All about money — a poem


Learning lessons about money as a child

No-one writes odes to money
yet what a thrill it was.
We did our jobs all week
feeding the chooks, setting the table
washing dishes, collecting eggs—
paid on Friday with a shilling
called pocket money
for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts
and the church collection plate.
(We got smart with home-made presents
drawing many a picture and
embroidering many a hanky.)
Threepence went in our school bank books
and threepence every week in Lent
into the yellow missionary box.
For our three big items
(watch, racket and bike)
we picked raspberries in the sun
for threepence a pound.

Deirdre starred at the Hinds gymkhana
winning a guinea for finding Kilroy:
that wasn’t unethical, wasn’t a raffle or a racket
but a competition, a different kind of work.

How solid were those pennies
how textured under the thumb
how lordly were the shillings
how odd the chopped-off head of a King
how satisfied we were with you
o money!

We had the wittiest jokes about money
phoning total strangers, “Are you on the Papanui line?
Then get off! There’s a penny on the line!”
Giggle giggle giggle at the triple trick
from naughty little Penny.
Party lines, tramlines — money jokes
don’t stand the test of time
and nobody writes poems for you, o money.

Money, you made us proud
and generous and careful.
We liked you very much.
We worked together
and you did no harm.

Poem and drawing by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0. That means I’d like you to share them, as long as my name is attached.

17 thoughts on “All about money — a poem

  1. Money itself is a good thing.
    It is people who sometimes do bad things with it.
    Thanks for sharing childhood memories.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I wonder how your parents taught you about money…

  2. My parents taught me to be careful about money.
    “Money doesn’t grow on trees” was something I heard sometimes.
    They taught me to spend on the right things like health and education.
    There was always money for storybook but toys were frowned upon.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      All valuable advice, for sure. Toys are fun but oh the overload nowadays! By the time you’ve chosen what toy to play with the day is done.

  3. JT Twissel says:

    How solid were those pennies – I do remember those days.

  4. toutparmoi says:

    I also received a shilling a week pocket money, but it wasn’t in payment for chores done around the house or yard. My mother didn’t approve of that – her reason was: you live here, so you contribute to the running of the household without being rewarded for it.

    I see her point, but I suspect I might have felt more positive about housework if some observable transaction had been involved.

    1. I sort of agree with your mother.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s a lovely attitude and I see her point. On the other hand our mother despised housework and had six healthy daughters… One thing is sure: no matter how parents agonise they can never be sure of getting it right.

      1. toutparmoi says:

        With 6 children your mother had a ready-made work squad!

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:


  5. cedar51 says:

    I can’t remember any pocket money – but there were other kinds of money indirectly – like the pictures on Saturday arvo and then an ice-cream at half time (Mum worked in the little shop attached); fish and chips on Friday lunchtime, a long walk up from primary school.

    I do remember the pocket money when I was at boarding school, but it came in the form of a “docket book” which Mother would have to pay on account at end of each term! She would remind when home for the holidays the evils of too many sweeties…:-)

    (docket book, wasn’t just for sweeties but for things like drycleaning, taxis, stockings, shoe polish, female supplies etc) When I think of it right now, it’s a wonder I never run a docket at a dairy in later life.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Very clever of you to avoid that.

  6. JOY journal says:

    A memoir in such a short poem. How beautiful!!! A good childhood.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you! We were lucky, for sure.

  7. Sylvie G says:

    Why is it so hard to talk about money ?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Maybe someone else knows…

      1. Sylvie G says:


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