Frugality.

I just met the loveliest couple in their late 70’s at a cafe in Cambridge.  Dick and Carole.  The gentleman, Dick, sat down a chair away, and saved the seat in between us for his wife, with his herringbone Barbour driving cap.  He was wearing light khakis, red suspenders (buttons, not clips) a worn oxford, a driving cap and loafers.  He was carrying a cane. She was wearing bright orange corduroys and a dress shirt- her watchband having been replaced with a nylon one.  We chatted about his hat, etc. and when his wife sat down he introduced her as Carole- she was born in Washington on Washington’s birthday.  During the conversation, a gal next to him offered him the paper, since she was done with it.  “Which paper is it?”  he asked.  “The Boston Globe” she responded.  “Oh, thank you, but I only read the Wall St. Journal.”

During the conversation, I found out that he was a fighter pilot in WWII stationed out of North Africa and deployed in Italy.  He came back and was accepted into Harvard.  He then was sent to Korea, but applied to be an instructor back here in the States and was granted his request.  He did so because he had just married his wife and wanted to be here with her.  I asked her what she did in the year he was in Korea and Dick replied, “She taught a Siamese cat how to go for a walk on a leash.”  To which Carole replies, “Well, I didn’t have a job or anything.  I rented an apartment downtown and I did take our cat for a walk up and down Newbury St.  The looks I’d get!  People must’ve thought I was crazy.”

I later found out that Dick is now a painter.  “I mostly paint landscapes, aeronautical themes, portraits and hunting themes.”  They used to belong to a prestigious club up in Georgetown, MA and knew many old members at Myopia.  They used to go hunting up there.

Later on in the conversation, Carole shared her favorite Bible verse with me and encouraged me for being so entrepreneurial in this economy.  I really enjoyed the conversation.

When they finally got up to leave, Dick grabbed their unused napkins from the table and looked at Carole, “I supposed we should bring these home?”  “We might as well, we can use them for something.”  Carole replied. We exchanged business cards and went along with our day.

There is a mystique surrounding old New England money and wasp culture.  It has a certain sensibility to it.  People who went to Harvard in the ’50’s, went hunting on the North Shore and look like they belong on Nantucket still bring home their unused napkins so they can use them tomorrow.  That is New England frugality.

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment