May 23, 2010

Self-interested cheapskates: an extremely brief history, 250 BC - 2010 AD

From Lottie Durling's journals, circa 1924 AD:

"[My husband] Harold put up ice in the winter, hauling it from Lime Lake for our family's use. Then folks began buying it from us. Blanche Wenig came on horseback and took it home in a sack. Eleven-year-old Ansel Fellows picked up a load with a one-horse wagon.

So Harold built an ice house and began delivering to nearby towns. Children would come to buy a few pennies’ worth. But there was an elderly couple in Fayette for which Harold felt sorry, because they seemed to have to be so tight with their little bits of money. He always give them a little more than they could pay for. Harold once mentioned this to our neighbor Merv Berlin who replied, “Don’t you know the Ackers have mortgages on most of our neighbors’ farms!?” 

Turned out to be true. The entire town was in hock to the Ackers, who, as mortgagees (but unlike 2010 AD holders of toxic CMOs*) held real, tangible, deliverable collateral.

Aaah, markets and finance vehicles -- so much simpler in those times, but the people behind them? Not much new. 
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." -- 250 BC**
* CMO = Collateralized Mortgage Obligation - Broke Girl's imprecise micro-definition: Mortgages smashed together into inedible mis-matched garbage-salads presented prettily on fine China (by self-important Wall Streeters in Armani) so as to appear as delectable cuisine.

[Note: CMOs, in and of themselves, are simply an object--a financial instrument allowing for convenient packaging and exchange of mortgages. Just like cash or stocks, or bonds, CMOs have no morality, rightness, or wrongness, goodness or badness. The bad rap, per my definition above, comes about by self-interested tactics that became commonplace in the oughts. Because Harry did it, it was okay for Marlene to do it.) Follow me?

** Biblical reference: Ecclesiastes 3:2


  1. Hi Auntie Sharon! Do you have Grandma Lottie's journals? (I understand that this should not be my main takeaway after reading this post, but it is...sorry!) I would love to have the opportunity to read more of her writing. I wish I knew more about her. Wish I could share more with MY Lottie about her namesake. Love ya! Rachel

  2. I may have a hard copy somewhere...not immediately at hand. My mother was re-reading her copy of said journals to my dad, and she mentioned this one to me, so I got the exact clip from her. Aunt Helen may have an e-copy that could be easily sent... When she originally printed copies for everyone e-files were not so easily shared. She created hard copies for everyone. Perhaps ask Cousin Chuck about this.