Frugal is as frugal does

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2006

If you are not at least sixty years old you will not comprehend the attitude toward life of a person born during the twenties. It was a good year according to my mother’s diary. Life was simple but hard. Dad had a truck garden and sold his produce off a horse and wagon driven through the village. Mom did most everything else including feeding the chickens. She had already borne three children ten years before I came along and complicated their lives. But I was very important to them as proven by the entry on March 3, 1925…&uot;Mae Stewart,&uot; (the neighborhood midwife) &uot;arrived at 6:30 and Dr. Stringer right after breakfast. Robert was born about eight, some difficulty nursing him. Later killed a chicken for supper.&uot;

This was just before the Great Depression that joined in with measles, chickenpox, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and polio to make life a bit touchy. Antibiotics had not yet been created, a pair of long pants lasted years, shoes were repaired a dozen times, cars were not dangerous but the rutted roads were. We had our fun but kids of today could not have constructed a scooter from an orange crate and one roller skate because it required the use of hammer and nails.

In town, half a mile away, there was a grocery store, a department store, a gas station, and a feed store. Later a brave soul opened a bakery and penny-candy store. My mind is a blank from age five until puberty but throughout that period we dealt with life as it was, not knowing it could be better. There were distant big cities, like Detroit, but we never saw them. The next village was eight miles away, but it could have been fifty…nobody cared except if you got married that’s where the only jewelry store was.


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I was 6′ 5&uot; and skinniest person in the county, of course a star on the basketball team. That was the only time I ever left home…to play against teams from those other towns in the thumb of Michigan, though we didn’t beat many. Then came the war, at eighteen I really traveled and life changed dramatically during a three-year experience. The point of all this is that we never had much while growing up and didn’t think we needed much more. Even through the fifties a big time was cooking a pot roast on coals outdoors in my sister’s yard and watching our kids play. The only financial matter was securing a mortgage on the house we built ourselves, and the only need for an attorney was to write the deed.

A large part of the attitude toward life you acquire during your early life stays with you for a very long time. Born and raised frugal you pretty much stay frugal. Maybe that’s why I still won’t let go of my 1995 Buick. It’s only been driven 60,000 miles and I still remember that when you bought a used car that was low mileage. Frugal because I was married and had our three children before we owned a car. Frugal because the first bicycle I owned was my 10-year-old brother’s kid’s throwaway.

Frugal because depression food was mostly creamed potatoes and baloney, the chickens were long gone. I’m still frugal but live like a king.

So you must forgive me that I sniggered seeing the picture of the mayor cutting the ribbon, her first solo ribbon cut, in front of a shopping center with stores named &uot;A Tisket A Basket,&uot; &uot;Bon Vivant,&uot; and &uot;Silver Moon.&uot; And they call them &uot;shoppes.&uot; The article suggested that you stop by if you &uot;need&uot; a silver necklace or serving tray, a gourmet gift basket, or a hard to find vintage wine. That’s all very nice for some folks, but most of those words are not even in my frugal dictionary.