Your Money’s No Good Here!

 


It’s good to compare notes with your family.  My brother just told me my dad helped his brother-in-law counterfeit quarters back in the 1930s.  Daddy’s oldest sister, Aunt Jenny, married Uncle Chester, a bona fide reprobate, a rabble-rousing drunk who enlisted Daddy to help with his quarter counterfeiting business.  I don’t know if Daddy would have even qualified for reform school if he’d gotten caught, since he was just a hungry little kid trying to win a place at Aunt Jenny’s table for a few days. Mama and his younger sisters were about to starve since his own father was sick in bed at his mother’s house.  Grandma wanted nothing to do with her daughter-in-law and the grandkids, though she was willing to care for her son.  The boys were pretty much working for room and board anywhere they could.

At any rate, Uncle Chester made pretty good quarters, a time-consuming job requiring a steadier hand than his, since he was rarely sober.  According the Daddy, Uncle Chester made impressions of both side of quarters using Plaster of Paris casts lined with onion-skin paper.  The steady hands were needed to line the molds up and glue them together, leaving a tiny pour-hole at the top, where they could pour in Uncle Chester’s special melted alloy.  Once the ragged quarters set, a little artistry work was required to finish them off.  Voila!  Quarters!

Babbittquarter

Uncle Chester had no trouble passing his bogus quarters at the grocery store, the mercantile, and the hardware store. The problem came at the bar.  Though he was normally stingy and careful, one night he got a snootful and wanted to buy a round for everybody in the house.  Indiscreetly, he brought out a bag of quarters to pay his tab.  They didn’t ring true when he poured them on the counter.  The proprietor objected, Uncle Chester tore into him, and Uncle Chester ended up in Leavenworth.

That really wasn’t so bad.  His cell-mate taught him to make twenty-dollar bills.  Before long, Uncle Chester was out, but wasn’t able to pass his twenties because he couldn’t get the color just right.  After a number of frustrating attempts, he poured up some quarters and headed back to the bar.  When he poured his clinky quarters out on the bar, just as Uncle Chester anticipated, the bar-tender objected.  “Are you telling me my money’s no good?”  A fight and arrest ensued.  Uncle Chester went back to Leavenworth for a refresher, polished his craft, and never had any more counterfeiting troubles.

All’s well that ends well.

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 10

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One of my favorite eavesdropping episodes was about a friend of Miss Laura Mae’s whose husband was in prison and daughter in the orphanage.

“I got a letter from my friend Alice Marshall today. Her husband has been out of jail a long time now and her daughter Helen just had her fifth. Just look at this picture she sent me of Helen’s family. She is so proud.” she said, passing a picture to Mother.

I wanted to see that picture so badly I forgot I wasn’t supposed to be listening in. “Let me see! Let me see!” A daddy, a mother holding a baby, three little girls, and a small boy stood in front of a car. The woman and little girls had on matching dresses. The man and boy looked neat in dark pants and plaid shirts. “Their dresses are all alike! How did they get dresses alike?” I had to know.

“Helen can sew real good. She makes everything her and the girls wear. Ain’t that something?”

I had to agree. “Mother, can you make dresses alike for me and you and Phyllis?” It seemed like a small thing to me.

“I don’t know,” Mother said. “That would cost a lot of money. I don’t have patterns for matching dresses, and I sure don’t have that much material.”

“Please, Mother. Please……….” The whining did it.

“Stop that whining! Go play in the yard. You’re not supposed to be in here listening to grown people talking, anyway.”

I gave up and sat on the back step, feeling sorry for myself as Miss Laura Mae went on with her story. “I know Alice couldn’t see nothing but hard times when Martin got sent to prison. It was back in The Depression. He stole a hog ‘cause they was hungry an’ got five years in Angola. Alice moved back in with her mama in Baton Rouge, but it wasn’t long before her mama died leavin’ her nowhere to go. She got a job in a hotel restaurant washing dishes and got a meal with her shift. She rented a room in a boardin’ house, but didn’t make enough to feed Helen. She had to put the poor little thing in a church home. Poor child had to stay there four years. Alice went to see her ever’ Sunday, and kept tellin’ her they was all gonna be together agin. I didn’t see how they ever would, but Martin finally got out of jail. He was able to git a job at a sawmill and after a month or so, they got enough together to git a place an’ get Helen home. You never saw anybody so proud as Alice an’ Martin. I was real proud for ‘em. They had a couple of boys after than an’ done real good, but Alice always felt bad for puttin’ Helen in that home, but pore thing, she couldn’t even feed herself. Don’t you know Martin felt awful fer puttin’ ‘em both in that spot. He was a good man and never did git in no more trouble. I don’t believe he ever would’a stole that hog if he had’na been tryin’ to feed his family, anyhow. Them was some hard times, real hard times.”

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/miss-laura-maes-house-part-11/
https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/update-to-miss-laura-maes-house-part-11/