Wednesday, October 15, 2008


My friend Sharon just sent an email notifying me of Blog Action Day 08. Never heard of it but it appears to be a group of blogsters that converge on a topic. Today’s topic is poverty. I notice a lot of bloggers are trying to get at poverty’s root causes but I believe we get to stick to our own formats. Here goes------

I mentioned in an earlier post that my brother, mother and I spent a couple of years without heat. In 1969 when I was 11 we lived in an unincorporated suburb of St. Louis. My mother worked for the Human Development Corporation. They assisted low-income families. My mother was a single woman raising two boys and qualified for assistance herself.

She was furious that she was making a third of what men earned doing the same jobs. I’m not sure if this was the case at HDC but she wasn’t earning enough to support us. She would borrow money my brother and I made selling newspapers, then buy boxed macaroni to feed us.

We had an oil furnace that winter and couldn’t afford to fill it. We were so cold one night she took us across the street to visit an old couple. We didn’t know these people. They were horrified with our situation and lent us an electric blanket. For some reason we still had electricity. The three of us spent a lot of time in bed together.

In those days there were no food stamps. There was some religious organization that distributed food in boxes. I remember canned meat,powdered eggs and some kind of axle grease in a can called country butter.

I used to enjoy riding around the state in the back of a van with several other boys selling newspaper subscriptions. We saw a lot of people living in over heated homes tucked away from the cold wind swept streets.

Once our boss drove us down into the Missouri boot heel. These folks were really poverty stricken. Huge extended families gathered around potbelly stoves on dirt floors in tarpaper shacks. It was incredibly warm in there emotionally as well as physically. They all bought subscriptions from us too.

On our way back up the state the boys all looked around at each other. Our eyes began to tear. We were choking. I’ll never forget a small bald headed kid that laughed and said, “To you, your own fart smells sweet!”

That same year my brother and I decided to play hooky one day. We knew we were going to get caught but decided we’d live for the moment. As the day progressed it occurred to us that it was our mother’s birthday. What a lucky break!

We found her cookbook and discovered we had ingredients for a pound cake. We would tell her we stayed home to bake a cake.

When she got home that night she had a large box.

Some time earlier she had been speaking with nuns from a local convent. They asked her if there was any one thing that would make her happy. She told them the three of us loved music. She really wanted a Zenith Circle of Sound stereo so we could play our records.

That night we listened to Sgt. Pepper over and over as we ate pound cake. She told us for years that was her favorite birthday.

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