Even as a child I was mindful of money. Having it was important. After all, isn’t this one of the differences in children and adults—having money? I had no job, so I had to be creative. I learned early, around age four, to maximize my chances of having money. Collecting Coke or other drink bottles for the deposit was just one of my methods of getting money.
I lived in the era of recyclable bottles. Bottles were a boon! I could get two cents for recycling one bottle. Since Cokes and candy were a nickel apiece, it didn’t take long to accumulate the necessary funds. Of course, every child wants both Coke and candy, finding enough bottles in one week was sort of difficult. Usually, I just settled for the candy--a Baby Ruth.You see, I was not allowed out of the yard to make the big bucks.
The best I could hope for was that someone would throw one into the ditch in front of our house in the rural area in which I lived. Since there were three of us children (then four children) collecting bottles for deposits, chances were slim that I would find a bottle. To make matters worse, I did not live on a main road. Occasionally, and only for a specific reason were we allowed to walk down the road. Reasons? To go pick plums. (for a few weeks) To go on an errand where I was allowed to ride my bike to the store and go onto the main highway. To walk to a friend’s house. Maybe!
Later, we lived in a neighborhood where the chances of finding a bottle were greater. Then, we moved back to Memphis and we were once again relegated to finding bottles thrown out on the highway. No matter where we went when we were in town, we found stray bottles in order to collect the deposit.
We never missed the opportunity to gather bottles even though we scarcely had the chance. We did manage to get ten cents to buy the occasional candy bar or coke or both. Hallelujah! Sometimes, we claimed Coke bottles brought home full of Coke. Sadly, this rarely happened. I suppose I was a deprived child, forced to subsist on and quench my thirst with water instead of Coke.
We bothered our father to allow us to keep change if we were sent into the store for a purchase or if we took money and ran an errand. Since I was the oldest, I was the biggest pest. Rarely did he ever give me anything when I pestered him except grief.
Even though I wanted to buy candy, I also wanted just to amass money. While my younger siblings found joy in having more coins, I knew from an early age that having large coins was the key. They played with, counted, lost, and frittered away a handful of pennies. If they had a nickel, I could always count on one of them to trade me the nickel for five of my pennies. To my credit, I did explain why it would be best to keep their nickel and how foolish they were being. Those little kids were overjoyed with their good fortune, while I was celebrating having silly siblings.
You might say, “Okay, Linda. You were 7 and they were 6 and 4. You were just older and had learned about coins.” I say, “How about when I was 10 and they were 9 and 7?” See, they just kept wanting pennies while I wanted to get dollars for my quarters and a five dollar bill for my five ones.
I think this strong desire and ability to take small amounts and save and consolidate until I reached my goal of more money has served me well. I was never tempted to fritter away my money even though I really did want Cokes and candy. I did spend some of my money on these small pleasures, but I valued saving more than I valued having a constant supply if candy.
This attitude still serves me well. I paid off my mortgage after years of deprivation, skimping, saving and patching together a living for a few years.
Oh, please tell me how you collected bottles? When? Where? Did you have a ready stash? Live behind a store?