Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pin Money

When I was growing up my grandmother and my mom had something called "pin money". After all the kids were fed, shoed and clothed whatever little money remained would be put aside for something extra that wasn't in the family budget. It might be an fancy apron, a special lamp or in my grandmother's case she had a custom bedspread made with her pin money.

It seemed to be universal at that time. My aunt, who lived in one of the most rural places I've ever visited, had "egg money" that she earned from selling the extra eggs laid by her flock of chickens. She finally saved enough egg money to buy a washing machine. I'm not quite sure what type of machine it was because they didn't have electricity.

My aunt, walking back into the house. Cousin Jerry plays in the yard.

She made the mortal mistake of giving the egg money to her no-account husband who was going to town for the day. She handed him the money, wrapped up carefully in the sale advertisement from the newspaper. My mom was visiting at the time and warned my aunt that this was a very unwise move on her part. Like I said, the husband was what's called a no-account.

The day wore on and my aunt was giddy with excitement at the thought of having a mechanized means to lighten the load of laundry day. The hours wore on and my mom was dreading was was coming next. As darkness fell she caught a glimpse of someone coming down the dusty road. Yes, there he was....... in a junk car being pushed along by someone else because the car didn't even run!!!!

The husband felt that the non-running junk car was just what his family needed, not a washing machine! When my mom saw the car inch closer and closer to the house (well, it was really just a shack) she grabbed the no-account's loaded shotgun and positioned herself strategically on the porch.

Mustering up her loudest, most aggressive voice she bellowed down the lane, "Don't you come another inch closer. I've got both barrels loaded and I'm gonna shoot your car first, and then I'm gonna shoot you!"

"WHAT???? What'd you say woman?" he shouted back.

"You heard me. You're gonna lose a leg if you make me repeat myself. Get the hell outta here! Take your drunken friend and your dead car with you."

The no-account and his friend stopped and conferred. My mom had been born in the south but raised in Chicago. These two men didn't know what to make of it. Perhaps she was trained by the infamous gangsters who roamed the Chicago neighborhoods.

"You know I'm crazy enough to do it."

After a short conference they decided they couldn't take a chance on her sanity, so the parade of fools retreated down the road, back to town.

Of course it was just a short reprieve from the drama my aunt faced on a day-to-day basis. Although my aunt was married to a man with more than his share of baggage and problems, she never felt "oppressed". She just didn't. She was perhaps one of the happiest and generous people I ever knew. Perhaps feminists would say she was just stupid for not realizing that she was oppressed and unhappy and put-upon. Yeah, she was dumb that way.

I think she was just a person who didn't let a situation beyond her control get her down. In that time and place, without an education in the rural south there was no other option than to live your life the best you could. Perhaps if she'd been born 40 years later she would had "risen up against the man", but she developed a spirit that allowed her to be happy in a situation that would never be tolerated today.

Tomorrow we're going to continue our discussion of pin money because I'm saving a little bit myself. I'll show you what I've got in mind to spend it on. And no, it ain't a dead car!

Further reading on this subject:
It's All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

Holy cow, I know every character in THAT book.


Molly said...

I've read Rick Bragg's books, and so has my mother. Her side of the family is from that area, and Mother says he is dead on in his depictions...and she is giddy at the thought of meeting him at the book festival in Atlanta this weekend. And really, in some of the small towns in the rural South, not much has changed.

StitchinByTheLake said...

I think I might have known your aunt! We could even be related! LOL I know about pin money only my sweet father-in-law called it "rat hole money." blessings, marlene

Janet said...

I have a "stash" of pin money saved for the day I come across something that I just have to have. So far I have talked myself out of most things and just keep saving a couple dollars at a time. Seems strange in this day and age when most people just spend every penny or more, but I was raised by very frugal, blue collar parents. That is why at age 91 I don't have to worry about their finances! Yankee frugality has served them well.



Mary said...

What a terrific story, and a wonderful photo to accompany it!

Louise said...

I am totally not in favor of living in an oppressed manner. But you are right, in those days what options did she have. If you can't (or won't) get out of a bad situation, it is your duty to make the best of it. Being miserable never makes anything better.

dana said...

She was an incredibly powerful lady. What a great story. That photo looks like the way I remember my Granny's home in Arkansas. She was a tough cookie, too. She raised seven children in a tiny house with a tin roof. They were dirt poor "farmers" and to this day, I don't know how they could've raised a thing in the clay dirt that surround them, but they did. A "stash", oh yes, don't we all have one? ;-)

belladella said...

This story is wonderful. I definitely have my own pin money. I had an great-aunt that stashed money everywhere. When she passed away they found it rolled up in socks, under the bed, even in cans in the yard!!! Not exactly the same thing but it reminded me of that.

It also reminds me of what I come from- Depression era grandparents that saved everything...everything.

lifeinredshoes said...

Oh how I remember the term pin money.Your Momma was my kinda woman, your Aunt, I guess she made the best of things. Still waiting for the time to read The Book, it sits beside me, too familiar.

Suzanne said...

Molly, I love his books. They are a true look into some of the lives lived in the south. Your mom is going to meet him. I hope he's doing well after all the New York Times nonsense.

Marlene - Rat Hole money - that's really funny.

Janet - I think every woman must have some mad money.

Mary - Thanks. After posting the picture I'm kind of doubtful that it was my aunt walking back into the house because she was shaped differently. That IS my cousin Jerry though because my mom made a notation on the back....Jerry in the yard - 1949.

Louise - I know, it's hard to think of being in such a place that you have no options. But that was the truth of the time and place. Also see......The Color Purple.

Dana - I remember she had nothing but dirt in the yard. She would go out with a broom and sweep the yard!

Bella Della - My step-grandmother also tucked money away in some very creative places. We literally had to tear her place apart when she died.

Red Shoes - I know what you mean. I KNEW these people and their lives, but I wasn't raised in that household. I have a friend of mine who flipped out when he read the book. He claimed it was exploitive, etc. The truth is....he was raised in that type of household and it was all too close to his painful experience. I liked his other book too, "Ava's Man."

- Thanks for visiting today.

- Suzanne

Indiana Angel said...

My MIL has actually even spoken of 'pin money' - she's 82. Delightful story!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Both my grandmothers had "pin money." Wish that I did.

I recognized that no-account husband and I recognize your aunt, too. So many women were incredibly long-suffering. Your mother sounds like the best kind of a sister to have!

Mamahut said...

Please tell me she got her washing machine eventually??? My mom called hers a nest egg. A sock full of money.

woolanthropy said...

That is a good story. Your mama was tough. I like that about a woman.

Sabina said...

Great story and reminds me of a lot of the women in my family - raised out in the farms of Texas. You've never seen women who've had such difficult lives laugh harder as they tell their stories of life and hard times.

As for pin money - I've got some myself and I'm on my way out the door to spend it!!

Living on the Spit said...

What a wonderful story you are telling us. I like your Aunt very much! I would like to think I would act the same way. My grandma, Nana called it pin money too. She never gave us a purse or a wallet without putting a few coins in it first...she she'd it was for goodluck. I still put coins in a new purse or wallet that is a gift to someone else. I love your blog.

Ritch in Love said...

I really enjoyed reading that!

Cottage Rose said...

What a great photo and story. I know about pin money and egg money. I try to save every bit of change hubby and I get, hoping to save enough for a something I can't live with out.


Rue said...

Hi Suzanne :)

I would have shot him. Not to kill mind you, but grazed him a little ;)


Suzanne said...

Indiana Angel - money is alive and well, kept fresh by 82-yr. olds.

Vee - There were armies of women who "made do" and lived their lives the best they could. It's impossible to apply today's rules to the past, it just doesn't compute. Different times, different places.

Mamahut - Yes, she did finally get that washing machine. Like I said, they didn't have electricity and my aunt cooked on a wood burning stove. That meant she had to get up very early to start the fire. When they finally moved to a modern apartment in town, she literally burned everything she tried to cook. Cooking on a woodburning stove was certainly different that an electric range.

Woolanthropy - My mom was just livid at seeing her hard-working sister-in-law disrespected in such a way. Made her shooting mad.

Sabina - Exactly. Hard lives, hard stories and a good sense of humor to get you through the tough bits.

Living on the Spit - YES!!! Always at least a penny in a handbag. I recently gave one of my neighbors a handbag and I forgot to tuck in the penney. I've LOST SLEEP over this. I'm just a tad superstitious.

Ritch in Love - There you are!! Glad you like the story. My mom would laugh out loud remembering this one!!!

Alaura - Yes, pin money is for something you literally can't live without.

Rue - Just grazed a little. Yes. Of course it was the "good old boy" south and I think she'd have a devil of a time explaining to the lawman how the gun accidently discharged.

Thanks everyone for visiting with me today. Check back tomorrow for some more nonsense.