Dad was distraught because their savings was almost gone. One night, he and Mom sat at the dining table, going over bills and their bank account. Mom had to convince him to borrow from our school savings accounts. Each week, we kids would bring quarters or dimes to school and place them in a small cardboard envelope with red string that wrapped around red buttons. The local savings bank would collect them and make deposits, paying us interest. Among the three of us older kids, there was enough in there to make a house payment ($37.50). Dad’s pride really suffered from that, but Mom’s practicality won out.
My parents were a good team, wise in their ways of living, and generous to others. I am thankful for growing up with role models who knew how to work hard, spend cautiously, and give generously from their hearts.