Monday, January 12, 2009


My thriftiness is from my mother, no doubt. Not only were her frugal habits developed out of necessity because of the Depression, but her family had an exceptional challenge: her father died in 1925 when she was ten years old. He was coming home from a business trip in Newport on the train and his appendix burst. By the time he got to Knoxville, it was too late. Fortunately two of her sisters, who never did leave home, were soon to be in the work world and could support the family.

My mother's attitude about money may have seemed unbalanced to some. For example, my parents sent all seven of us to private secondary school. I spent four years boarding at a school in Asheville, North Carolina; so I was a certifiable "preppie." However, I was only allowed one call home a week; and when we had talked for three minutes, my mother would terminate the conversation. She typed a weekly letter every Sunday afternoon on her manual typewriter to the last three of us who were still away (my brother was in Vietnam for part of this time). She used carbon paper, and as the youngest I always got the last copy. Oftentimes I could not read some of the text because she didn't hit the keys hard enough. Trips home to Knoxville were allowed not frequently and judiciously. I traveled on the Trailways bus through winding mountain roads before I-40 was built, and my mother probably would have been surprised to know how much money I had to spend on Dramamine. Clothing expenses were minimal as we had uniforms and mother was still making most of my other clothes. When I graduated and many of my classmates were getting cars, I got a watch. However, I always had a sense of pride in her nonconforming approach to finances.

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