July 3, 2014

87 Things Only Poor Kids Know

A small boat with a big motor and a bigger flag.  Happy 4th of July to you all.


My daughter, Laka, found this article via Facebook.  Titled, 87 Things Only Poor Kids Know and written by Tiffany Willis on May 29, 2014.  She writes that her best resource for the lessons in the article came from A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D.
I won’t post all 87 things in today’s post, but I feel strongly that I could comment on one or two of the items.  I’ll post more of the items later as they catch my fancy.
My grandmother, a college educated women born in the 1800’s was married to a college professor and university president.  All their savings and insurance monies were spent on health care while my grandpa was dying.  By the time he died, she was living on about eighty-five dollars a month.  Frankly I do not know how she did it, but I do know that she went through her neighbor’s trash and remade their thrown away clothing.
My mother, though well educated, married an alcoholic.  We moved in with my grandfather, and mother invented a custom printing business in our basement that brought in a small income at the start.
I chose to live an alternative life style as an artist doing part time graphics, odd jobs, and drinking continuing on with the life style I led when I was married.  My two kids came back to live with me in the mid 1970’s.  Because I owned part of a house, I didn’t qualify for food stamps.  Much of Willis’s list resonates with me too.


Here are some things that poor children know. 
1.     A fingernail file can be used to file a jagged edge if a tooth breaks.
Thank heavens this is one I never had to use.

2.     We go to the doctor when we’re sick, but mom doesn’t.
If something happened with the kids, mother would pay.  I was very grateful.  When I had to have my gall bladder out, mother paid.  In all reality, she must have gotten the money for these medical expenses from her father.

3.     We have to move a lot because sometimes we can’t afford the rent.
After we both lost our jobs in ’66, we began cutting our costs down by sharing our houses.  My friend Bobbie called it living in a commune.

4.     I don’t always tell my mom when I need school supplies. I can tell it makes her nervous.
I got paper and pencils but once a year.  Period.

5.     Having to print something for school gives me anxiety. Our printer doesn’t always have ink. It’s easier for me to just get a bad grade on the project than admit to the teacher I can’t afford to print.
Sorry, up until my SDSU years, no one had computers.  I got my first Apple 2e in 1985, used.  It really didn’t work well, and I didn’t type well.  My friend Monica’s son William typed all my term papers.  I couldn’t have made it through without him.


6.     Ditto homework that requires the internet. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. People say “use the library” but there’s not always gas money to get there and they are only open one evening a week.

7.     There was no internet.  There were a lot of libraries.  Both my kids and I didn’t get online during our school years

8.     God doesn’t hear my prayers.
He certainly didn’t.  I failed at everything but art.  No matter how hard I tried, I failed.  There was no god.

9.     The only time I’ve ever been to a store to buy new clothes is when my aunt took me. The dressing rooms were foreign to me.
Thinking that one particular private school would solve my problems, I was provisionally enrolled.  I had to have uniforms and two good outfits.  Mother took me downtown to Marston’s Department Store, and we bought used uniforms, one good grey dress, and a pencil skirt with a sweater set.  This was in 1954.  It was sooooo exciting.  My kids were clothed out of the generosity of others, trash cans, the free box, and other cost free sources.  My eldest grew up treating her clothes as if they had no value.

10.  I learned how to cook ramen noodles when I was six years old. I was hungry when I got home from school and mom wasn’t ever there to cook because she was working.
No ramen noodles when I was growing up.  Baked potatoes.  If I was hungry, I went across the street to the Clark’s house.  Since I hadn’t had snacks, I never knew I should have them for my kids.

11.  Healthy snacks are expensive. Ramen noodles are cheap.
My kids discovered ramen early.  I still haven’t discovered ramen noodles.

12.  My grandmother criticizes my mom for not feeding us more healthy food. What she doesn’t understand is that healthy food usually costs a lot more.
My mother didn’t care.  She wasn’t well and spent her days drinking.

13.  We can never get the chicken nuggets at McDonald’s. We have to order from the dollar menu that mom calls garbage food.
As a teen, we went to Jack in the Box, but I had the shrimp.  When I joined the Army at 18, I discovered Big Boy hamburgers.  As an adult, I drank and paid no attention to the kids nutrition.  Most nights we would have a version of Bob’s Dinner: Hamburger and noodles in tomatoe sauce topped with American Cheese.

14.  Every day when I get off the bus, I’m scared until I get inside the house. Mom’s at work when I get home.
I hated the teasing I got every day from the bus to the driveway, the name calling.  The minute I got to the long driveway, I was safe.

15.  I know I’d be a really good football player, but we’ve never been able to afford for me to play.
Not me.  I couldn’t hit anything with anything.  Not even golf where we were every weekend.  I’d take a book.  My kids were great in the water, and that was very good as we lived at the beach.  Mother got me swim lessons too.

16.  When I go somewhere where there’s a piano, I love to try to play. I know I’d be really good but we’ll never be able to afford a piano or lessons.
I loved to play the piano.  Loved it.  But I couldn’t seem to learn to read music.  Mother got me lessons once a week after school, and I hated them.  It was one more thing I failed at.  No one knew about learning disabilities in the 1940’s or 1950’s.  If there was a piano anywhere, I’d bang on it.  The Army base had a really old piano.  Guitar in the 1960’s.  Paul pawned it so we could eat and never got it back.  And here, I had a piano until we moved to the tiny cottage, but by then it had fallen apart.  No music lessons for my kids.  Now I have tinnitus.

I’ll post more.  Much later.  Stirring up all those memories of my childhood could make my day a really sad thing.  I think right now I will go kill dust mites and make their day miserable. 



  • Himself:  It’s a three day weekend.  Subrogation is him until five. 

  • Herself:  Enjoying the sunshine.

  • Reading:  Another Beaumont.


  • Balance:  Taking my time on this day.
  • 11 comments:

    1. That's quite a list. From about 4th through 8th grade I hated the day we went back to school after Christmas. Kids in new clothes, showing their new toys and bikes. We did get new pj's and undies and a couple of books. At 11 your viewpoint is smaller.

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    2. My parents struggled their entire married life. Mom , raised on a farm, made sure we ate good food. She kept a cow, chickens and a large garden. When Dad was home, he helped with the garden, but he was a city boy, so he wasn't much help!

      We were poor but not 'dirt' poor. There are degrees of poverty. I think poor city kids have it worse.

      David and I are in the middling income group. Our money would go further if we lived further South.

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    3. Great photo for the up coming holiday.

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    4. I grew up poor but because we were on a small farm there was enough food, if not abundant. I would learn new recipes in Home Ec classes but could never try them out because the ingredients were too expensive. My mom would take a coordinating cloth and insert a band at the waist of my dresses so that they would not be too short when I was growing so fast. Gee, this sounds like a poor competition. I did not mean it to sound like that.

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    5. I had enough but never more than that. No music lessons or nice clothes, but I was happy as a lark.

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    6. Happy fourth, Mage!
      Aloha from Hawaii.

      ReplyDelete
    7. We didn't have much either but I don't remember feeling deprived because there was always the library!

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    8. Your list is almost an indictment of how much I took for granted the blessings I enjoyed as a kid of not wealthy but stable, working parents.

      ReplyDelete
    9. What a fascinating post in which you revealed so much of your life. Thanks for sharing.

      I also got my first computer ~1985. In my case it was an Atari 800. And I have tinnitus too. I tried to fiddle for a few years not too long ago. I had some fun, but finger and shoulder problems prevented me from keeping up with it.

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    10. I have read Ruby Payne's book and heard her speak at our school which was in the third most impoverished zip code in a America at the time. Many of my students, when filling out FAFSA documents, would list their parent's income. Most of them were under $15,000 and quite a few were under $10,000. I have a lot of trouble when people talk about poor people not working. These people worked, they just made so little money.

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    11. Strange to read about other people's childhood and 'being poor.' I knew we were poor from a very young age. Memories from then aren't good ones and I don't like to think about them... today is a much better thing to think about.

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