Stories from Jo: My Poncho

My grandkids always ask me to tell them stories from when I was a kid and most of the time I can think up something to tell them. My favorite stories are ones that I have pictures to go with them.

The other day Carver asked, “Joey, can you tell me a story about you being in 1st grade?”

I thought for a minute and then I started telling him the story of my Pancho.

A little background…I came from a farming family in southern Minnesota. As farm kids, we had to do work around the farm. My parents were great and they paid us a minimal amount for the extra work beyond the daily chores that we did. Even when I was in 1st grade I had a job in the Fall that allowed me to earn some extra money.

My dad didn’t have big fancy equipment. This was the early 70s and some farmers, including my dad, still picked corn without a combine and picked corn on the ear instead. Nowadays, everyone uses a combine. Then they didn’t. The corn came on the ear and later in the year dad pulled out the corn sheller and we shelled corn.

My dad had some corn cribs and a granary where the ear corn was kept but he never had enough storage. He would put up temporary cribs by using snow fences attached together making a circle. Once that was filled, he would stack another on top of it and make the temporary crib taller and able to hold more corn.

He would dump the corn out of the wagon, into an elevator and the elevator would be set so the corn would drop into the crib.

No matter what my dad did, some of the corn would bounce off the elevator, miss the crib, and land on the ground. My parents decided that I, as the youngest, unable to operate any equipment, should have the job of picking up the corn that popped onto the ground.

I had a little little red wagon, I would load the corn into the wagon and then throw the corn over the edge of the crib and in. There was a lot of corn and it was a pretty big job.

My mom and I had been shopping at the thrift store. There was one back then near Owatonna, Minnesota that my mom often stopped at. At the thrift store was this wonderful Pancho that I wanted so badly. I begged my mom for it. She said no. she would pay half of the money for it but I would need to earn the rest of the money.

Oh, I wanted that Pancho. It was a wool plaid fabric that was white with a red plaid pattern. When the hood was up, the hood was pointed. At the neck was the coolest button that was football-shaped. But, I had no money.

About then harvest started and my mom told me if I worked hard, I would be able to earn enough money for my part of the payment for the Pancho. I would need to pick up the corn around the cribs.

I was a busy little bee trying to work and earn the money for the Pancho. Even at the age of 6, almost 7, I knew the nature of thrift stores. Something might be there one day but it might not the next. There is only one item of its kind. Once it was gone, it would be gone. That made me work even harder. I picked up corn like a mad woman. I remember even at that young age, I remember self-talking myself into working harder or longer or pushing myself even though I was tired because the reward would be worth it.

I don’t want anyone to think anything bad of my parents. Nowadays, parents don’t really do that with kids…back then they did and I’m so thankful I lived in that generation with my parents. My parents taught all of us, a wonderful work ethic. Each and every one of are hard workers and I’m super proud of that.

I did the job…I earned the money and my mom did just as she promised. When the work was done, she took me to the thrift store…and happily, my Pancho was still there.

Below is a picture of me with my 1st-grade class. We all had Mrs. Westing as our teacher. We were on a field trip to the post office. You can see me. I was the tallest in the class at the time. I am in the back row standing in front of the postman to the left. You can see me wearing my Pancho. You can see the plaid print of it.

First grade was the same year my teacher gave me a “U” on my report card. I got mostly S+’s on my report card meaning the best a student could get. I was so embarrassed that in one area, I got a “U”. That meant unsatisfactory. The area in which I got a “U” was “uses time wisely”.

I think that might have been true then…but the lesson of working and wanting my Pancho…and the embarrassment of having a “U” on my report card, really turned me around. Very few people would ever believe that nowadays anyone would ever accuse me of not using my time wisely.

And…that’s the story of how at the ripe old age of six, I learned to work for what I wanted in life…and how I got my Pancho.

26 thoughts on “Stories from Jo: My Poncho”

  1. What a lovely story; thanks for sharing it with us, Jo. I think a lot of parents these days would benefit from having the same work ethic as your parents. Too many children are growing up thinking life owes them, unfortunately.

  2. Your parents did a fabulous job and you were paid for your work! Full disclosure, we didn’t pay our sons for household chores. Reason being, our philosophy was that everyone in a family helps for the benefit of the whole family. We did pay them for extra grunt work, like picking the stones every spring that had been dispersed by the plow into the grass. We paid by the bucket lol! I saw a dresser at a thrift store in really rough shape. But it’s real wood and solid. I told myself if it’s still there I’d grab it. Like you I’m trying to control toys. I also always look for metal for cabinets. They work great for jars of canned goods. Blessings!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story! Totally explains your love of thrift shops. When I was 10 or so my money came from the return of glass pop bottles to the grocery store. It was under a dollar. So it took a long time to save up enough to buy any toy. I started babysitting at 13 and made 50 cents an hour. Babysat all through high school. Started my first secretarial job two weeks after graduating. I’ve been a saver of money since 10. :)

  4. I wish parents today would have the same ideas about children working as your parents did. I remember having a paint brush and painting the big wide wood trim when I was a small child. We had to help mom with the wringer washer and hang clothes on the line each week, then iron almost everything. Life was very different then. Thanks for your story.

  5. Your mentioning of going to a thrift store brought back memories of my mom taking me to one thrift store. She might have gone to others, but I just remember the one, and I still go to that one. I’m in my sevenities, so it was over sixty years ago.
    I know that wasn’t the point of your story, but it did bring up memories of my mom. My mom worked outside the home, so on some Saturdays, we would go early to the thrift store. We’d wait outside with a group of ladies until the doors were unlocked. I still go to that thrift store.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great story! When I was 5 or 6 I wanted a parakeet for a pet. My parents made me earn the money to buy it. I don’t remember what I had to do, as we didn’t get paid for doing chores around the house, but most likely it was extra tasks for them or my grandparents. That set a precedent not just for me, but is also how my husband and I raised our four kids (we were the mean parents who made our kids pay for their driver’s education classes if they wanted to be able to get their license at 16). No lack of work ethic in this branch of the family.

  7. I loved reading all the comments. I too, was expected to work when I was a child. Part of our chores consisted of doing the nightly dishes. My sister would dry them, and I would wash. Because I was too short and couldn’t reach the sink, I would have to stack the Sears catalog and the Penny’s catalog on top of each other and place them in front of the sink. That way I’d be tall enough to wash the dishes. We learned a good work ethic at an early age.

  8. Jo love the story and all the comments. I remember coming home from Ames after picking up my daughter in college. Her comment was, she was glad we we strict parents (not really) because she wasn’t spoiled like some of the kids were at college. Both girls worked at Fareway after school during their high school. Learning to work in the public and responsibilities. They had their own money and also learned to save. Thanks for this post.

  9. very curious about Carver’s reaction…. He seems like such an old soul at times. Very caring and insiteful. Also, how he is feeling about the organization of the toys. Well i think i have asked enough questions.

  10. Enjoyed reading your story. We were not paid for working (cleaning, dishes, laundry, farm chores) but at one point I started going to my grandparents on Saturdays and helped cleaning and anything else and I was paid one dollar which I saved. We like you have had good work ethics. No worked to instill the same with my children.

  11. Jo, this is a great post!
    Thanks so much to Carver for asking for a story about when you in the first grade!
    And to you for sharing it with all of us….that picture just adds the icing on the cake!!!

  12. Oh my, Jo! Your story brought back so many memories for me. I too grew up on a MN farm. My dad picked ear corn also. I remember the corn cribs, and the snow fence “cribs.” The second layer was always a little smaller than the bottom one. I thought it looked like a tiered cake. As I read your story I felt the fall shivers and smelled the brisk fall air. We also had dairy cows so fall was a busy time on the farm. Thanks for the memories!

  13. I totally enjoy all your posts. We didn’t get an allowance, some we knew did. I also babysat for 50 cents an hour. But in fairness things cost much less then. My Dad worked in a factory doing “time studies” for efficiency of floor layout of machines and work habits of workers( I bet you can guess he wasn’t the most popular with the floor workers) and traveled between 3 states with Maryland as his home state. He was gone Mon thru Fri. We were a one car family so wherever Mom or kids went it was by “shanks mare”as my Mom called it. But we all survived and were happy.

  14. I too grew up on a farm in MN. I had 5 sisters, no brothers! All of us were required to help with the farm chores. We did chores before and after school. When we got to early teens dad gave us a calf to raise and eventually sell. The money from the sale was split amongst us.

  15. Wonderful story. I too grew up on a farm. We weren’t paid for any of the jobs we did. We were just expected to do it. I think the worst job was picking rocks. Our farm was North of the Twin Cities sand plain. We had lots of rocks! Dad would bring us out to the field on the hay wagon. Our job was to pick up any and all rocks we saw. I was a teenager and it was a back breaking, mindless, endless job. Any rocks we couldn’t lift or pry up from the ground were left for Dad and his big, heavy pry bar. Once he got them pried lose, he would drive the hay wagon closer to the rock and together we all had to lift and get put it on the wagon. Sometimes they were so big we had to leave them in the ground uncovered so Dad didn’t hit it with the plow. We didn’t earn money but what we kids did learn was a strong work ethic. I’m so thankful for all the hard work we had to do on the farm because it taught us to work hard, even if we hated the job we were doing,! Today’s kids are spoiled lazy. It’s really a shame. I really enjoy your posts. We are kindred spirits.

  16. Beautiful story Jo and having your grandkids ask you about it is precious. Thank you for taking your time to talk to your grandkids and explaining how you lived.
    I am so very thankful of how I was raised. I know now we were very poor, however, at the time I thought we were some of the rich people in our town! Thank you for sharing!

  17. Yes there are a few parents that still make there kids earn what they want. I did. And I’m encouraging my kids to do the same they see the value. No matter how well off you are this should be practiced. I was a single parent and money was tight. Now my kids are very smart with there money.

  18. Susan from Michigan

    I had a poncho my mom made for me. I grew up on a Midwestern farm and we had a corncrib at first. We could earn money for some of the farm work. The older kids got $2 an hour. Thanks for the memories!

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