President Jimmy Carter's Money Memories

From the May / June 2011 issue of The Quarter Roll.

In his book An Hour Before Daylight Jimmy Carter recounts many of his childhood memoriesMany people have fantastic success stories. They started with few resources or seemingly impossible challenges, but somehow went on to achieve phenomenal success. It is that “somehow” that is so interesting. What did that person do to overcome the obstacles they faced in life? What was different about them than someone else? Perhaps some of the most interesting stories are those from American Presidents who came from nowhere, with little means, to go on and achieve the most prestigious job in the county.

Jimmy Carter has such as story. While he has written many books, his autobiography “An Hour Before Daylight” focuses on his childhood. Carter grew up in Archery, Georgia, during The Great Depression. The Carters are probably best known for being peanut farmers. However, during a time when poverty was hitting the south particular hard, his parents, Earl and Lillian Carter, grew many crops on their farm and found new ways to earn extra money. In fact it is most likely that Jimmy Carter learned many valuable lessons about managing money and a household’s budget from his parents’ worth ethic, resourcefulness, and business sense.

In the May 2011 edition of The Quarter Roll you will also see an article “How To Teach Your Kids To Save Money”, which says to introduce your kids to money early on; regularly provide them with information about finances. This will help them develop a healthy and positive attitude about managing money and a budget. As you will see from many of Jimmy Carter’s memories, recounted in this article, his parents made sure he was well aware of costs and the value of money. Lessons that would serve him well throughout his adulthood.

Learning about work and pay
Like most young children, Jimmy didn’t fully understand the poverty all around him. Although, it is obvious that money and the economy were the primary topics. Jimmy Carter makes constant references to money throughout his book. His book is loaded with specific accounts of how much he earned and how much things cost, not just for himself, but for everyone. He can recall how much various laborers were paid, how much living goods and clothing cost, and even how much the sheriff had to pay for his own pistol. Income and the ability to work were topics young Jimmy heard about every day.

Jimmy Carter had a great, great grandfather named Wiley Carter. Wiley was a Confederate whose money became worthless after the Union Army defeated the South. The inheritance he left his descendants was land, which is where Jimmy’s dad’s farm came from. Jimmy watched his father turn that land into a well-run, money producing farming business. It was on this farm that an extreme work ethic was indoctrinated into young Jimmy Carter.

The farm provided nearly all of their food, as well as, multiple sources of income. Additionally, the family built “tenant houses” on the land. Tenants would rent the small home, and some land to farm, hoping to make a living from the crop that was produced.

Grandpa’s records
Jimmy noted that keeping thorough financial records was a Carter trait when he discovered an expense diary kept by his grandfather, Jim Jack, who worked as a revenue agent destroying illegal whiskey stills. Jim Jack noted expenses such as paying 15 cents per mile to rent an automobile and driver. He travelled a lot, but his average meal expense was 85 cents per day, and he would never pay more than $1.00 for a hotel room. His longest excursion was a 400 mile round trip that cost $6.78!

Early years
Jimmy recalled that early on in his childhood, the family had no money for “luxuries”, but that made them more creative. He noted that this included toilet paper, for which the Carters used Sears catalog pages, a luxury for which they considered themselves fortunate to have, considering the alternatives. While they didn’t have running water or electricity, they did have a shower made from a tin can with holes punched through the bottom. Instead of daycare, his dad paid 5 cents a day for an aunt to watch and feed him on school days. They even cut out haircut expenses. Jimmy recalls his father would shave his head rather than allow him to spend 25 cents on a haircut.

Jimmy got to work at a young age. At the age of 5, he began selling half pound bags of boiled peanuts in town for a nickel each. As he got older he would work on the farm when not in school. Jimmy earned the same daily rate as other younger working children (25 cents) until he became a teenager and received a raise to 50 cents per day. The work day started before sunrise and ended at sunset. However, Jimmy was encouraged to take on additional jobs when heavy rain or flooding made farming impossible.

Making peanuts or selling peanuts?
Jimmy may have inherited a fondness to help others from his parents. He recalls discovering his parents’ generosity in 1938 when unemployment was 25%. Many unemployed men would pass by the farm and the Carters would always give them a cool drink or a sandwich. How did these men know to stop at the Carter’s home? They had made a special mark on the mailbox to indicate to others that this home housed generous and kind people. Jimmy’s mother ordered the family not to remove the marks from the mailbox.

When Jimmy was 16 years old he got a job measuring cropland for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He was paid 40 cents per hour and was allowed to work as many hours as he wanted! He typically put in at least 70 hours per week. One business lesson Jimmy had to learn though was that his expenses quickly ate up that 40 cents per hour! He had to pay an assistant 20 cents per hour to help him haul a 60 foot measuring chain from farm to farm, and he had to pay for transportation, gas, and oil. Jimmy noted that gas was 20 cents per gallon and oil was 10 cents per quart.

Other odd jobs that Jimmy had were selling hamburgers and ice cream cones, and even selling whole watermelons for a dime apiece along the roadside. He also continued to sell bags of boiled peanuts.

Read the rest of the story in the May / June issue here.

Click on the the images below to read past issues of The Quarter Roll!
October 2011 Highlights

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-Bret Michaels’ 4 Greatest Career Traits
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-Jimmy Carter’s Money Memories


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