Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, known as The Frugal Duchess, has written a book called The Frugal Duchess: How To Live Well and Save Money and is doing a virtual book tour to promote it. She asked if I could be one of her tour stops and I happily accepted. What follows is a guest post from her that is a short excerpt from the book. Enjoy!
How the Depression Shaped My Life.
The Depression Era provides a central backdrop for The Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money. The book is really a memoir — family stories – with tips about saving money. In both elements of the book – the narrative and the how-to sections – lessons from the Depression Era provide material. Here’s a short excerpt from the book.
“The twin forces of Depression Era-thriftiness and the product-driven prosperity of the Baby Boom years were my childhood companions. In fact, I am the Frugal Duchess because my parents — born in 1932 (Dad) and 1936 (Mom) — were children during the largest economic downturn in U.S. history and became parents during one of the greatest wealth-generating eras of our country.
On the one-hand, my parents were very frugal, but they also gave us so much: Disneyworld vacations, Happy Birthday parties and Broadway Play dates in Manhattan. In short, I have always felt like royalty — call me Duchess — because I have had two childhoods: my own and the dream childhood that my parents never had, including school years laced with new shoes.
Straight-from-the box footwear was in short supply during my parents’ childhood. On a farm in Virginia, for example, my father spent one summer without shoes when his elderly caregiver –a great aunt who was half blind — mistakenly purchased two left shoes for my dad. The store was far from their rural home and so my father wore two left shoes. But most of the time — especially in the summer — he ran around in his bare feet.
On the streets of Philadelphia, my mother had shoes, but they were old and repeatedly repaired by her father Frank Stephens, a Philadelphia-based tailor and shoe cobbler. My grandfather, a short bald man who looked like a brown china man, was talented with a needles, cloth and leather and had a famous clientele of black entertainers such as Pearl Bailey, local politicians and some Philly mobsters, according to family tales.
His clients appreciated my grandpop’s repair skills, but my mother simply wished for shoes that weren’t fixed over and over again with hot glue and leather. But from her shoes my mother learned the value of carefully preserving and maintaining possessions. And to this day my parents’ garage is filled with well-preserved books, photos and family papers.
My mom and her brother — my Uncle Frankie — also inherited a bit of Grandpop’s skills and crafts. And they spent a lot of time making up games and earning extra pocket money.
“I was always enterprising. I sold carnations on the street for Mother’s Day,” my mother has told me.