Your grandfather is a proud man. My mother stayed home to take care of the seven children – he worked two jobs to provide the basic necessities. He would never take a handout. Suggest government peanut butter and cheese to him and you might have a little squabble. I said that wrong – your grandfather never had little squabbles, there was either nothing to talk about or all out war. He only had a sixth grade education – but no matter – he knew that if he worked hard he would be rewarded.
This proud man is a prime target for payday loan sharks. A hard working man who is relatively unsophisticated in the world of finance, struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck. When I was growing up in 1950’s Missouri the State had Usury laws to protect the populace from scam artists. Thank God for State regulations.
My parents struggled. We lived in a four room house; six boys shared a bedroom with bunk beds stacked to the ceiling. We had no health insurance – but the family doctor back then just ran a tab. Our milk came from a local dairy located just outside of town, pasteurized but not homogenized – we scooped the cream off the top and enjoyed the delicacy of sliced peaches covered with real cream. Were we poor, probably not. Were we provided for – absolutely. Did we have fancy things – no way. I never ate a salad until I was 23 years old.
I remember that first salad. Life blessed me with computers (long before PC’s) and a professional career. The computer programmers were allowed to go out to lunch – an unheard of luxury in the labor pool of that era. We went to a restaurant and I saw the other men putting lettuce in a bowl. Whoa, I thought, that is really strange. Unsophisticated in the ways of the world – but not poor.
My father always owned old clunker cars. They were always about ten years old – and in those day a car that lasted ten years was a phenomenon. They don’t make cares like that anymore – and I am thankful. He would pay cash for a car, like $75. It would get him around. If the car broke down he had to fix it himself – and he walked to work until he saved enough money for the parts.
The world has changed. Their are no dairies, no peaches and cream. The Doctor will not run a tab. No money – no care. Cars are too complex to fix under a shade tree and we don’t live in the neighborhood where we work. The Unions have lost their punch and a good job in my town is $10.00 an hour. $11.00 if you can tolerate scooping pig guts for six months.
If something goes wrong – anything out of place – any unexpected expense – doom settles, the air becomes too thick to breath. The children are hungry, the power company is threatening to turn off the furnace, and the local PTA is having another fund raiser. The boy needs shoes for Little League…
Hopelessness. Sadness. Fear. Shame. The emotions are overwhelming, driving men to acts of foolishness. Sometimes to the payday loan sharks. Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens would have had plenty of content to fill their novels of civic despair.