Used to be a time if you were lucky, your Daddy gave you a weekly allowance, but where I came from not. So, that meant you had to figure out a way to make some money if you wanted any. Most Saturdays you would see kids in the neighborhood pushing a lawnmower down the street with a can of gas balanced on top, going door-to-door offering to cut your yard for 50 cents.
Now, I grew up in the country so that wasn’t an option for me, but I did have to cut the grass every Saturday morning before I could go do anything else. You might think that’s no big deal, but our yard was three acres. Mama would get me up early, feed me, then I would start about 7 a.m. Truth of the matter, I didn’t have to use a push mower. Daddy had a self-propelled cylinder or reel mower with a tractor-like seat attached. It could really move out on the long stretches of the three acres, so usually I could finish about noon, whereby I would be rewarded with 25 cents and the rest of the day off.
All this went fine until some folks built next door with this cute little girl about my age and they situated her bedroom facing our house so from time to time, I might catch a glimpse of her. I’m convinced they did that just to torture me. Well, anyway, one Saturday morning I was mowing back and to, up and down the yard when I thought I saw her in her nightie. I lost track of what I was doing and ate up a pine tree, cut my leg and Pop’s lawn mower met its untimely demise.
Most times, I would hop on my bicycle, cruise to town to the movie theater and hope maybe my favorite cowboy, Lash Larue, might be playing, and of course there was always a serial, so you had to show up every Saturday to keep up with the action. Playing cowboys and Indians while growing up, everybody assumed I would want to be Gene Autry but I liked Lash Larue and Hop-a-Long Cassidy better. (When folks ask me if I’m kin to Gene Autry, I tell them, “No, I’m kin to Champion.”)
Well, the movie cost 14 cents for some reason so that meant I had 11 cents to spend. If I bought a fudgesicle, my favorite, for a nickel, that left me six cents which I took home and deposited in my piggy bank. After I accumulated a few dollars Daddy took me down to the First National Bank and opened me up my own passbook savings account with the funds compounded quarterly. (Albert Einstein said that compound interest was the greatest invention of man.) I think the going rate was 1.5 percent at the time and every time you made a deposit, the teller would enter the amount plus any interest that had accrued.
The only investment disappointment I had was the bank down the street came up with a youth passbook named the, yep, “Hop-a-long Cassidy Savings Account,” with a passbook shaped like a saddle and Daddy wouldn’t let me transfer over.
The best prospect I got to make the big time was when the farmer next door hired me to help bale hay at the rate of $1 per day. I was so proud. Unfortunately, I turned out to be too little to toss a bale up on the stack so the kind soul felt sorry for me, gave me 75 cents, then politely fired me.
When I got a little older, after mowing the grass, I would hitchhike to the country club where most of my friends were playing golf. But now, you could caddy and make $3 for nine holes but that was hard and I wasn’t too big and the bags were heavy. Or, there was no such a thing as a driving range so all the big shot golfers had their own bag of practice balls called a shag bag, so you could shag balls for $5, much easier. All you had to do was go down the fairway a short distance while the big shot hit practice balls and then you had to retrieve them and put them in the bag. Of course, by the time they got to their driver, the accuracy waned and you had to do a right smart of running to keep up but all in all a pretty easy five bucks. So, my passbook savings account got healthier.
When I was 11, I talked Mamma and Daddy into giving me a guitar for Christmas, Well, I learned to play the thing and by the time I was 13 I had formed my own rock and roll band, I think they call them garage bands. We weren’t any good but nobody knew the difference because we were the first and only live band in town. We started booking gigs for $35. Five of us were involved so we each made $7, as we were a democratic organization. Four band members plus our manager, so designated because he was older and could drive us to the gigs. Hey, this was 1959! No other kids made that kind of money so my passbook account continued to grow.
Well, by the time I graduated from high school I had a rather tidy sum accumulated and was fixin’ to start matriculatin’ at the University of Georgia, when a new and the first stock brokerage firm opened up. So, I went down and invested $1,000 in the latest hot pick and was told it would be worth a pile by the time I graduated. After four years of college and five in the Marine Corps, I think I cashed out for about $250, but hey, now it’s zero.
If I had bought Coca-Cola instead, just think. By the way, if I had played golf instead of trying to make money shagging balls, I would have probably won the Masters and be worth a lot of money and most likely be miserable. My little band “The Torques” was asked to open for Billy “Crash” Craddock in Statesboro, Georgia, but I had no way of getting there. If I could have, I would have become a teen idol, then nothing but sex, drugs and rock-n-roll and probably dead.
A feller told me once, sez, “Gill, if a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.”
By the way, it’s been a long time since I saw any kids mowing grass.
….They’ve gone to iPhones everyone.