Learning the importance of a penny

By Brittany Mitchell
February 5, 2009

Shannon Keough

The year 1929 marked the beginning of the Great Depression, but not everyone was feeling the severe financial strain.

Helen Heck, 88, of Turnersville, N.J., was a happy 9-year-old who was able to live comfortably and enjoy the everyday hobbies of riding her bike and picking flowers.

“I lived on a farm. We were very fortunate. We had our own vegetables, chicken eggs and my dad raised pigs for our meat,” Heck said. At the time, Heck lived near Bells Lake, N.J., where she attended Bunker Hill Middle School.

“The kids I went to school with were very fortunate because everyone had the same thing?vegetables, cow, horses and pigs,” Heck said. “Money was scarce, but we managed.”

Heck then began to describe a typical shopping day with her mother. “We shopped the Sears catalog but we also used to go to Kaighn Avenue in Camden to buy our shoes. Shoes were like 25 cents a pair,” Heck said.

Now a days, shoes cost upwards $50, but Heck thinks it is people’s spending habits during the recession that is affecting them negatively, not the cost of the product.

Due to the downward spiraling economy, the percentage of Americans’ savings rose 2.9 percent, but Heck is still concerned for this generation facing these tough economic times because of their technological reliance.

“I’ll tell ya, I think the people today, if there was another Great Depression, I don’t think they’ll survive just because they need to use all this technology. I mean my mother used a washboard; when I grew up we had none of this technology stuff,” Heck said.

When asked if our recession will lead to a severe depression, Heck drew her own conclusion. “I don’t think it will ever be similar because people spend too much money for things that aren’t necessary. Mom and dad always watched their pennies and watch their money. People today get too much money and spend foolishly,” Heck said.

Statistics show that Americans spent a staggering $162 billion in 2007 on electronics alone and the median income of a family of four in New Jersey was $99, 224. “Too many credit cards, too much money, they need help,” Heck said.

The financial belt is now tightening in most American households to alleviate some risk of a sticky economic situation. In October 2008, Americans invested an average of $863 into retirement accounts, jumping 54 percent in one month.

Heck believed that the saving is essential, but people today have to learn more about the ways of the people from the past.

“Everyone seemed to help each other [during the Depression], everyone looked out for everyone. People need to look out for each other. Love your mom and dad, get along and save your money, that’s what you need to do,” Heck said.

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Brittany Mitchell

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