I truly think that we lived differently back then, at least when it came to how we treated economic status. Yes, some of us were rich and some of us were not, but it didn’t seem to make much difference in terms of who we hung out with or how we played.
Perhaps my parents were more acutely aware than I was of where we stood on the social scale, but I’m convinced that we placed less value on such things than we do now. Maybe it was because, in that postwar era, everyone felt that there was an equal opportunity to get ahead, unlike in our current age of growing economic disparity.
Or maybe it’s just that I was, as usual, oblivious.
At any rate, based on your comments, I wasn’t alone in feeling the pinch of a tight belt.
This from Louis:
I enjoyed the My Fair Lady story and it also reminded me of the frugal nature of growing up in our time. I can remember many “discussions” of the cost of groceries or going out to eat a hamburger versus eating at home. And many times I remember my sister and I running through the house turning off the lights in all of the rooms in the house that we had left on during the day so that when Dad pulled in from work he wouldn’t come in and give us the speech about wasting electricity and thus money. Many good lessons were learned in our childhood and I think kids of our generation are grateful for the upbringing and guidance our parents provided. Because as a group we have been a pretty successful generation.
We didn’t have anything on the scale of your tornado to contend with, but I can really identify with living so “close to the bone.” Luckily for my brother and I, we didn’t share our parents’ musical taste, so we didn’t touch the record player until we’d saved up enough lawn-mowing money to buy our own records. Even then, we had to be super careful when playing them on the family (Heathkit) stereo!
Harry had an almost identical experience to mine:
Your relating of the story of the broken record hits home. As a youngster, I spent a summer with my grandmother. She collected 45s and had one by Burl Ives, “Little White Duck”. I loved it and played it over and over and then exactly the same thing happened; it ended up cracked. I too hid it and when she didn’t hear me playing it over and over, she looked through the pile and found it. I felt lower than the lily pad that the little green frog sat on. She too hugged me and said, “It’s only a record, just be more careful with the others.” Grandmothers are wonderful. I miss her and my parents so much. You tug my heart strings with long ago memories more times than you can imagine. Thank you so much.
This from David, a former classmate:
I always considered the Stein family to be very well off–how could you not be–you owned your very own business! I thought everyone that owned a business was rich. The farmers and people that sold cottonseed (my family) were the poor ones.
And I thought everyone else was better off than we were.
Apparently this story caused a few folks to shed a tear or two. That was the angriest I ever saw my mother, and she had a temper. I know it was caused by sheer frustration, and she regretted it, but maybe not as immediately as I made it seem in the story. She could stay mad for quite a while.
Don’t quote me, but that one brought a few tears to my eyes…
Oh, sorry. I guess I did quote you.
Oh my goodness, you made me tear up with this one.
Kathleen had a different memory of her mother:
Ow, but I wish I’d had a mother like yours. I never saw my mother cry. I think there were times that that would have been a good.
The crying went with the temper. I’m not sure which I dreaded more, the white-hot anger or the remorseful tears.
The Columbia Record Club was extremely popular back then, so I’m not surprised that we weren’t the only family to buy our recordings from them. When we went through my Dad’s things after he passed away, we found many of them. He was evidently still listening to them fifty years later.
My family in New York had the Columbia Record Company deal too! They were 78s. We also got the show tunes and listened to My Fair Lady and Man of La Mancha endlessly.
Finally, Drew liked the story:
Terrific! May be your best yet.
Thanks, Drew, and to all of you for your comments.