I have previously stated that my Dad was not a hoarder like me, which is true in that he didn’t hoard boxes full of old letters and objects from his childhood. However, he did keep meticulous financial records of all household income and expenditure, carefully recorded in notebooks and receipt pads. These were stashed away in the attic, to be unearthed many years later, and pored over by my fascinated self. The one pictured here holds particular memories for me.
Both my parents were extremely careful with money, presumably as a result of the struggles they had each experienced in their early lives through having none. Although we always had enough of everything, there was no money for luxuries or extravagances, and Dad tried hard to impress on us kids the value of money. Our pocket money rate was set at 1p for every year of our lives, which even in the 1960s and 70s was very much lower than that of most of our peers (in fact when I was very young I remember the Friday treat being either a chocolate bar or pocket money). When I and my pocket money reached double figures, Dad decided it was time to teach me about money and how to manage it. Instead of being given my 10p in cash each week, it was entered into an account in a ledger book. If I wanted to spend it, I had to tell Dad what I wanted to buy and, if he approved, I was allowed to “withdraw” my money, with the balance adjusted accordingly.
At that age what I wanted to spend my money on was the usual sweets and comics, or, occasionally, an “ordiment” for my collection. Where we lived there were several antique shops full of treasures and curios, which I loved to snoop around in search of cheap china animals. Every morning on my way to school I would peer into the (conveniently child-height) window of the grandly named “Gothic Cottage“, and on one such morning I was completely and inexplicably smitten with this unremarkable little brass “PUSH” sign, priced 75p.
I have no idea why I wanted it so much, but I set my 10 year old heart on this thing, and duly applied to the bank of Dad for the funds. He quizzed me as seriously as any bank manager would have done, in those days before the credit culture (What was it for? Why did I think I needed it?) then gravely adjusted my “balance” and handed me my 75p. Delightedly, I ran off to the shop to buy my prize. When I brought it home, my half-deaf Dad was astonished – “I thought you said a brass puss – for your collection!”
I can’t imagine what the pull of this object was, but when I told my friend Katie S. about it, she exclaimed “The brass PUSH sign? I wanted to buy that!” So there must have been something about it that appealed to the unfathomable whim of a 10 year old’s heart. To this day I have never found a use for it, although it has travelled about with me from place to place. So it sits in the Usmeum, a token reminder of the mysteries of childhood.
Finding Dad’s notebooks also evoked these childhood memories, and when I saw this entry for a withdrawal of 75p on 15th April 1972, I knew exactly what it had been for:
I am sorry to say that all Dad’s careful efforts to prepare me for life in the real world were in vain. Although not reckless with money, I have never been that careful either: whatever I had I spent, and I never saved. I now appreciate what he was trying to do, although in youth I probably rebelled against it. And I certainly appreciate my parents’ care with money, without which we would not have enjoyed the security of our carefree childhood and lovely home.