I was raised by both of my parents who did not abuse me and did their best to instill in me their most positive traits. I did not grow up poor and do not feel guilty about it, although I genuinely feel sorry for those born into poverty. I always had three pairs of shoes all for specific occasions: School, Church, and playing outside (these were called “knock around shoes”). The dog was not allowed in the house and we were not permitted to put our feet on the couch. The living room was off limits except for Christmas morning and when we had guests. I answered “yes ma’am” or “yes sir”, when asked a question by my parents, grandparents, or any other adult. I was taught to use proper English when I spoke and was politely corrected when I did not. We all ate dinner together at the table and took turns talking. McDonalds was a rare treat and we had to drive a pretty good distance to get it. We actually got out of the car and placed our order through a window face to face with a real person who was nice and seemed genuinely grateful for our business. Ordering was easy because you either wanted cheese or you didn’t. The only place to sit was at the tile covered concrete picnic tables so we would take the food home.
My parents knew the kids I hung around with as well as their parents. I recall only a handful of spankings, all of which I certainly deserved. They were not beatings, but provided sufficient discomfort for my memory to guide me in the ways of righteousness. We had one color T.V. and later got a little black and white one that made us a two television household. My Father brought home a “Tel-Star” console game, which was a knockoff of Pong. I had asked for the latest craze called “Atari”, but my Father said it would be obsolete in a few years. He was wrong. It became obsolete in about 18 months! I remember it was the first time I had even heard the word “obsolete”, but I soon came to understand it and also that my Father was incredibly smart.
We had 4 channels one of which was PBS and didn’t really count as far as we were concerned. I remember the day we got cable T.V. and soon after watched in awe as MTV made its’ debut. That was when they actually played music videos and concerts of our favorite Rockers wearing leather pants and smashing their guitars. Other than that, no one really cared about anything a musician had to say or wanted to watch endless footage of them at home with their family in a reality series. I also remember the day we got a microwave oven and were amazed at how quickly we could heat a sandwich; a function that amounted to about 90% of its’ use in our home. My Mother later learned to make “microwave fudge”, which tasted great and was magic as far as we were concerned. We didn’t have an ice maker, but instead used metal trays with a big handle and would send ice chips flying everywhere when you pulled it back to bust up the ice cubes. Of course, we had a deep freeze and would go to the butcher at least once a year and come home with what seemed like a whole herd of cattle wrapped up in freezer paper.
Profanity was not permitted at all unless someone hit their thumb with a hammer. Even then, the thumb had to belong to an adult and bleeding to boot. We went to church most every Sunday. As far as I knew, everyone in the world was a Baptist, even though we did not agree with the church on everything. If I had a friend stay over on a Saturday night, it was understood they were to go to church with us the next day. Needless to say, I didn’t have many Saturday night sleepovers.
For a stretch of years, we took family vacations to many major American attractions such as Washington D.C., Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, The Smokey Mountains, The Rocky Mountains, and all of the attractions within. It was then that I learned to enjoy different people, cultures, and climates.
As the only 6 foot, 210 pound 9th grader in the city, my sport became football. As the years progressed, I never grew another inch making me an average sized senior high football player. As for the weight - I long for the days of 210 pounds! I worked at the “new McDonalds” for 3 months and then landed that once in a lifetime opportunity at Little Caesars Pizza! I saved enough money to convince my Father that I was sufficiently responsible to buy an automobile. I wanted to buy a 4-wheel drive pick up, but he wouldn’t even entertain a search. He told me that I would “take it out in the woods and tear it up.” He was right. That’s exactly what I would have done. Instead, he subsidized the purchase of a 1984 Mustang L. It was a 4 cylinder and had a 4 speed stick shift. It looked a lot faster than it would actually go, so I was usually careful to not expose its’ sluggishness by trying to hotrod it. The car served me admirably until I was in my sophomore year of College and earning enough money as a security guard to sell it and buy a brand new Ford Probe. I occasionally tried to repay my Father for the $1,000 I owed him for helping me purchase the Mustang. He would always tell me that I should pay him later and that he knew I was good for it. Eventually, I said something to the effect that he either needed to accept the payment, or forgive it as I did not feel it was right to owe someone money when you have it to repay. He told me to consider it a contribution to my upbringing and that he and my Mother were proud of me. My Father had a quiet and humble way about charity and this was one of those times. I think he always called the $1,000 a loan so I would understand the value of money. Once I earned it and insisted on repaying the debt, I think he knew he had accomplished his goal. Little did he know that I would grow up to be a Mortgage Banker!
I didn’t really make good grades in school, which were usually a mix of B’s and C’s with some “outliers” here and there. I got my act together in college and made some admirable grades during my Junior and Senior years earning a 3.5 GPA in one of my two majors of study, which was Management. My first job out of college was selling microfilm equipment for about a year and a half. I wanted to work for a larger company with management opportunities so I went to Merrill Lynch and processed mutual fund trades for a couple of years and then went to another part of the company and processed loans backed by securities. From there, I jumped on my board and rode the mortgage wave all the way in over the next 13 years with several different companies and increased roles and responsibilities in Senior Management. Well, the tide has gone out and I am sitting in the shade of my board on the beach. It was one heck of a ride and I made some pretty good money, some of which I actually saved.