Find a penny, pick it up
All the day, you'll have good luck!
I stopped this morning on my way to work to purchase my weekly
lottery tickets. This was the morning after the largest Powerball
jackpot in history had two winning tickets drawn - neither of them
mine. Always the optimist, I felt buying my tickets the next
morning was a lucky move since all other lottery players would be
home sulking over not winning a half a billion dollars. I was going
to get a jump start.
As I was leaving the convenience store, the only place I ever
buy my tickets because it is my lucky, locally-owned location, I
had a funny feeling I was going to find money on the ground. Sure
enough, halfway to my car I saw it - a penny. Luckily it was on
heads, so I did not have to agonize over whether or not to pick it
up. For years I refused to pick up a penny that was on tails for
fear the old wives' tale would come true and I certainly did not
need to bring any bad luck into the picture. (I was also careful
not to step on any cracks in the parking lot.)
As I stooped to pick it, the little ditty about finding a penny
came into my head. Not only did I convince myself that I would
indeed have good luck wrapped up for the day, I also thought about
the days when a penny was actually worth something. Today a penny
has almost become a throw away item. Few will stop to pick one up
off the ground and many will tell the cashier to "keep the pennies"
if they have change coming.
I remember Trick or Treating as a child and carrying a UNICEF
box. These would be given to us at school by our teachers, the
Sisters of Saint Joseph. In addition to candy, we would ask
neighbors to make a donation for the United Nations Children's Fund
and the hopefully full box would be returned to our teacher the
next day. Typically, it was filled with pennies. Sometimes
neighbors would simply throw pennies into our trick-or-treat bag in
anticipation of the UNICEF request. So when it went in the bag
instead of the box, whose pennies were they?
I don't recall ever having that little cardboard box filled to
the brim with pennies. Today, you could probably fill it to
overflowing by simply walking through a few store parking lots and
picking up all those unwanted, and possibly discarded, little
Lincoln heads. But back in the 50's, pennies were just as important
as nickels and dimes and we recognized their value.
Pennies played a big role in my childhood, well as big a role as
the little coin can play. I remember visiting my aunt and cousins;
they lived in the apartment above my grandparents. As I look back
now, I realize my aunt was a hoarder. But I distinctly remember
large glass jars overflowing with pennies in every room. I am sure
it was her intention to someday roll them all and bring them to the
bank. There were probably thousands of dollars of pennies in that
apartment. How ironic that my aunt died a pauper - or should I say
When I stayed with my grandmother, we always played card games
and Bunco. My favorite card game was called Help Your Neighbor and
it required throwing pennies into the "pot" which was usually a
glass ash tray in the middle of the table. The pot would grow
during the game with the last man standing taking the winnings.
There were times I may have won twenty to thirty pennies. It was
the equivalent of a million dollars to a six-year-old, especially
since the candy store on the corner was filled with penny candies.
I could give new meaning to the term "kid in a candy store" after
winning a few good hands.
Kids in my day could still be bribed with pennies. Our neighbor,
Nick Tusa, had the lushest lawn on the block. It resembled rich
pile carpeting. He seeded and fertilized it during the appropriate
seasons and he watered it faithfully every day. You would be
hard-pressed to find a weed in that lawn. With no kids of his own,
Mr. Tusa had a sly scheme to keep that yard weed-free. He would
hide pennies in the grass - deep down so they were really tough to
find. Then he would invite all the kids on the block to come to try
and find the pennies. The caveat was you had to pull any weeds if
you saw them, but any pennies you found were yours to keep. This
man was a genius and he had us all bamboozled into thinking we were
just playing a fun game. Try getting a kid today to pull weeds for
As we Boomers get older, our priorities shift. For this
particular Boomer, material things have lost their luster. Today,
it's more about spending time with my family, spoiling my
grandchildren, going to a job that allows me to do the things I
love and working on my bucket list. And sometimes a little luck
thrown in for good measure is a nice blessing. So whenever I see a
penny - yeah, I'm stopping to pick it up.