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James R. Stout


            When I was about 8-years-old I was given a glass piggy bank. I’ve attached pictures below of a bank like the one that I had. These little banks were very common during that time. Mine had a tint to it that was somewhere between pink and amber. You were able to see your saved pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters through the translucent glass. The only hole in the glass pig was on the top and it was elongated to allow coins to be easily dropped into the bank. There was no hole to empty the bank. That said, there were times when I would shake the piggy upside down and a few coins would find their way out of the bank and into my eager hand. But it was a tedious affair and not something you would want to do if in a hurry.

            There are certain things that I remember about that bank and the usage of it. First, I remember the sound of the initial coins being dropped into the bank and pinging on the glass bottom. It was somewhat loud. But as the bank began to fill up with coins, the sound became a muted metallic slap as the new coin dropped in and would strike the existing pile of coins within the bank. Secondly, I remember all the things that I had planned for the eventually filled bank. Over the years I would sometimes take a slice of masking tape, marked with the item wished for, and put it on the bank. The masking tape strip would almost always give way to new wishes. I believe one of my first goals for the money was to buy a bike. That became unnecessary when I was given a bike for my 10th birthday. Thirdly, over time I realized that pennies and nickels pretty much just took up space. So, I started only putting dimes and quarters into the bank. My aim was to grow the value of the ever-hungry Piggy.

            As I grew older and became a teenager my desires were for more substantial “things”. An electric guitar and amplifier and a car became top priorities. But let’s face it, the little piggy bank just wasn’t up to the task of accumulating enough coins to pay for those more expensive items. At first, I added more banks to my dresser top. You might say that I diversified my wealth. When we would go on a camping trip or vacation I also came home with a new kind of bank. These were souvenirs and were usually made of pine or cedar and they had something that Piggy didn’t have. An extra hole for the money to be extracted from. While convenient, this added extra was also a deterrent to saving more money. When a new record came out, then some of those coins were just too easy to get at and spend. The Beatles and a whole host of other artists became rich at the expense of my banking system. I still have a couple of these additional banks. However, Piggy is only a distant memory. I Miss Piggy. I would love to have Piggy sitting in the corner curio cabinet as a visible memory of times gone by. Alas, that cannot be.

            The day came on January 13, 1973 when Piggy died a horrible death. But don’t cry to hard for Piggy. He died for a worthy cause. A very worthy cause. It was a Saturday and that night was to be a special night in my young life. I had recently started “going steady” with my first serious girlfriend. As it turns out, she was involved in an organization via school known as FHA – Future Homemakers of America. They were having their annual FHA formal that night. It was to be a double date. Me and my girl along with her good friend and boyfriend. I won’t say the name, but the friend of my girlfriend has become quite famous today. She is a wonderful speaker and author of many books. But that night she was just a shy 16-year-old girl who was waiting to see how life unfolded just like the rest of us. The evening began with the girls cooking us a big dinner. This was to show off some of what they learned in FHA. We would then drive over to the Memorial Country Club for the formal dance. Here’s where Piggy’s demise is made clear.

            My only real job that evening was to provide the transportation and to give my girlfriend a corsage. I had gone down to Drago’s Florist near my house earlier that week and ordered the corsage. No simple carnation or rose would do so far as I was concerned. I ordered an orchid corsage. I was told later by my girlfriend that her mother was taken aback when they went into the other room for the corsage to be pinned onto the formal. Why? Because she hadn’t received an orchid until after she was married! It was apparently a big deal to her. Come to think of it, I wonder if that corsage is pressed between the pages of some keepsake book today. Well, in 1973 dollars that corsage cost $14. That would be about $70 today. A princely sum for a 17-year-old boy to come up with. I was determined to pay for it myself with no help from my parents. Piggy died paying for that corsage. I had to break Piggy into pieces to get all those coins out. It was enough money to pay for the corsage, gas for the car, and some money left over. It was all worth Piggy’s sacrifice.

            As I have been writing this a few things occurred to me. First, I had to laugh at my outfit that night. I wore white patent leather shoes and a white leather belt. The belt was about 2 inches wide as was the style of the day. Those shoes though. Pat Boone would have been proud. But the truth is, they were the only dress shoes that I owned. They were bought for me a few months before when I was asked to sing at a wedding. The white leather was needed to match the outfits of the groomsmen. There was also a typical early 70’s far too wide of a white tie to match. I didn’t own a suit per se. I wore stylish clothes, but suits were not my thing. But I did wear a blue sport coat along with a pair of polyester pants. They could have been Johnny Carson knock-offs. My hair was almost to my shoulders by then, but clean and blown dry. Second, I remember very vividly slow-dancing to the live band doing an excellent job on Chicago’s “Colour My World”. Now, for the more important observations regarding that piggy bank.

            That piggy bank could in some ways be a metaphor for life. It was once new. The first coins put into it made a happy pinging sound and then later would make a contented full sound. As time went by, I learned to fill the bank with more valuable coins. As I have grown older, and I hope the same is true for you, I have learned to fill my life with more valuable insights and experiences. I’ve learned to let the pennies and nickels pass through and to hold onto the dimes and quarters of life. Heck, there’s even been a few half dollars and silver dollars added along the way. I have also learned that sometimes we get broken in order to fulfill an important need. The good news is we don’t have to stay broken like Piggy did. We can reassemble, via our own perseverance and via God’s will, and are often much better afterwards. Perhaps one of the greatest things that we can accumulate in ourselves over time is wisdom. As George Harrison sang in The Beatles classic song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “With every mistake we must surely be learning.” I’d like to believe that I have learned from my mistakes along the way.

            There are worse things that we can be compared to than a glass piggy bank. I think you can agree with me on that. I know that along the way there have been some people who just didn’t like me, and they would compare me to some rather crude things in life. So, if you are compared to a glass piggy bank, then don’t be insulted. It’s a compliment. Of course, you will need to be sure and not let yourself become a pile of broken glass. You can be put back together with the right attitude. Here’s an idea. Go buy yourself a glass piggy bank and keep it around as visual inspiration. Someone worked hard to make that bank just as God, you, and all of the people in your life have worked hard to make you. Drop a quarter in the bank from time to time as you learn something new and worthwhile that adds to your life.


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