When I was a young kid, I remember being at my neighbor’s house and experiencing a lifestyle that was very different from where I lived. I didn’t realize that they were poor at the time though. I’m going to describe the setting and lifestyle of this charming couple from my memories.
One of the most vivid things that I remember wad that their heating system was a coal furnace in the basement (which had a dirt floor). It was kind of hard to breath in the house, it has a distinct smell that I will never quite forget. One time, I remember riding in a pickup truck to pick up some coal. The coal was literally poured into the back of the truck through a metallic chute of some sort, or so I believe.
Next my neighbor drove the coal home and we feed the coal through another chute that open down to his basement. He had a pile of coal in his basement in some kind of large bin. I helped shovel for a little bit, but I was so young that I didn’t last long… so I went home.
Another thing I remember is Jesus paintings and pictures and bible quotes throughout the house. This family was minimalist before the term became popular… although not by choice. I remember a couple of mini-statues of Jesus throughout the house too, along with other religious symbols.
The other things that I remember in the house was a very small TV, a second hand small couch and a non-matching chair, a beat up dinette set (used of course), and a bed that was small and appeared lumpy. In their 2 bedroom house, they had a small lumpy bed in the guest/storage/sewing all-in-one room. The other bedroom was the one that they slept in. I never went into that room. The total size of their house was less than 1/2 the size of my current house.
So what did they do for entertainment?
Mostly free stuff, they had a garden where they grew their own food and they also socialized with family and friends. I remember that church was a very important function in their life. The wife went two or three times a week, mostly riding with other women since I don’t believe she had a car. The husband mainly watched TV while chewing tobacco. Most (if not all) of their cloths were either made by the wife or bought second-hand.
You might think that they were miserable, but actually they seems fairly happy, especially the wife. I only live in that neighborhood for a few years, so I’m not sure how they did as they aged. I think not having money in your later years would mean it would be hard to get decent health care. So their retirement might have been rough.
At the time I didn’t realize how hard they had it financially, but as an adult, I now realize that they were quite poor. The husband had injured his back and was on some form of disability, while the wife didn’t work. They had a frugal lifestyle so they were able to get by though.
They weren’t rich or even middle class, but they were charming in their own way.
Being wealthy doesn’t make you a better person, but it does make life easier.