Their Just Desserts

When I was growing up, families in my town who had a lot of money were often looked upon with distain if they demonstrated any public flaws or hoity-toityness.

In the current town in which I live, there are many quite well to do families who face similar scrutiny, none more than the following head of a local family who was recently discussed the media:

I know there is a certain satisfaction to see such folks as the Fishers show themselves for fools. I know that one of my personal struggles is to not rejoice when this happens, but gosh, it is hard not to do so. Pride and greed are sure downfalls for many.

Who were the folks in your communities when you were growing up who were judged for their wealth? What are your favorite desserts?

33 thoughts on “Their Just Desserts”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    In the microcosms of small prairie towns, like you and I came from Renee, I think people of “means” are treated far differently than in the urban areas. It is part of the reason I have chosen urban/suburban life. What is consider “rich” in a small town would be merely average where I live now.

    In our little town there was a banker who was someone considered well-to-do. He held the purse strings to mortgages and business loans there, as well, so he had POWER. Not only that, but the family lived in a large brick home on Central Avenue, a place of prestige which everyone drove by every day. It was a constant reminder of his power and his money. One of my mother’s proudest moments occurred when this banker called her and asked to hold her mortgage because she was so financially responsible. (She said no and stayed with the bank she always used).

    You are right, Renee, though. People took verbal shots at this man and his family as a way to relieve resentment. One of his daughters was in my class. She was the class Queen Bee. As a child I gave her wide berth, though, because she was “snooty” and I had no idea how to cope with that. I never really viewed her as a real person.

    At our recent class reunion I saw her and we chatted a bit. What I noticed as an adult is that she was boring and superficial. There was a rumor circulating that she has been diagnosed with dementia, but I don’t know if that is true. I do know she held little interest to me. Just not much there. Hmmm. Not what I expected at all.

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  2. Ames, my home town in the 1950s, pretended to have no social or economic distinctions. That was not true, of course. We had some folks living in deprivation, and some who were comfortable. The poor folks literally lived on the wrong side of the tracks. But people liked to maintain that we all were roughly equal.

    My dad told two stories about wealthier people in Ames, both quite sad.

    We apparently had one banker whose great passion was fine cars. He owned a Jaguar Saloon that was his pride and joy. But he kept it garaged so that even his neighbors did not know he had it. He drove it only at night because he feared people, especially people who banked at his business, would resent his owning such an ostentatious auto.

    A man often considered one of our richest citizens was a tall fellow named Joe who owned four movie theaters, including a drive-in and a stylish art deco theater that ran prestigious films. I believe he was one of very few Jewish people living in Ames at a time the nearest synagogue was in Des Moines. People resented him for being wealthy, as I recall, until he committed suicide. I’m not sure of that last fact, although that is what I recall my dad saying. That led me to wonder how lonely his life might have been.

    The showcase theater, the Collegian, was classy. It had heavy cloth curtains that swept aside when a movie began. The aisles were prowled by ushers in ornate uniforms like the “call for Phillip Morris” guy. They carried flashlights so they could light up any couple guilty of PDAs in the dark.

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  3. Just yesterday my Mom was talking about her Grandparents and how one set was pretty well-to-do, and they thought the prospective Son-in-law was a ‘Good-for-nothing’ bum.
    When I was a kid, we knew one set of cousins certainly weren’t well off…we all seemed to get by, but I recall mom and dad saying so and so was pretty “Scotch”. I didn’t always know what that meant. Mom had more stories of someone being so poor they couldn’t even afford to paint the house. I guess that was a sign.
    I don’t recall her talking about anyone being well off.

    Twenty odd years ago, a guy built a house in our township; it was a large brick McMansion and that sure generated a lot of talk. And then, in different colored brick, “HO” was put over the front door. Well! The talk! Turned out it was “HD”; he’s the local Harley Davidson dealer. And the front door awning covers the letters so you can’t see it from the road. But it’s still talked about. That’ll show him.

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    1. Scotch means tight, cheap, careful with money. It used to used as a marketing image. I assume that is why it is Scotch tape. I suspect McDonald’s was kept as the name for that reason. Hardee’s original was Sandy’s, is that right, and used plaid heavily in their marketing and packaging. My mother, 1/4 Scotch Iris, which should be Scots Irish, used the term scotch in that way, applying it to herself proudly.

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  4. I don’t recall anyone being singled out as particularly wealthy or any conversations regarding the mishaps or peccadilloes of purportedly wealthy persons from my childhood. That preoccupation and the schadenfreude that goes with it seems to be a small-town mindset.

    I remember hearing once that the truly wealthy old money in the Twin Cities avoided ostentation, especially when they were out in the general public. I think I was a young adult before I saw anyone driving a car fancier than a Cadillac, and that was in California.

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    1. Many of the very wealthy families of Minnesota are part of an enclave of private vacation homes between the two tunnels on the North Shore. Manyof the them are about town looking like average folks, often making a point of not being ostentatious. I am talking about Pillsburies and the like. But somehow you just knew that had wealth. My daughter worked as a nanny for one family for two summers. They were very nice to her. Their homes are all hidden from the road except for maybe three of the older ones, and several all too grand new ones. They were not that showing for the most part. One of the town characters of the was a man who was all around town in bib overalls talking to everyone, being cordial as can be. He inherited one of the vacation home and built it up into a very nice and unusual home, only visible from the lake. He lived off a trust. His parents knew he would blow it if he got it all at once.

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  5. Fisher-Governor (now Emerson-Fisher Controls) was the name of a major manufacturing company in Marshalltown when I grew up made a valve used in one of the space flights, if you can trust what you hear. So we had our own family of Fishers, who were very good to the city, created an art center with a pond in front of it where we skated in winter… I think if you do “good works” of this kind, you may escape some of the resentment.

    My best friend’s family was close to another rich family (owned Lennox Furnace Co.), and I got to go with her at times to use their indoor pool. Pretty swanky… Decades later they had a hard time selling that house.

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    Stop! I’ll tell. She made brazen overtures to a man who never had a friend in this town till she came here – old Miser Madison.
    Miser Madison? Madison Gymnasium, Madison Picnic Park, Madison Hospital – that miser Madison?
    Exactly. Who’d he think he was anyway?
    Well I should say! Showoff! Gave the town the library too, didn’t he?
    That’s just it. When he died he left the library building to the city&
    But he left all the books to her!
    She was seen going and coming from his place.
    Oh yes. Oh yes.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. My home town in the teens and 20’s had a street nicknamed Blue Stocking Row. I think there was a real divide in the town back then but the Depression ended that divide. That section had some nice older homes and smoe rundown ones the last I lived there.
    Bankers and Car dealer were the two I remember. Why one of them drove A Cadilac. Would you ever. There were two banks, one for the railroad employees and the like and one for the merchants and professionals and those who were or just seemed to be of greater means than the average. The president of the blue color bank was just an average sort of guy. I knew his children. Did not seem to be that much extra money on hand.
    My girl friend in high school was the daughter of a merchant. She saw the town divided that way and to a certain extent looked down on the employee sorts, of which my father was one. We just did not fit well. But my mother without knowing her had a prejudice against her. But her father had no pretensions and did very well with everyone in town as a merchant.
    Some of the upper level local railroad employees who did live and work in town were a part of the merchants bank. Some made a point not to.
    The twon had two men’s clothing stores. One sold almost entirely to the upper level of town. The other one did not. It was owned by two brothers who would sell you suits and the likes but made a point of stocking things like railroad socks, as they were called in truth or by nickname. In the endo the upper one did not surivie the crash of the railroad. The other did just fine.

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  8. A memory I wrote into a novel. Some exageration to be sure.
    Fords and Chevrolets: a Memory
    People in Clair’s life are often divided into several pairs of opposites.
    • Democrats and Republicans. Republicans do not move in his immediate world, but he knows they are around.
    • American League fans; National League fans. But no one is a Yankee fan. Ever.
    • Those who work with their hands and backs; those who work with their brains.
    • Those who work for the railroad; those who do not.
    • Those who bank at the First National Bank; those who bank at the Commercial Bank.
    • Town people; country people. Or to say it another way, those who walk to school; those who ride the bus.
    • Men and women, who are clearly and definitively separated in many ways.
    A few things come in threes, such as Catholics, Protestants, and those who do not go to church.
    Cars,however, are more complicated. Merchants, doctors, and railroad administrators drive Buicks, Oldsmobiles, or Pontiacs, most of whom are Republicans. The small number of “rich” drive Cadilacs, which is how they tell the town they are rich. Republicans for sure.
    All other men in town are Ford men or Chevy men. So their sons are Ford boys or Chevy boys, about which they argue, in detail, with the specifics overheard from their fathers, facts but not necessarily truths.
    Women are not car people. They drive whatever their husbands drive, not owning cars themselves. Only single women own cars, mostly old maids. Girls are not car people, except one way to identify “tom boys” is that they argue about Fords and Chevies alongside the boys.

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  9. I can’t really answer the first question. We moved around enough that I never really had any awareness of the issues. And by the time I did have enough awareness, my father’s ship had come in and WE were the well-to-do. My dad’s ship came in when I was in eighth grade.

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  10. The dessert question. Favorite dessert if I had to choose some thing that I could get right now? Or favorite desserts of all time. Right now would be any kind of cake or cupcake with a good frosting. And as we discovered a couple of days ago the more frosting the better for me. Favorite desserts of all time – tiramisu, sticky toffee pudding, cannoli.

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  11. From my book about my parents, a story about small town prejudice told by my mother:

    Charmion was reciting a poem in front of her sixth grade class one afternoon when she had a giggle fit so extreme that she wet her pants, dribbling in view of everyone. She fled the room, dashing down the stairs into the cavernous basement where nobody but the janitor ever ventured.
    Charmion was sobbing behind the furnace, hiding among mounds of coal, when she was found by classmate Vinabel Davis. Vinabel was the daughter of Manchester’s most prominent bootlegger during Prohibition. The proper ladies of Manchester shunned the Davis family and forbade their daughters to speak to Vinabel. None of Charmion’s friends had gone to her rescue her, nor would they have known where to find her. Vinabel was so attuned to shame that she knew she’d find Charmion in the lowest, darkest room in the school.
    “Go away, Vinabel!” Charmion snapped.
    “It’s okay, Charmie. It’s okay.”
    “It’s not okay! I’ll never be able to go back to class again!”
    “Don’t worry, Charmie. It isn’t such a big deal.”
    “I want to kill myself! I’ll never be able to face my friends again!”
    “Oh, Charmie, you’re just upset. In a day or two, the kids will forget all about this.”
    Still snuffling, Charmion slipped out the door and slunk home alone. But Vinabel was right. Weeks later, the pants-wetting incident was just a funny story.
    Other storytellers would have ended the tale on that happy note. For my mother, though, the real story was what happened next. Charmion knew she should repay Vinabel’s kindness. And yet she could not. She didn’t consider her social standing secure enough to take that risk, so she resumed her former practice of looking through Vinabel as if she weren’t there.
    “Vinabel was still the bootlegger’s daughter,” she later observed. “And I was still a young barbarian with no sense of right and wrong.”

    Liked by 4 people

  12. when i was a kid all the rich people i knew about were benevolent and good community conscious citizens.

    when my mom was little the kids at school gave her flack for being rich because her dad purchased a traveling sprinkler and only a rich family would have one of those. she was devastated.

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  13. dessert tiramisu and cannoli are my favorites
    peanut butter and a chocolate chocolate chip hagen das carton sounds good often and rhubarb anything is a favorite
    butter rum lifesavers or wurthers
    pecan sandies
    tawny port

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