This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News, July 2, 1922
Three Dayton Bankers Tell: “How I Earned My First Dollar”
By Howard Burba
INSET: Things to Teach Your Boy ---
That it is easier to earn money today than it was when you were his age.
That it is far more necessary to save now than it was when business competition was not so great.
That most of the large fortunes in this country were started on savings of a dollar or two.
That the first hundred dollars is harder to save than the first thousand.
That the successful business man of tomorrow is the boy who is learning to save his money today.
That the road which leads to the savings bank runs in an opposite direction to the one which leads to the poor house.
Ordinarily you wouldn’t expect a man who has handled millions of dollars, mixing other people’s money with his own to be able to recall just how he made his first dollar. Considering their busy lives in offices where the ring of silver and gold almost drowns out the ordinary conversation, and where men are lugging in bundles of money faster than other men can lug it out, no charge of impaired memory could be made against the bank president who could not recall off-hand and on the spur of the moment just how his first dollar came to him. And yet, surrounded by money, living with money and talking little else save money – every one of Dayton’s bank presidents can tell you how he earned his first dollar almost as quickly as he can tell the time of day.
Think you that the recital of a few instances will prove dull reading? Then prepare for a genuine surprise. Read on, and be benefitted by the advice, gained through the school of experience, of three of the Miami Valley’s best-known bank presidents.
“It used to get on my father’s nerves, my continuously bobbing up with a request for a dime or a quarter.” Said Valentine Winters, head of the banking institution which bears the family name and which has for more than a half-century been an institution in mid-west financial circles. “Fact is, it grew to be a sort of habit with me, and eventually I decided that while it might not be as easy to earn a quarter as it was to beg it, I’d appreciate the money far more if I secured it through the former channel. “I had a little old printing press, capable of printing a form about the size of a postcard, and I decided to make this the medium through which my future funds would come. So I approached my father with a request for a job of printing, explaining at the same time that I had decided it would be best to earn the money, and quit annoying him every time I felt the need of a nickel or a dime – and that was a frequent. He explained that he could only pay me for whatever printing I did at the same rate he paid regular printers, and he offered me an order for 5000 deposit slips at a dollar a thousand.
“If readers of The News can form any conception of the speed – or lack of it – of a toy hand-press and take out the sheet. All the job I had bitten off for myself. First it was necessary to ink the form, then lay down the roller; then pick up a sheet and insert it in the press and take out the sheet. All of these operations were required to print one single deposit ticket. Think of printing the staggering number of 5000 by the same slow process – and at the rate of a dollar a thousand!
“But I accepted the job, and with high hopes, set about it. For weeks and weeks I labored, and finally I had the entire 5000 off and ready for delivery. And then came a situation which almost wrecked my youthful career as a printer – the bank refused the job.
“I had used the cheapest kind of ‘news’ ink on the job, and had piled the deposit slips one on another until they had ‘offset’ so that it was almost impossible to tell which side of the paper I had tried to print them on. It was worse than awful. But father paid the bill, rather than have an enemy of the bank right in his own family – and as far as I can recall that is the first and last job I ever printed for that or any other institution. Later I became quite efficient in the printing art, and with a larger press published for a considerable time an amateur paper called “Young America,” which enjoyed quite an extensive circulation, chiefly among members of the several amateur press associations then in existence.
“The boy of today has many more opportunities to earn than the boy of the days I refer to. The need for spending money appears greater now, since there are more attractions than boys used to have, and yet I can’t feel that the present-day boy is really as anxious to earn as they were back twenty, thirty or forty years ago. It is hard to get them to realize that each year finds increased reasons for saving. Each year finds it more and more difficult for those to exist who do not work and save.”
Born on a farm, and a mighty good farm, but early in life determined to master a business which apparently offered greater opportunities, Harry H. Darst, president of The City National Bank, earned his first salary dollar as clerk in a Dayton shoe store. He was on the payroll for $3 a week, and when the opportunity offered to increase this to $30 a month as an attaché of the Valentine theater in Toledo, he lost no time in making the change.
“Since I first began to earn,” Harry Darst said yesterday, “I have kept a diary, or a sort of budget, and I can go back to those early days in Toledo and show where I saved at least $15 a month out of my $30 a month salary. Three-cent restaurants were numerous then, and they got the bulk of my business. I could get what they called a ‘line’ for eleven cents. That consisted of a piece of roast beef, potatoes, bread, butter and coffee. Sometimes the boss would want me to be at the theater earlier in the evening than usual, and he would give me a quarter with which to get my supper. I could always save a dime out of that. In those old diaries I could show how every cent was expended, and nothing has been worth more to me in after life than this early practice of saving a little out of every little bit I earned.
“The opportunities for earning are far greater today than they were then. Boys have many more ways in which to earn money, and they can earn more for the same amount of work. No one expects to secure a clerk these days for $3 a week, and $30 is not recognized as a month’s wages. True, there are so many more things to tempt money out of the pocket now that it makes it harder for the average boy to save. But even with this condition there is no excuse for him to spend all he earns.
“The farm boy has a wonderful opportunity to earn by raising a pig or a calf, or marketing for himself of the products of a farm which his parents deem too trivial to devote their time to. Every farm boy has ways of making money the city boy knows nothing of. And the same holds good with the boy who lives in town. I’ve never yet seen a boy who wanted to work but who could find something to do. But unless he learns very early to take care of a part of every dollar he earns, he is working at unusual odds. Never before has the necessity for saving, for thrift, been so great as now. Today a man to be successful in business must have money, or an established credit, which is equivalent. It is harder to live without money these days than it was in the days of our fathers and grandfathers. It is going to be still harder when the boys of today have grown to manhood. And parents can do no better thing than point out this fact to their boys and girls.”
“Maybe the boy of today has more ways of procuring his fun than I had when I was a boy, but I’ll bet him my position he isn’t having any more fun than I did.”
That’s how William R. Craven, president of The Dayton Savings and Trust Company compares boyhood of 3- years ago with boyhood of now. Mr. Craven, still a boy at heart, leaned back in his big office chair and in a single instant had, in memory, slipped back to the days when a boy could swim without the handicap of a bathing suit and play ball without fear of being chased off the lot by an over-zealous policeman. He refused to believe that the lure of the movie ever will prove a s great as that of the lamented John Robinson’s “Ten Big Shows Combined;” and neither would he admit that a 25 cent nut sundae tasted any sweeter or touched the right spot any quicker than a five-cent soda water in days before they had even progressed to the point of dropping a bit of ice cream into it. He smiled as he thought back to the sixth grade, and said:
“Miss Bennett was my teacher. Later she married J.W. Johnson, now conducting a printing establishment of Jefferson St. Miss Bennett’s mother conducted a millinery store at Fourth and Main, on the site of the present Reibold building. When vacation came Miss Bennett was instrumental in landing me a place as errand boy in her mother’s millinery story, at $2 a week. In this way I earned my first dollar. I worked eight weeks, and saved every cent of my wages. Then I took the $16 and bought something useful – I bought a good watch. Always after that, when I earned a dollar, I either saved a part of it, or bought something that was serviceable. Somehow, I couldn’t from the start see anything to spending money simply because I had it and it was mine.”
Mr. Craven, as head of a great institution devoted solely to savings, has for several years been in position to compare the thrift of the boy of today with those of his own youth. He believes boys are as eager to work and earn money now as they were then, but that apparently there is not the disposition to hold on to it. For a boy to ask his father for more than a nickel was a pretty ticklish operation back in the days of his youth. Mr. Craven declares. Today, he says, it is not unusual to hear a boy “touching” his father for five or ten dollars.
“Money is easier to get now,” he said in closing his conversation. “And saving is easier once you get started. The man trouble with the youth of today is he thinks he has to have a goodly sum before he can start saving. Our greatest difficulty is to convince him that some of the biggest fortunes in the land were started on an original saving of sums as low as a dollar. Once he sees that dollar grow to two dollars, and the two dollars grow to four he is safe from a savings standpoint. He has had a concrete, first-hand example of the power of small savings – and he is on the right road – the road that leads in the opposite direction to the poor house.”