Redneck Review

Friday, July 22, 2005

How Poor Was I?

OK, I'm not talking about homeless poor, or even college-student
poor, like when you sell your plasma to buy beer. (I never did
that, but one of my roommates did). No, what I'm talking about
is the poorest I've ever been with a full-time job.

When I drove through the bank for some cash yesterday, there
was a man lingering beside the building. I was suspicious, because
even though I live in Hooterville, we've had bank robbers. I didn't
much care if this guy robbed the bank, but I didn't want him to
snatch my cash as it came out of the machine. There was one car
ahead of me, then I took my turn. Of course we popped the door
locks. When I left, I looked back, and loiterer was standing at
the cash machine. Which reminded me of a story....

Back in the day, when I was young and without responsibilities,
I took a job at a small school in Sheldon, Missouri. Actually, it
was the only school in Sheldon, Missouri. It was Kindergarten
through 12th grade. There were about 8 students in each grade,
except the sophomores, who had tripletts in their class.

This was a small small town. No grocery store or gas station.
It did have a bank. The bank was open 9:00-3:00, with the
drive-thru open until 5:00, and on Saturday mornings. I walked
to school because it was only about a half-mile, and I was very
poor and wanted to save gas. Now that's poor...not wanting to
drive 1 mile per day.

On payday, I would walk home and stand in line with the cars
at the drive-thru window. I wasn't about to walk home and
drive my car a block to deposit my check. We only got paid
once a month. My take-home pay was $560 per month.
Granted, this wasn't modern times, and a dollar went a little
further back then. But not much, because it was Reaganomics,
baby. There were not many jobs, and nobody was spending
money. My salary was $8700 PER YEAR. Where did people
get off saying teachers were overpaid? And I think Missouri
was ranked 49 out of the 50 states back then in teachers' salaries.
WooHoo, Arkansas, we had you punks beat! This was before
the minimum salary law that nearly doubled my salary the next
year when I moved on. So I waited in line, breathing car exhaust,
walking forward as each car pulled up. There wasn't exactly a rush.
The most in line was 3: a car, me, and another car.

WooHoo! Payday meant I could pay my rent, car payment, phone
bill, set aside some for the insurance payment, buy gas, and buy
groceries. That $560 didn't last long. I had to drive to Nevada for
groceries. No, not the state, silly. It was the town in Missouri up
Highway 71, where they pronounce it "Nuh VAY duh." I only
bought the staples that I would need to survive for the next month.
And after shopping, I could drive through the McDonald's and buy
a hamburger or fries. That's right. I could only afford a hamburger
OR fries, not both. My money was budgeted to the cent.

Do you know what I ate? Cream of wheat for breakfast. Yeah,
that grainy stuff you boil and it turns to mush. And not the flavored
kind, either. I had it straight, with only a spoonful of sugar sprinkled
on top. I had it for supper sometimes, too. I didn't eat lunch.
Occasionally I had meat--the cheapest hot dogs I could buy.
On bread, no buns. Ramen noodles, which I sometimes ate dry
and crunchy so I could save the flavor packet to make some soup.
Sometimes I had real chicken noodle soup. Macaroni and
cheese, with just margarine mixed in, because I couldn't afford milk.
And now, you're in for a real treat, because I am going to share my
special recipe for macaroni and cheese pizza. Actually, I found this
recipe in an ad in an old Redbook magazine that my mom gave me.

Here's how to make it. Cook the macaroni as usual. Grease a
pizza pan. Dump the macaroni and cheese on it, and spread it
out and pack it down. That is the crust. Pour a can of tomato
sauce on it. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. You can add meat
if you have it. A sliced hot dog will work. Bake at a temperature
for a time that I can not remember. Remove from oven, slice,
and eat. It tastes like...rubbery macaroni and cheese with tomato
sauce and hot dog. Not by any stretch of the imagination even
remotely like a pizza.

I could not even afford soda. I had to wash that "pizza" down
with tap water.



  • At 10:08 PM, Blogger Rachel Croucher said…

    I ate alot of cabbage in my university days, and potatoes... and a bowl of rice with some vinegar always went down a treat

  • At 11:03 PM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Hi Hillbilly Mom,
    I only need to go back 12 months to remember those days. Living in my car, my occasional hot food was a microwaved banana. I can only be thankful there were showers at work.
    At least now things are starting to turn around.

  • At 11:13 PM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    Damn. I've certainly lived off of canned beans and quick-sale fruit, and I had to cook ramen noodles with the coffee maker in my dorm room for a year, but that was as bad as it got. So far.

    If my parents hadn't taken me in after I got fired in January, I'd be truly homeless. I never want to be in this position again. Living in your mom's basement at age 26 is humiliating. I'd been gone for 8 years (not counting one summer in junior college) and never thought I'd be back here, and it's not my proudest achievement but it's proof that you never know what's gonna happen. This time I'll certainly put away a sizable nest egg, just in case.

    I hope they're paying you a decent salary now. The teacher salaries in MS have increased dramatically in the last few years. My timing is just right!

  • At 11:29 PM, Blogger Raehan said…

    The good old days, huh? I've got lots of memories like that. The truth is, they ARE good memories.

    I'll pass on your pizza thing. The truth is, macaroni and cheese isn't that cheep anymore and neither are tomato sauce and hot-dogs.

    You didn't finish the bank-robber story. I'll assume they were not bank robbers then.

  • At 11:48 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    Eewww! Rice and VINEGAR! I'll stick with my mac & cheese pizza.

    What happens to a banana when you microwave it? Does it just get warm, or does it cook like a baked potato?

    My pay is much better now that I have years of experience and the Missouri minimum teacher salary is $18,000. It goes to $22,000 in 2006. That's just the minimum for no experience. I think we are now around 45th out of 50. I get sick of magazine articles that say the average teacher makes $40-45,000 a year. They are averaging the administrator salaries with that, and also the big city school salaries. I know it ain't happenin' in my red neck of the woods.

    No robbery. But we did live in an apartment complex with a former robber once. We were sitting on a picnic table in a parking space in front of Future HH's apartment, as rednecks are wont to do on a fine summer evening, and FHH says, "Hey, I know him. He's the one that robbed the Bank of ******. Ha! Like he was a celebrity or something.

  • At 12:22 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Hi Hillbilly Mom,
    It depends on getting the timing right, but many a piping hot slushing banana was had.

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger Redneck Diva said…

    When we were first married we were so poor that we qualified for indian food assistance. Two adults, no children and we made so little money that we qualified to stand in the free cheese line every month. We ate a lot of tuna, a lot of macaroni and cheese and my husband went apeshit over the canned meat. *gag* No wonder I gained 40 pounds that first year. We got really tired of it, but we had no choice but to eat it. Now, we qualify yet again for the free cheese line, but for some reason now I get way too excited about it. The older I get, the cooler being poor is.

  • At 8:07 PM, Blogger deadpanann said…


    I can't believe that's what they're paying in MO. You are going to hate me when I tell you this, but the starting teacher salary with no experience in MS is $30,000!!!--That's up from $28k last year--and you can get a $3000 signing bonus if you work out in the boonies, plus there's a district supplement that can range from $400 in a poor district to $4000 in a rich one, so a fresh-out-of-college teacher gets about $34,000 regardless of where they teach in the state. (I say the poor districts are better because the housing is cheap!)

  • At 9:58 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    I told you we were ranked near the bottom in teacher's salaries! Hope we're still ahead of Arkansas! You've got it made now. No mac & cheese pizza for you. Goodbye, Bud Light, huh?

  • At 10:10 PM, Blogger Rachel Croucher said…

    not too ewwww... I wouldn't stoop to white vinegar, oh no, only balsamic or red wine vinegar for me thanks;)

  • At 12:24 AM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    OK, that takes away the eewwww factor.


Post a Comment

<< Home