copper pots and pans

Spend a copper penny

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Millis challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.

It may not be a country, but it seems as far away and foreign as any country might be–the country of my childhood, when:

Mum washing in copper

  • My mum did the laundry in a big copper pot heated over burning logs. She’d fill the pot and heat the water then use a long wooden stick to swirl around the sheets or clothes before hanging them over the line to dry in the sun. I wrote about this in a previous flash (nearly four years ago!): Washing Day.

general store Australia

  • Items were bought from a general store in exchange for coins or notes. There were no supermarkets, credit cards, pay pass or online shopping. Storekeepers were friendly and knew each member of the family by name.

My favourite coin was the penny with the Queen on the head, and a kangaroo on the tail. Though made from a bronze alloy and only 97% copper, we called it copper nonetheless.

  • Almost all water pipes, hot and cold, were made of copper. Most still are, but some have been replaced by plastic which is initially cheaper but not as long-lasting. I remember the colourful pipes leading to the concrete wash tubs when we moved to suburbia and Mum got a real washing machine. The hot water pipes were wrapped in asbestos.

police and robber

  • Policemen (I don’t recall too many policewomen back then) were respected, and we had fun playing cops and robbers. There was always a debate over who was going to be the copper and who was going to be the robber, but it went without saying that the copper always won.

Coppertone girl

  • I was a (naturally) copper-haired child, one of four in a family of ten. With our very fair skin, the sun wasn’t kind to us and our skin had no resemblance to that of the Coppertone girl who started to appear on billboards a little later.
  • We would “spend a penny” to use public facilities, sometimes handing our coin to an attendant, or even putting it into a slot in the door!
  • Days were long, and time and possibilities were infinite. Life was black and white, and we children had not a care in the world as parents knew everything and took care of everything.

It’s to this childhood country of laid back times, when the whole world was open to us and copper pennies could buy happiness, that I have returned–it may not be the real world of my childhood, but rather one of my dreams.  I hope you like it.

Spend a penny or two

Coins jingled in his pocket as bare feet squeaked out every step along the sandy road. Every so often, he’d finger them–such big coins. In his mind, he spent and re-spent them: a dress for Mum, a hat for Dad, a pull-a-long toy for Baby–nothing for himself.

He watched the boy place the copper on the counter. He followed the hopeful gaze, shook his head and pointed to lolly jars. The boy held up four fingers; he held up one. The boy hesitated, then shoved the coins back in his pocket–to spend another day.

“Hold on…”

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

35 thoughts on “Spend a copper penny

  1. Hugh's Views and News

    What lovely memories, Norah. I certainly remember the toilet doors with the penny coin slots. My father also had a leather pouch which contained lots of old coins. My sister and I would spend hours playing with the coins. I think he still has them. I’ll have to ask him.
    Your flash fiction reminded me of a local newsagent I lived nearby when I was growing up. It was called ‘Henderson’s’ and had a penny sweet counter which had a vast array of temptations no child could not fall for. Our pocket money was spent every week at that shop. I still remember Mr Henderson who owned the shop. He must have been in his 70s at the time and was the person who gave me my very first paid job as a paperboy. It was an early start every morning, and Mr Henderson must have been quite pleased that quite a bit of my wages would be spent at the ‘penny sweet’ counter.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your memories and experiences, Hugh. I’m sure you and your sister enjoyed playing with those coins. They can be quite interesting.
      I like the sound of Henderson’s newsagent with it sweets counter. What decisions you would have had to make spending your pocket money. You may have spent all your paperboy income in the store – but how delightful the spending and later consuming! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. paulandruss

    Lovely lovely lovely, you captured all the innocence of both the times as were and childhood memories of them with just the right of rose tint in the spectacle lenses….It didn’t so much take me back as want to go back… for a nice long holiday! Px

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Paul. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the piece and that my rose-tinted glasses evoked a sense of nostalgia for times past, even if not experienced. It’s very satisfying to know my choice of words was effective. I very much appreciate your comment.

      Like

      Reply
  3. prior..

    ahhhh
    nice to learn the history here – (even tho I have always found that little coppertone ad to be inappropriate- but I digress)
    and with your fiction….
    “hold on” -was such a great ending

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I probably agree with you about the Coppertone ad, but it fitted the post and was a part of those copper memories.
      I’m pleased you liked the ending. Thanks. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  4. julespaige

    I remember when I traveled with my folks – I am not sure exactly where but the pay toilets were at least a dime by then. I don’t remember too many pay toilets around now. Maybe I’m just not (Hummm) ‘Going’ where they are located. 🙂

    Everything is relative though. I remember when a single slice of pizza in the city was .25.
    But then how long did one have to work to earn that .25?

    I have relatives nicknamed ‘Red’ and was a strawberry blonde as a tyke. Now the white and silver stuff is coming in. And I’ve earned every strand 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jules. You do well to not have “go” when you’re out and about. 🙂
      Ah, yes, we do earn every strand, don’t we? Enjoy them. I’m not quite ready to embrace them yet. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Debby. You know I wondered if my childhood memory was incorrect so Googled it and found that asbestos insulation was used. So many buildings here were made from asbestos that is now being – very carefully – removed. It’s another one of those health hazards “they” chose to ignore.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  5. Charli Mills

    What a great penny to have a kangaroo on the tail! I enjoyed the walk down a copper memory lane. I paused for a moment about the phrase to spend a penny after having said “Thanks for spending a penny at the Ranch.” Was relieved (in a different sense than needing facilities) to find your flash had the kind of penny spending I had in mind. Your character had that penny spent, not thinking of himself, but others. Even though he was disappointed I got the sense the store keep was impressed by the boy’s commitment to sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Charli. I’m glad you enjoyed the post even though I wandered a bit of track. I’m so pleased the essence of my story showed through, with the bigness of the boy’s heart matched by that of the store keeper.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Robbie. I didn’t quite get the ‘country’ part, but I did get the ‘copper’ bit. So pleased you enjoyed the story. It was so difficult choosing just 99 words and hoping they came out just right.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    You went to-strike that- took me to a beautiful place. Though without the means to but all that he might have wanted to, I did not sense any anxiety.
    It struck me in your post, the line about children banking on parents to know everything and take care of anything. It isn’t true, but that was always a sustaining myth for all involved. Now that that cat is out of the bag, we see childhood depression and anxiety or at the least, brats. So, what a nice and generous boy in your story and perhaps a generous store keeper.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, D. I’m pleased the post took you to a beautiful place. Yes, those olden days when children were not encouraged to think but just obey had some (small) benefits. Now with our democratic families, parents don’t know how to set boundaries and children don’t learn to be responsible. Everyone is confused about their roles and who should be making the decisions, and, as you say, depression and anxiety are rife. I don’t think we should return to the way it was, but maybe the pendulum needs to swing back a bit and encourage parents to take a bigger role in decision making in families. Funny I should say that when I’m all for giving children a voice and choice. Balance. That magic word – balance.
      I’m so pleased you saw the generosity of both characters in the story; the boy with his dreams, the storekeeper of a more practical kind. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I don’t think that parents having boundaries and being the authority is/was synonymous with having blindly obedient children, not if the parenting is done responsibly, not to some extreme. The comfort for children comes in knowing there is a boundary they can push; the discombobulation comes when they flail looking for the stop. A child’s Why? and How? come from the No to their Yes or the Yes to their No, not an Okay whatever you want.
        The roles are confused, not so much by a desire to parent democratically, but by parents lack of skill, lack of will, and the unavailability wrought by work, devices, and other distractions. You should be a grownup to raise children responsibly.
        rant
        An aside: I have no children; I wanted to wait until I was grownup. Still waiting. Maybe next time.

        You continue to educate and to advocate for children through your stories and posts. Write on, Norah.

        Liked by 2 people

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          Good points, D. Like you, I’m still waiting to grow up. Wish I didn’t have to grow old though. Although I still feel six at heart, I think I did an okay job of parenting. They (my children) taught me well. I think I was able to tap into their inherent wisdom without dousing it. They helped me see the world from a child’s eyes again. We enjoyed and respected each other. I think respect is the secret. Knowing what I missed makes me want it all the more strongly for others. I will continue as you say, D. Thanks for your support.

          Like

          Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s