I almost forgot a curious thing connected to our family move to the North Shore (apparently with a plan of going broke in record time) when I was twelve. An odd age, twelve: I’ll characterize it as late-stage infancy with adult pretensions. In the foggy dew of my youth, I was ignorantly unaware of the sublime idiocy of my very able tool-and-die-maker father migrating to a place where tool and die making abilities were as useful as a balsa wood shovel to move crushed rock. I knew none of that, being absorbed, as I surely was, by volcanic upheaval in a suddenly unpredictable body and confusions in my formerly stable young mind. A series of mustached women (at least that was the rumor) called nuns had beaten me into a state of stability so firm and sure I’d darken the black outlines of coloring book pictures so no color would stray where it didn’t belong and presumably wasn’t wanted. Those dear, black-robed beings appearing human only in facial oval and hands did their utmost to ensure I’d turn out as far from Master Picasso as they could drive me with whip, chain, Missal, and candle. Disliking public humiliation and whip cracks to the body from knotted robe cinches if one transgressed, I toed (or is it towed?) a tight line in deed and thought. They’d not catch me in idle foolishness (unless it was pretty much a sure thing I could get away with it).

The looming doom of our North Shore shift was lost on this kid who had once childishly thought his father actually made money, that the handy little coins sometimes given me for penny candy at a corner store were of his metal manufacture. (Learning otherwise I was surprisingly not upset by Father’s fall. So what if he didn’t actually make the coins himself? The important thing was giving me some. In that sense I cared not their origin. “Gimme” was the thing!) I need to inject economic thought here, because by age twelve parental molding about money had accomplished a version of fervor for finance similar to that imposed by the hammering of nuns over religious matters. Money did say, “In God We Trust.” They had me there, but being constantly accused of wasteful habits for free spending habits (a kid’s nickel didn’t go too far those days either) seemed quite unfair. I saw spending as generous acts of sharing. Giving boy that I was, I’d spend all in a flash. Frankly, as far as I saw things, my job was disposition. Mom and Dad, constantly complaining of my non-saving habits, simply did not appreciate natural bigheartedness. Parents and I were at fundamental odds on that issue, as we were on certain others regarding costs. I knew Father privately fretted (he could be heard muttering from the next house) over the “damn kid outgrowing clothes before he wears them.” It was true. We were making far too many Saturday trips (eating into playtime) to shoe and clothing stores to refurbish my daywear. I suspected Father would prefer a climate where a growing boy could go barefoot and possibly naked as cost-saving moves. I’d have eventually adjusted to either or both, though the North Shore was not in my mind the place to test either.

In short (in case you’re adrift wondering where in Hell I’m going off to this time), I was well and truly primed for a God and Currency connection. Back in the ’50s (the era of this tale) a kid was trapped in what I’d call the padded prison of a sedan’s back seat. The upholstery was called plush. The windows were rather high up, like those of a basement. Window cranks (when a boy was allowed to operate one) operated by spinning the handle with by its bright chrome knob. Highway 61 was narrow then and fairly busy. A speed of 60 would have been suicide. We thought we were doing great at 45 or 50. In other words, the trip beyond Two Harbors to the border was an hour-long grind. It was torture. The trick I learned at age ten of drinking water so they’d have to stop for me to pee (and run around some as I’d usually manage) had been discovered. I was put on water rations. There was to be no relief from the mechanics of nature. An attempt to fake a nature break got nowhere when Father said, “Here, use this.” He tossed a paper cup my way. I fast decided to hold it. Peeing into a cup in a moving car was not for me, not to mention not needing to do so. My option for relief (God help me if I accidentally kicked the front seat-back) was looking out the basement window at balsam, spruce, and birch wandering sedately by. The boredom was near bad as the damned Wisconsin corn I grew to hate after eight-hour stints seeing little else. Highway 61 up the North Shore was better.

Now just this week the MHD served a reminder of the past, clearing brush on the right-of-way, and in the process uncovering many small rock cuts blasted when the road first went in. I don’t know how many places the words JESUS SAVES were painted on the old cuts, but plenty. The phrase stupefied me. Did Jesus have money? Did he need any? Was there a First Bank of Jesus? Mother, normally an authority on all, lit a Pall Mall, blew smoke, and ignored me when I asked. Father was “busy driving”—no help there. I’d have to work this out myself. Luckily a nun took me aside before we departed Chicago. Her warning to be on guard for Protestants in public school took life. That was it! JESUS SAVES was Protestants saying God used their bank. They couldn’t fool me! I was wise to their ways. Now if I could just figure a way to pee and run barefoot and naked for a while, we’d all be happy and be saving money, too.