Childhood and class

The thread on class and details got me thinking about something I’ve often heard. People say they were poor/rich growing up and didn’t know it. Rich people claim, they thought everyone had X as a child. Poor people usually claim they though they were middle class. I usually hear the two extremes. Never really hear middle class opinions on it. So, as a child were you aware that your family was poor, middle class, or rich?

Poll coming.

I don’t know whether I was aware of “class” as such, or would have used the words “middle class” to describe myself or my family, but I knew we weren’t rich and I knew we weren’t poor. Then again, if any of my acquaintances (like the other kids I went to school with) were rich, or poor, I wasn’t really aware of it. We were all just people.

Is income the only thing that counts as “poor” or “middle class” or “upper class”? Because for instance HP Lovecraft had low income but undoubtedly he was a member of the upper class as seen by his heritage, cultured manner, intelligence, and demeanour.

Can’t answer, or “other.”

My family growing up was poor enough for mny years that toilet paper and indoor plumbing were luxuries and there were times we ate chicken feed - OTOH, we were all very well-educated, never on public assistance, never in trouble with the law.

Define middle, lower and “rich” “class.”

I always assumed we were the upper end of middle class. The really rich people lived in places like Greenwich and Wilton while the poor people lived in Bridgeport and Stratford.

I always like referring to excerpts from the You Know You’re From Fairfield County, CT Facebook group. It sort of speaks to things people in my town and the towns around us considered “normal” growing up (I’ve also added some comentary):

You have hiked up a golf course at least once to get to a keg party.
You party on the beach of Long Island Sound.
Obviously many towns cannot afford golf courses or real estate near the water.
You have deer in your backyard.
Your family owns more than one house.
Most familes own one, or none.
At least one parent works in New York City. They take the train.
Implies that parent works on Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Silicon Alley or some law, consulting or other high paying job that justifies an hour an a half commute.
You know the crucial difference between SoNo and SoHo.
Cultural thing South Norwalk, CT, SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
Your high school has won the State Championship in soccer and/or lacrosse several years in a row.
Soccer, lacrosse, rugby and pretty much any sport other than football, basketball, baseball and track are considered “affluent white people sports”
You have taken riding lessons at the towns Riding Club.
Not a lot of equestrians in the hood
In high school you drank outside, regularly.
You still don’t understand why people say that Connecticut is the richest state.
I still don’t.
You have at least 10 friends who drive Jeeps.
Not true. Some had Beemers, Audis, etc.Anybody asks, you’re from just outside of New York.
You’ve never looked at a public bus schedule. You would also never get on one.
Ew…don’t you have any friends with Jeeps?
You know girls and guys that have the same names.
You don’s see a lot of Chris, Brett, Tylor, Morgan, Alex, Jordan or Jaime in the hood.
You think Bridgeport is the worst ghetto you’ve ever seen.
Until I saw Newark, NJ.
You spend the summer on Cape Cod, in Nantucket or Marthas Vineyard.
Poor people don’t “spend the summer” anywhere.
When you go to a real city, you sincerely feel bad for the poor/homeless people.
The cars in your high school’s parking lot were worth more than your high school.
You were pissed that your sixteenth birthday car was a new sedan instead of an SUV.
Man was I ever.
You never really went on a “real date” in high school.
This I saw more in college. It’s sort of a “affluent white thing” not to go on “real dates”. Kids meet up in groups at some booze party and then couple off to hook up. Then they pretend like they don’t know each other the next morning.You know what Okemo is (and you or a friend owns a house there).
We just rented, and it was in Quechee.
You grew up wondering where the old cars in the parking lot at the grocery store came from.
I assumed they were abandoned there in the 70s.
You found it easy to drink college seniors under the table within the first week of college.
You know how to play Beruit, and how it differs from Beer Pong.
Excessive drinking, minor drug use, beer games, fraternities, etc are all part of affluent white people culture.
You don’t have an accent.
That accent you hear is me speaking perfect English. Connecticut makes Midwesterners sound like provincial rubes.
You have more than one country club in your town.
Your high school sent more than 10 kids to Boston College.
Not a cheap school.
You consider Fairfield County and the rest of Connecticut two different states.
Would YOU want to be in the same state as Wallingford?

You don’t see a lot of Jaimes in the hood?

Heh, I didn’t know we were poor until I went to high school. We (my parents, 4 bros, and I) lived in about 1000 sq ft, 1 bathroom, and sometimes grandma lived with us. We did many, many veggie meals (except for dad). Don’t even get me talking about kidney pie and 1/2 milk and 1/milk powder and water, urk. But I thought we were rich at the time because my friends were almost all worse off.

My best friend lived in the same size house and had 17 brothers and sisters. Another friend had 11 sibs in the same house but they had an additional 1/2 bathroom. Another friend’s Dad never finished the attic she shared with her sisters. Their ceiling was rafters and their floor was joists with pick fluff in between them. They walked on 2 x 4’s over the joists to their beds.

So yeah, I felt rich.

Middle-class & unaware (or at least not so “aware” that it colored my friendships across “class” lines).

We lived in the “middle class” section of a development that had 3 distinct sections - upper (“professional” people (my dentist, lawyers, etc) with in-ground pools, Cadillacs & the occasional Lincoln, big-arsed color TVs (I was born in 1961), etc. Middle was us - accountants (my dad), white collar guys, policemen, etc. The 3rd section would be blue-collar, but not what I would call lower class. I lived in a house with a driveway and a big yard.

My SO grew up poor - in half a double with no car and a dad who worked in a factory. To him, anyone with a car was upper-class, and if you had a stand-alone house, well, you were aristocracy. We still have some uncomfortable moments about different things that we were used to growing up - it’s been a learning experience.


I grew up in a small enough town that I quite possibly never encountered any truly lower or truly upper class people.

We were poor and hell yes I knew it.

We were poor and we knew it. I think it mostly came down to the fact that we knew we had second-hand clothes and we never had many toys or cable TV. It was easy to tell that we went without being that other kids told us we did.

We did become middle class about the time I was 12. My dad worked at Ford and was laid off twice in my first 12 years.

We weren’t poor - I’d have described my family as working class, rather than poor. We certainly weren’t middle class. Both my parents worked, which was unusual for the times, but they were unskilled, so there wasn’t a lot of money to go around but I didn’t go hungry and I always had enough clothes to wear. I can’t say I ever felt very different from my classmates in terms of class.

I definitely knew we were poor. Welfare and food stamps, rental houses, eventually a trailer park. My mother received lots of help from middle-class family members, though, and despite being poor and living in a trailer, I always had back-to-school clothes, good Christmas mornings, good birthdays, school trips, bicycles, Boy Scout trips, and instruments to play in band. While the other trailer park kids were being hoodlums, I was working a paper route saving up for my Commodore 128.

We were poor and I knew it. We always had clean clothes and food, but the clothes were often bought at a literal bargain basement, and the meatloaf was mostly loaf and not so much meat. Our house was tiny until I was 12, and my dad drove an old Datsun beater. But as I got older my parents did better and thinks improved.

Like Balthisar, we always had good Christmas and Birthdays, and stuff like band instruments or books or school trips. The parents found a way.

I grew up rural working class. Not sure if that made us poor or middle class.

To explain a bit: Dad worked in the auto industry, decent union wages after a strike in '71. Mom was a SAHM most of my growing up. There were at times as many as five kids, the parents and one grandparent in an old, modest sized house with one bathroom. We didn’t go fancy places on vacation, but we did travel. Us kids wore hand-me-down, yard sale, homemade and thrift store clothing when we weren’t wearing school uniforms. Yes, there was enough money to send us to parochial school through eighth grade. Three of six have a bachelors, two have masters, one (me) dropped out of college after two years, one had a tech school diploma and one was educated in the US Army. We usually had at minimum, a late model vehicle and an older one (more vehicles when teen drivers were added).

In retirement, the folks still live in the old house, still tend to wear out their posessions and in general, don’t live fancy. But. They have a healthy savings, own a number of rental properties, own a one year old vehicle and if their health still permitted, would still travel quite a bit.

In the area where I grew up, a lot of the folks who had considerable money weren’t flashy with it. They lived in nice, but not fancy houses, drove Buicks, Chevys and Fords and cut their own grass. Unless you were really poor, class differences weren’t very obvious. So I voted other.

Middle class and certainly knew it.

When I was in forth grade I was involved in desegregation efforts in Louisville. That meant that the poor kids started coming to our school (a lot of white poor kids, btw). So it was pretty obvious we weren’t poor.

But I had cousins who weren’t rich, but knew rich people who took their family skiing in Colorado. Someone who takes another family on vacation is usually pretty darn well off. I knew that not only were we not taking other people skiing in Aspen, we couldn’t afford to go skiing at all. Ergo, we weren’t rich.

We were middle class and I knew it. I knew we weren’t poor because we went on a yearly vacation and we had cable and I had a shit-ton of toys.

I learned just how far away from rich we were when I went to college and met the kids of some really rich people. I could never understand the attitude of a kid who was flunking out of school and didn’t give a shit because his father would just give him a job in the family business. That was rich.

I still don’t know what we would be considered growing up. I would guess middle class. My father was a construction supervisor, my mother was a housewife. We went to Catholic schools and lived in the biggest house in town, but it was a big old mansion with only one bathroom (but four bedrooms, a nursery and maid’s quarters). We wore hand-me-down clothes and my parents never had a new car. We didn’t have piano lessons but we had exchange students live with us, because my parents thought it was important to experience other cultures. We didn’t go away on vacation or go to any theme parks, but we had a cottage in northern Michigan (everyone in Michigan has a cottage on the lake). Life in small-town Michigan.


I think money. More living conditions. The area you live in and house.

It’s hard to define. I think money goes further in some areas than others. Rough defintions would be:

Poor: Not enough to get by on, even if parent(s) worked.

Middle class: decent home, some extras. All the basics.

Rich: Multiple homes and many luxury goods. (I’m defining luxury items as things one doesn’t need.) Not counting all having all the basics.