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Sunday, September 10, 2017

James Addison Jones I: strict discipline - thrift and generosity

{this post continues with the text of Minnie B. Jones Ussery, who wrote this in 1960} Previous posts here.

Strict Discipline

But my father's efforts to rear his large family in his religious beliefs and customs were not as easy as Bishop Harrell portrayed and Berryman recalled. I remember several times after family prayer Dad felt he had to whip one or several of us for giggling (my big offense) or otherwise being irreverent. If the use of punishment following our devotions ever seemed incongruous to him, he never gave any indication of such.

For my father controlled his large family as a patriarchy, using corporal punishment whenever he thought necessary. This was the only way possible for him, considering the size of our family as well as his own background. I realize now, too, that he had to maintain control over his children very firmly, because of the deaths of our mothers, and the number of housekeepers and mothers in the home. For to him to have done differently would easily have led to the flouting of all authority in the home. He demanded, expected, and was given obedience and respect by each of us, followed by love, as we came to understand him and his deep love and concern for us.

We were expected to do our duties assigned to us, to get our school work done promptly and on our own initiative, to be prompt at meals and eat what was served, to attend family prayer every night and all church services, to be courteous and respectful to our parents and all our elders, to be kind to and considerate of our servants, and to treat one another kindly. These and many other things were expected of us, and usually we did them. Although Dad seldom was demonstrative in his love for us (after we passed the baby stage) he almost as seldom used any physical punishment. We dreaded this so much that we preferred to do what was expected of us. Also, we were aware that he tried to treat us all equally (except for short periods when Emma Renn and Charles* were favored as small youngsters), as he understood it.

*WWJA note: these were two of her three youngest half-siblings

Self-Reliance and Responsibility

I cannot recall my father being overindulgent with any of us, unless it was to the youngest ones in the family in his later years. I believe he realized that any overindulgence on his part would actually hinder the development of self reliance and independence in us. He put each boy of his, when he became thirteen or fourteen years old, on one of his local jobs during the summer months, to serve as a water boy. He hoped that this would help to develop self-reliance in them, as well as expose them to a fundamental knowledge of the construction work and acquaintance with the working men and their life.

Although several servants were employed in our home, Dad expected all of us to share, as we grew older, in the responsibilities of the home. During most of the time, the boys were responsible for the yard... for cutting up discarded lumber into stove wood (we always had a large wood range as well as a gas stove), and for the care of the automobiles, while my sisters and I had duties inside the home. Besides the daily care of my clothes and room, I was expected home immediately after school to supervise my younger brothers and sisters at play. I also had the full responsibility for Robert* at night for many years, for he was not quite two and one-half years old when Dad took his third wife. But my main weekly job, and one that I hated but held for years, was the family darning. As this was in an era when children wore long stockings, knees were frequently torn in them and the darning required was large. In fact, it usually took me all of every Saturday morning and frequently it required more time than that.

*WWJA note: Minnie was 12 when her half-brother Robert was born in 1918. Robert's mother, Emma Lockart Renn, died on March 4, 1919 of pneumonia after contracting the Spanish flu while nursing some of her 11 stepchildren and children who had the flu. Baby Robert was only 8 months old.

For several years I was trusted with several responsibilities that pleased me. One was the annual ritual of filling the stockings of the younger children on Christmas Eve. As the stockings were hung in each bedroom, I had to stay up quite late and be a very quiet Santa's helper.

Another duty I liked and was proud to be trusted with, was a big responsibility, but I believe I carried it all through high school, at least. It was the job of determining what school books in the house could be used another year and what school books needed to be bought, and then to purchase them. My estimates had to match the cost of the books to the penny, and I was careful to figure correctly. Dad was quick to praise good work but equally as quick to notice when we (or anyone else) did not come up to his expectations. To have lost Dad's faith in my ability would have been a major catastrophe to me. I feel sure the rest of the family valued his good opinion as much as I did.


Thrift and Generosity

Another quality my father tried to instill in his children was the habit of thrift. Many a time I heard him say, "A penny saved is a penny earned". He practiced what he preached in this, for he was always careful in little things, such as cutting off unnecessary lights, and keeping track of every penny spent. I recall during one period of his life that he and Miss Maude made every effort to get to the early show at the theater (by 6 p.m.) in order not to have to pay the higher price charged for the night shows, although he could easily have afforded to do so. He was generous in supporting all church and welfare causes and helping those in need, but he hated to see money wasted and he did not believe in indulging every whim of his children. I can recall when I was young that it was a treat to get the privilege
of paying the grocery bill each month, because of the little bag of candy the grocer always gave.

Dad's system of teaching us thrift was unique. Although he probably never realized it, he must have been the originator of the "Christmas Club" savings plan, for he saved "our allowances" for us from one Christmas to the next. While every Saturday we received "an allowance", it was not ours to spend on ourselves. He put each allowance in a job pay-envelope, and placed this on each plate before dinner, the noon meal. The amount each received was based on age and the work he did. I believe the most I ever got was fifty or sixty cents a week, even while I was in high school.*

*WWJA note: $.50 in 1920 (when Minnie would have been 14) is equivalent to $6.34 in 2017 inflation calculator. My Mom and Dad gave me a $5/week allowance until I was 18! So that must be a Jones family trend. However, we were able to use it as we wanted.

As soon as Dad finished dinner, he took up all the envelopes, usually unopened, and locked them up in his closet "for us". Except for birthdays, and for very special reasons, we knew better than to request any of "our allowances" to spend. Dad followed this system strictly while I was living at home, but I noticed as the younger children began to grow up that he became more lenient in permitting them some money to spend for things they wanted.

While we rarely had any "spending money" of our own to buy things for ourselves, we did have the pleasure of giving to each other on birthdays and at Christmas. These were all great occasions in our home and ones we all cherish. I suspect the traditions we learned to love then are being carried on in most of our homes today. But I also believe we have given our children too much. We never received any toys, books, games, or gifts of any kind except on these occasions, at graduations, or when very ill. I can recall that oranges, which we take for granted today, were a special treat then, as we had them only at Christmas time.

Besides thrift, I would say we also learned many other things by Dad's system, such as the pleasure of giving to others, the value of special celebrations of birthdays, Easter, and Christmas in the family, and also the knowledge of what our money would and would not buy.

1 comment:

  1. Every father puts his great effort in the making of their child's better future and for his family betterment too. He is the great hero of all time

    ReplyDelete