Heart of the Home

| July 2007

Making money was tough for young girls

There were not many opportunities for a young girl to make money on a farm in the late 1940s and early '50s. We were too far from town to be able to get a job as a waitress in a café. Farm wives did their own cleaning, so cleaning houses for other people was not an option. Dad wouldn't let me work for any neighboring farmers doing field work, because he said they should have their own children doing it. I knew they asked me to do it because I was good at it, since I disked, mowed hay and planted corn at our farm.

The only job available for outside money was baby-sitting, and that wasn't usually feasible. There were only a few neighbors who had small children without an older one to take care of them. One family had five small boys - all under 5. Another had three. All they ever paid was 25 cents an evening. If they were out past midnight, they might give me another quarter. Dad made me stop baby-sitting when one couple didn't come home until 3:30 a.m. on a school night - and only paid me 25 cents for an 8-hour job.

My folks didn't pay me for the jobs I did either. Children were supposed to help and do what they could at home for the good of the family, but I never felt overworked or abused. I may not have been paid in money, but I had all the love I needed - as well as other benefits.

If I needed a new dress, I would choose the fabric, and Mother would get it for me. I would then cut out the pattern and sew the dress in a couple of days. If I needed a new pair of shoes, my folks made sure I got them.

If I wanted to go to a movie, go roller-skating or attend a dance with my friends, I was given the price of admission, plus a little extra for a hamburger and a soda.

My parents didn't have a lot of money, and I didn't always get to go with my friends, but I had a good life. I was never told that if I didn't work hard I wouldn't be given money for extras, but that knowledge was part of what I absorbed without it being put into words.

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