If you had enough hotels and houses, you didn’t worry about being in jail as it saved landing on someone’s property and having to pay a fine. “Mom, Sean is cheating again,” Molly yelled down the stairs. “He’s stealing my money.” Mike and I would gang up on Molly and try to drive her out of the game and bankrupting her was a way to do it. Mike was Mom’s favorite and could do no wrong, so she scolded him lightly and blamed me for the disruption. We waited for Molly to land on a hotel and give up some of her fake money, while Mike languished in jail waiting for his properties to pay while he risked nothing.
An hour later, Dad yelled up the stairs: “It’s time to do your chores.” I had the barn to clean out and Mike was supposed to be on manure patrol. We ignored Dad’s call and went back to the game of monopoly.
Our bedroom at Cove was over the kitchen and the stairs that we climbed were steep. Dad walked into the room and picked up the monopoly board, scattering houses and hotels all over the floor. “I told you kids that it was time for chores,” and with that he carried the board down to the kitchen with community chest cards scattered up and down the stairs. Dad threw our game into the fiery-trash burner without another word. Mike and I sheepishly came downstairs to do our chores.
We had an allowance of 25 cents a week, but that was never enough as the walk to Mackie’s store was tiring and made us thirsty and hungry; so we spent our allowances on stuff we weren’t supposed to have, like tootsie rolls, which we warmed in our hands and shaped into piles of what looked like dog manure and left on Mr. Frost’s front porch because he blocked off his beach trail with a gate and board fencing and barbed wire so us kids couldn’t use it to get up from the beach even if we had been caught by the high tide.
“Cheaper by the Dozen” was a popular book in the 1950’s as it described how two parents coped with twelve children when they could no longer do allowances. Each Sunday, the family would gather around the dining room table to bid on the never ending list of chores, the low bidder being given the work to be done and paid according to their bid.
I was the oldest at twelve and Mike the youngest at eight. Molly was right in between. We have another sister, Meg who is 15 years younger than Mike and of a different generation. Since our Father was a painting contractor, he would bring blueprints home at night so that he could bid for the paint job in the morning. Being a mirror of the real world, our competitiveness drove us to underbid a chore and end up with less money because of our greed, but I wax poetic as contracting our chores lasted exactly two weeks.
Jimmy Matsumoto could tell exactly how many of his strawberries Brother Mike and I had eaten by looking at our red lips. At least, we didn’t cheat by adding rocks to the bottom of the box of strawberries. There were six boxes to the carrier and twelve boxes to the flat and Jimmy punched our tickets and paid 25 cents per carrier.
“Bingo,” and Mike hit me in the chest with a huge, over ripe Marshall strawberry. We had picked for Jimmy for several years and were well known to him as “The little hoodlums from Cove.” Molly also picked, but Jimmy liked her. “Gotcha again,” Mike yelled from the end of his row, as he heaved another strawberry, not seeing Jimmy watching us and in the next moment we were walking back to Cove, having been fired and not even allowed on the bus that brought us.
I picked cherries for Mrs. Bruner, but ate more than I picked, ending up with little red-itchy spots, called hives, that Mom treated with calamine lotion, the same way she treated a jellyfish sting or nettles.