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“We’re living like plutocrats,” by Erwin A. Thompson

Noun 1. plutocrat - someone who exercises power by virtue of wealth
have, rich person, wealthy person - a person who possesses great material wealth. (from Free online dictionary)

Our family is made up of just folks. There's a joke in our family that whenever we feel we've stumbled into some unexpected wonderful situation that we are "living like plutocrats." My father writes on some of his deeper values surrounding this phrase. --Janet



My daughter, Janet, gave me this title to write about. But, as I researched the dictionary, a plutocrat is "one who exercises power through wealth." The people that I want to write about never exercised power and never wanted to so far as I know.

They did, however, achieve a life style in their later years that satisfied their own hopes and ambitions.They would not have changed it if they had actually had a million dollars.

My wife's mother had a philosophy that sustained them in good times and bad. She said that she did not mind company, as long as they "offset their trouble." I never heard it expressed exactly that way among my other relatives, acquaintances, or friends, but it did follow almost exactly the passage in Second Timothy: "And those who do not work, neither let them eat!" Alistair Cook used this passage in his narrative of the early settlers of this country, engaged in a community style of living.

It was good, basic philosophy. A hundred years ago, the idea of taking a yearly vacation was certainly for the well-to-do. But for the "city cousins" a week in the country was a great experience.

In the Johnston life style there was always a big vegetable garden. Whatever was not eaten fresh was canned. Canning fruit and vegetables meant work. The family worked. Whatever else may have been said of the Johnston clan, nobody ever called them lazy. Visitors were expected to live up to this philosophy which they did, but sometimes under protest. Some thought that since they were "company" the work rule should not apply. In this they were doomed to disappointment. They worked!

In later years when electricity was available, the extra vegetables were frozen, which was much less trouble and less chance of loss with spoilage. Their freezer was full of frozen vegetables and meat. They ate like kings. The choice cuts were eaten as standard menu for Monday as well as Sunday.

I always thought that we ate pretty good in our own household, but our children always were enthusiastic over a trip to "Grandpa and Grandma Johnston's." One of the highlights was the fact that there was always at least two kinds of ice cream in the freezer Sometimes three or four.

They were great people. They never made the list of millionaires, and would not have wanted to. They achieved what their own ambitions had been: To raise their family to be self supporting, worthwhile citizens, making their own way in a world that is filled with obstacles that are sometimes a real challenge to overcome.

There have been many sad stories and off beat jokes about in-laws, especially mother-in laws, but I never had that relationship with my wife's parents. They treated me more like a son than a son-in-law, and I felt the same.

They were not plutocrats, in the dictionary sense of the word, but no plutocrat ever lived with more satisfaction than they did as they surveyed the productive farm that they had rescued from the devastating results of poor management and slovenly work practices.

Work. Hard work, and good, sensible planning and "follow through." The abiding principle expressed in that simple requirement: "They need to offset their trouble."

They were great people!

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2 Responses »

  1. A beautiful recollection of a kinder time when work was not a privilege, nor a commodity to further the interests of the already wealthy; but was a source of pride, community and a gift to one's self and family.
    Thank You!

  2. Jenny,

    This phrase, "We're living like Plutocrats!" was one of our family jokes whilst enjoying a pleasure like eating strawberries from the garden topped with whipped cream produced from our cow's milk.

    It's related to "I'm sitting in the pound seat!" which was the best seat in the theater at some point in British history.

    Janet Riehl

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