Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Allowance

That's me in the middle, in Grade 11, wearing my allowance on my legs.

My allowance was paltry, even by 1960s standards. In high school, I received fifty cents a week. Most of my friends got at least a couple of bucks, and one fortunate diva received the munificent sum of Five Dollars!

Fifty cents a week might have been doable, except for the fact that my dad did not approve of my wearing nylons to school. He much preferred a younger look, generally involving ankle socks.

Ankle socks!

I was a year younger than my classmates, and looked two years younger than that. When I was fourteen (10th grade), I somehow managed to get Mom on my side, and she took me in to purchase a bra. It was a 28AA, and I stuffed it with Kleenex.

But, I digress.

Due to Dad's stubborn insistence that a child was a child, no matter what her classmates looked like, I was stuck with buying my own nylons out of that fifty cents a week. Nylons were three pairs for $1.00, so, without any other expenditure, I got three pairs every two weeks.

Nylons, in those days, did not stretch. Spandex was a thing of science fiction. Nylons were formed to the shape of an "average" leg, which mine most definitely was not. Consequently, they had to be pulled up as tightly as I could, or they sagged and bagged about my knees and ankles, making me resemble an emaciated elephant. Pulling them up that far meant that I had to fold the reinforced tops down quite a bit. Over and over, and over again, or the garter would attach to the sheer, un-reinforced part of the stockings. This shortened their life span considerably.

Add to that their nasty habit of "running." Any damage to a stocking resulted in an instant and very visible "run," from the tear in the stocking all the way to the top. Canadian stockings at least did not run downward. English ones did, and that came as a nasty shock, as several aunts and cousins could be counted upon to replenish my supply at Christmas. Those "ran" clear down to the toes in a heartbeat. The only thing that would stop a "run" was nail polish. Hopefully clear nail polish, but any colour would do, in an emergency.

Expecting three pairs of stockings to last two weeks was wishful thinking in the extreme.

So. With no disposable income to speak of, I supplemented my allowance however I could. Going to the store for cigarettes for Mom netted me two cents. Cigarettes cost thirty-eight cents a pack, and she would give me forty. A stick of licorice cost two cents. Those lovely chewy green mint leaf candies were three for a penny. Mom always had a willing volunteer for the store run...

I also stole from my dad's pocket change. Now, Mom knew to the penny what she had in her purse, but Dad just dumped his on his dresser every night. If he ever knew I occasionally helped myself to a quarter, he never said. As he considered it his bounden duty to stamp out any little dishonesty he encountered in my character, I'm inclined to think he didn't notice.

Once in a while, I would borrow money from one of my friends at school. Lord knows, I probably still owe Margaret a lot of money...

There was no system of chores-for-pay at our house. Chores were expected to be done as part of the payment for being allowed to live.

I did babysit sometimes, and the going rate was twenty-five cents an hour, and forty after midnight. Not many stockings bought that way!

Finally, I turned sixteen, and could have a real job. My dad had done a stint as a Watkins Man, and he got me a small route that I could run on my bicycle. Watkins Products were sort of like Fuller Brush, and sold door-to-door. Spices, cleaning products, makeup...I had a territory that I ran almost every day that summer. I netted enough to buy the fabric and patterns to make my graduation dress, and more or less keep myself in stockings and other clothes for my senior year.

Life was sweet.


  1. You and Vanessa look so much alike in this picture!

  2. LOL! I guess we do! I have another of me, a bit younger, that Chandra thought was her, for a nanosecond!

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  4. It's funny when we look back at our younger self and muse about what was important to us then.

    I worked as a waitress, graveyard shift as my parents didn't give me an allowance.

    My oldest daughter sold Watkins products when she was a teen, she did home parties which gave her a nice balance in her bank account. She could pay for the things she wanted, that we wouldn't buy for her.

    By the time my youngest two were teens I'd started my Watkins business so they helped me with various things to earn spending money.

  5. My first waitress gig, at a truck stop, lasted about a week. A guy who mad a pass at me wound up with a bowl of hot soup in his lap. apparently, I was supposed to put up with that.

    There were one or two pervs on my Watkins route, but I just skipped their houses, after the first time I had to duck and run.

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