After the blob about my career as a paperboy, my sister Joan left a comment asking if I remembered how I spent all that money I made. I tried to reply to the comment, but, windbag that I am, there wasn’t room. Hence, if you really want to know how I spent some of it, read on.
If all my customers paid, I earned two cents per newspaper. I don’t remember how many papers I delivered on my route, but estimating the weight I could have carried in the bag, it must have been about 25 or 30. So that’d be, say, 60 cents per day. To a 12 or 13 year-old child of the Depression, it was like a pot of gold.
I can’t actually recall how I squandered my weekly fortune, but I definitely remember how I spent that windfall Christmas bonanza. I used all those paperboy “tips” at Woolworths for presents, and it was the best Christmas of my childhood. It was a “Eureka” moment – that instant in time when a kid finds out that the joy of giving something is WAY more thrilling than anything Santa could possibly come up with.
I bought yo-yos for my three brothers, a bottle of Heaven Scent cologne with an “atomizer spray” for my sister Joan, and a pipe for my cigarette-smoking father. But the present I remember most vividly was the one for Mother.
I was practically wetting my pants when I got home. I wrapped everything up – but Mother’s was so dazzling I did it last so I could keep looking at it as long as possible.
I’ve never been good at secrets. After everything was wrapped and hidden away, I could only stand it for one day. I broke down and took the gift to Mother and told her she could open it to look at it. Which she did. I can still remember her oohs and ahhs, all properly delivered with a big smile and enthusiastic thank you’s.
After she had had what I considered to be a reasonable period of time to gaze at it in wonder and delight, I took it and carefully re-wrapped it so she could open it again on Christmas day. I could hardly wait till she could enjoy the experience a second time and till the rest of the family could see it.
I now know that it was probably the most hideous gift anyone has ever received. Woolworths 5 and 10 cent store sold a lot of ugly trinkets in its day, but I managed to find the winner in that category.
It was what appeared to be a diamond necklace carefully secured on a cotton strip in a long narrow white cardboard box. The glittering “gems” were joined by an amazing gold chain which fastened at the back with a hook and clasp. It cost 55 cents, the most I spent on any of the other presents, but I felt it was definitely worth the price.
We opened the presents on Christmas Eve and I made sure Mother’s was last, knowing that everyone would be speechless with awe and amazement at the diamond necklace.
I don’t know who broke the news to me but it was probably Joan. “Tee-Tee”, she may have said, “Did you think this was a diamond necklace? This is NOT a diamond necklace. I think this is a rhinestone necklace.”
Well, whatever. But it was still beautiful for a while. Till the gold chain started turning green. I never saw Mother actually wear it, which was just as well because it might have left an unsightly black line around her neck.
Until the strings broke, I’m pretty sure Jimmy, Leo and Richard played with the yo-yos. Joan probably used some of the Heaven Scent cologne – what was left of it after I kept sneaking sprays of it, and my dad carefully put the pipe away to “save” it to use at a later time. I don’t know what Mother did with her diamond necklace, but I can guess.
Which all goes to show you, it is better to be the giver than the receiver. And now you know why.