My mother hadn’t made it home yet on the bus from the Woolworth store across town where she worked, so I started laying out some things to help with supper. I was about 16 years old and looking toward the end of my high school years.
In the evening stillness I began to wonder how I could possibly go to college since it would cost lots of money. I knew my parents barely made it hand to mouth as it was, so there was to be no help from them.
I had worked now and then but had not been a serious saver, using the proceeds for school or choir expenses. Soon thereafter I got a job and began to put back money but it was indeed a steep climb!
In the twilight I suddenly had a bright idea! I noticed a sack of beans only cost 19 cents so I sat down and began to figure. (Those were the days long before calculators.)
Did I mention I was a rampant idealist? I held strong goals and beliefs and was willing to put muscle behind them to make them happen.
College as a path had never even been thought of at home. However, the librarian and several teachers spoke to me of it often.
The school counselor even came by the nurse’s office once when my arm was hurt (my family didn’t go to doctors unless the world was ending!) The two ladies talked in the doorway–as if I wasn’t even there with my ears pricked–and discussed how bright I was and my elevated test scores.
They seemed surprised to find that trait in a “country girl” like me. Guess they thought that country hicks were behind the door when the brains were passed out. (That was a favorite expression of my mother’s.)
My arm wasn’t much better afterwards although the ice helped some. But while my arm was on ice, my future was being declared. These women seemed to be in cohorts with the librarian as to my being “college material.” I wasn’t much of a seamstress, so I wasn’t clearly clued in to their exact connotation, ha. But I knew right then I had support for my crazy idea of going to a university.
Back to those beans: After some careful math I decided I could buy one bag a week and have enough food to survive on. I could walk to work and save everything I made for my bean budget. That was the end of my weekly cherry coke and Reeses peanut butter cup habit.
Later in the year I was called to the office. I was scared since that had never happened before. There was a huddle of other students standing around when I got there. We were told to dress nice on Friday for the Awards Ceremony. That night I laid out my “store bought” wool skirt with matching knit sweater, but I still didn’t know what was happening.
Friday finally came and I was granted a scholarship for part of the costs of the college I had chosen in another town. It also paid for cafeteria food so the “bean money” could go toward books and other expenses. The local Tulsa University gave me a much better award, but due to what was then called “a private family matter” (now referred to as abuse) I chose to get out of town. To clarify, private meant no one wanted to hear about it and no one would help you.
I worked three jobs, and was able to give myself a Reeses peanut butter cu every week or so. Heck, when we girls were feeling wild we hit the Student Union at closing time after 10 .m. and had a hot Dr. Pepper as a reward for an evening of studying. Once we all wore raincoats since we were too tired to put proper clothes on!
College worked well for me, although I probably overworked a bit to survive. I learned to study hard for 50 minutes, then use 10 minutes for a drink, a short walk, and a mini-nap. By doing this, I was able to avoid “all nighters” since I could never quite accept something that stole a good night’s sleep.
I still have beans–several kinds–in my kitchen. But I fix them every month or so, not every week! And they cost a bit more than 19 cents.
However, the lesson for me is that if you want something bad enough, keep your eyes on the beans, er the prize, till something better than beans comes up.
Yet if nothing better had surfaced I truly believe I would have journeyed on with my original plan. One thing for sure: I wouldn’t have been interrupted by too much social contact since I’d have an aromatic odor to protect me.
Later, I used the same type of thinking to spend a summer between semesters in New York City, working and saving by eating Ramen noodles. But that’s another story:-)