Account Closed

March 7, 1994

In second grade, we little ones were encouraged to cultivate the virtue of thrift. Habits inculcated in youth well serve the grown man. As it said in the passbook, ". . . pauperism draws its recruits largely from those who would have saved, if the thrift idea had been planted in their impressionable minds as little children."

So every week a woman from the Bank of America came by and we gave her a couple of pennies or a nickel or a dime or a quarter and she wrote the amount in our blue savings books. Week in, week out, it added up. By March 12, 1954 in account #2787 I had saved $1.85 which at that time represented 36 candy bars or more likely 185 linear feet of black licorice, knowing my tastes as I do. We moved from almond orchards to olive groves, and being a kid I forgot about it.

A while ago I was going through things because I needed to go through things and I came across my 1953 bank book. No, the account has not been active, but you guys told me to save money and even though I would much rather have spent it on toys or candy I saved money and now you say the administration fees have eaten it all up long ago. You say de ducks got it. That's not the deal we made. I say you owe me $1.85 plus 41 years' interest.

I did, however, at relatively small cost, acquire the useful habit of saving, thrift and economy. I learned to defer pleasure in hope of greater pleasure to come. I learned to do things that I did not want to do, which is nine parts of being an adult.

Carefully stored away, a little every week, a little every day, it adds up. You don't get that many chances in a lifetime to start an account and put something aside to grow and garner interest, so that when you have run your course, when you have finished your work, you have a storehouse full of what you put aside to carry you along when you can't get more.

It's a joint account, of course. You put in and the other person puts in, and the interesting thing is that you can't take anything out yourself but the other person can take something out and give it to you. You must accept it, and then put some back in and more besides.

If one person takes out and doesn't put in, then the accounts get unbalanced. If one person puts in and doesn't take out, then the accounts get unbalanced, too. If one person doesn't want to put in any longer, or doesn't want to take out any longer, then the account falls into default and the maintenance fees and administration fees and accounting fees start to eat away at the balance, and one day you find that there's nothing left. De ducks got it.

Years from now you find that faded blue book with your second grade name on it and you think, was it worth it? Yes, it was worth it.

"De ducks got it." From the old joke:

An old Black man, driving his wagon along a Tennessee road, was hailed by a White planter. "Good morning, Uncle! How'd your crop turn out?"

The old fellow shook his head sadly, "Boss, I plant my cotton, weed it, raise it, bale it, an' den de ducks et it all up."

"The ducks ate it!" exclaimed the planter, "How can that be so?"

"Yas, Suh. It wuz dis way. I sen' dem bales to Memphis to be sol'. Dey deducks sumpin fo' de railroads, dey deducks sumpin' fo' de handlin' of it, dey deducks sompin' fo' sendin' de money back-de ducks got mos' all of it!"

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