We Were Not To Criticize Our Betters

In this posting, I am referring to what we were told, as children, in the middle of the last century, in the Midwest of America. We were not to question our parents about money matters.

I am reading Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography – about the economic difficulties Whitman’s family had in the opening years of the 19th Century. As the people on Long Island and Brooklyn were changing from Farmers to Industrial workers. Those were hard times that no one wants to remember now.

There are parallels between the two families and the two times. In this posting, I will concentrate on my own family, and my own Father. He had hard times too, but as children – we were not supposed to notice them.

Dad owned a photography studio in Ft. Madison, Iowa – and made a lot of money during WWII, since it was the only studio in town. After the War, returning Veterans set up their own photography studios, and drove Dad out of business – since their prices were lower.

Dad was always a small businessman, and could never work for anyone else. This was not a problem in the Forties, because small businesses (including family farms) were everywhere – easy to start, and profitable. But times were changing, and fifty years later, small businesses were rare. Dad was bucking this trend.

Dad made the decision, in 1950, to manufacture stone ground whole wheat flour – in my Mother’s home town of Nauvoo, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Ft. Madison. A company had just made the machinery to do this, in small quantities.

Dad thought there would be a good market for this flour – but he was wrong. The market never developed. So he built a bakery to make whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pastries. This had problems also, and never made much money.

But Dad and Mom solved all their problems by selling the house – making a lot of money from this – and retiring to Mexico.

They were lucky, darn lucky. Their economic failures – due to no fault of their own, could be forgotten.

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