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“Be Thrifty,” Tra-la-la

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 14, 2009

Conference speakers urged us to be financially wise, to distinguish between wants and needs, to free ourselves from economic bondage. This morning Keepa jumps aboard that bandwagon with a Primary song from the depths of the Great Depression, 1934.

Incidentally, Beatrice F. Stevens, the author and composer, is the same woman who recalled her childhood experiences with raising silkworms in an earlier post.

When you wake up in the morning, and the sun is shining bright,
Have a strong determination the day will go just right;
There are many things that you can do, That bring success to me and you,
And if you’re prudent, very wise … You’ll economise.

Be thrifty, do your best while you may,
Just listen while we tell you the way:
Most of all that you take in,
Put safely in the bin, saving for a rainy day;
Watch the bees busy making honey,
Work along and when you make your money,
We give you this advice: Look at ev’ry dollar twice
And you’ll be happy when you’re fifty, if you’re thrifty.

If someone says he is hoping That when he is growing old,
He won’t be among the needy, Have silver and have gold,
Ev’ry one of us will sympathize, But don’t neglect to realise
That work and saving, nothing more, Keeps hunger from your door.

Be thrifty, do your best while you may,
Just listen while we tell you the way:
Most of all that you take in,
Put safely in the bin, saving for a rainy day;
Watch the bees busy making honey,
Work along and when you make your money,
We give you this advice: Look at ev’ry dollar twice
And you’ll be happy when you’re fifty, if you’re thrifty.

So … is this going to replace “Book of Mormon Stories” as a favorite anytime soon? :)

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10 Comments »

  1. Ardis,

    I don’t like these parts:

    “…when he is growing old…when you’re fifty…”

    Not at all.

    Comment by Mark Brown — April 14, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  2. Mark, old man, we should perhaps be grateful that the quality celebrated by this rhyme isn’t “flirty” or “sporty.” “Weighty” would be good.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 14, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  3. For all its jaunty rhythms and its cutesy melody, the piece’s last line about old age induces a shudder: “[W]ork and saving, nothing more, Keeps hunger from your door.”

    Sobering.

    Comment by Hunter — April 14, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  4. This was pre-food stamps. I can tell.

    Comment by Jami — April 14, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  5. Even if we don’t soon move to a post-food stamp world, news stories warn that the social safety net (health care, counseling, paratransit, special needs education) is growing thinner. I’m not generally an alarmist, and don’t mean that by this post, but I’m coming to consider “a penny saved is a penny earned” to be literally true — cutting a few dollars here and there from my spending is as good economically for this self-employed historian as scrounging a new client would be.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 14, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  6. This song also came before that greatest of all Ponzi schemes, the Social Security program. Back then, old age really did mean poverty for those who hadn’t been thrifty and saved (unless, with a little bit of luck, you and Henry Dolittle had the blessing of children who turned ’round and started supporting you).

    I was puzzled by the English spelling of “realise” and “economise”, but not “sympathize.” Just poor editing, or evidence that certain orthographical verities hadn’t become fixed by 1934.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 14, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  7. “And you’ll be happy when you’re fifty, if you’re thrifty”.

    Unless your pennies were thriftily squirrelled away in an Icelandic bank…presumably in those days, the target audience kept their money in a jam jar under the mattress?

    Ardis, do we know what happened to Sister Stevens in the end? Between thrifty songs and the silkworms, I don’t think I could cope if she died in poverty :-(

    Comment by Anne (UK) — April 14, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  8. I’m with Anne on that one. Sister S was cozy in her final years, wasn’t she? (I’m really OK with lies on this.)

    Comment by Jami — April 14, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  9. :) I really don’t know (yet) what her life in later years was like, although she crops up during World War II, just before her death, writing songs for the Relief Society. That suggests to me that she had a little leisure for the finer things in life and wasn’t having to scrub hotel kitchen floors every day just to make ends meet.

    I’ll see what I can find out. However, the LDS Archives have just closed for more than two months (they’re moving all the treasures across the street to the brand new building), so my opportunities for research are severely restricted for a while.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 14, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  10. As everybody with a spam filter knows, blogs are often spammed with pages-long paragraphs that almost-but-not-quite make sense, interspersed with hundreds of links for cheap airplane tickets or fake pharmaceuticals.

    This evening this very post was spammed with such a thing. I always scan the spam to be sure that Mark B.’s and Justin’s comments aren’t caught there again as they have been in the past. This time opening lines of the spam were startlingly familiar. Stripped of the links, those lines were:

    Colloquium speakers urged us to be financially perceptive, to mark between wants and needs, to extra ourselves from profitable bondage. This morning Keepa jumps aboard that bandwagon with a Noteworthy song from the depths of the Clever Depression, 1934. By The Way, Beatrice F. Stevens, the father and composer, is the changeless woman who recalled her youth experiences with raising silkworms in an earlier piling. When you wake up in the morning, and the tan is shining flashing: “Be Penurious,” Tra-la-la

    Spammed with my own words! Only Beatrice has become a man, “post” had become “piling” and “Great Depression” was “Clever Depression,” etc.

    The best computer-generated alteration, though, is the admonition to Be Penurious. Ha!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 14, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

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