Growing up were you poor, working class, middle class, rich?

Inspired by the thread Hollywood’s idea of being poor over at Cafe Society. It seems people’s idea of what growing up poor means can vary incredibly.

Me, I grew up poor. I lived with my grandparents (my mother died when I was a pre-schooler, my dad an unreliable drunk) in a tenement in The Bronx across the street from two abandoned brick-filled lots where we used to play. The apartment had 4 bedrooms, however there were 11 of us living in it. The only breadwinner was my grandfather, who was a dockworker until he died in a car crash when I was 11.

Luckily(?) by that time there were only 5 of us left in the household. I have no idea how my grandmother paid bills.

There were times when we sat huddled together in the living room in coats under a blanket because there was no heat. There were times when the lights when out. There were times when we had no phone. Hand me downs were a fact of life.

We were never hungry but I do remember my grandmother showing us how, when she was young, she ate this delightful treat of lightly buttered bread sprinkled with sugar. And it was delightful if a but crunchy. Me and my youngest aunt also perfected the home made potato chip-- the trick was to use the potato peeler and not a knife to cut the potato.

I know we were poor because when we filled out the school lunch forms, we were always underneath the lowest income bracket.

By the time I graduated high school me, my grandmother and my youngest aunt were living in a two family house my two oldest aunts and one husband purchased in the Parkchester section of The Bronx. We were by then lower middle-class, I guess.

Middle class.

Both of my parents worked for General Foods and thanks to a strong union and strong economy they were both pretty well paid. I rode horses and my brother raced motorcycles and we traveled every summer for the three week plant shutdown. It was usually camping and driving but we saw most of North America during my childhood.

They divorced when I was 10 but other than a smaller house I didn’t notice any real difference in our lifestyle.

My parents were working class (no college, semi-manual or retail labor), but we lived in a middle class neighborhood. I’m not sure how my parents managed to buy the house they did, or what sacrifices they made to get my brother and me into the best school district they could. We never had much cash, and I certainly remember times when the phone was off, or we “forgot” to put the trash out for pickup (because we’d been cut off); but there was always food on the table.

If you had told me this while I was growing up, I’da called you rich. Horses and motorcycles and yearly vacations? Wow!

Of course now I can see that this is pretty much middle class.

My mother had primary custody, so I’ll go with that.

Poor. Get food from the women’s organization poor. Sometimes not have heat poor. We’d put our clothes in the dryer for warmth. One pair of jeans from Wal-Mart poor. Collect cans to get lunch poor. So poor I never learned how to cook. Macaroni and sandwhiches were our staples, but we didn’t have the good stuff. Cheap white bread. Peanut butter because jelly was expensive. A rental house with two bedrooms and my mom slept on the couch.
(We eventually moved to a three bedroom - the upstairs was a bedroom in itself.) Slept on a mattress on the floor.

She married (b/c she couldn’t pay her rent anymore) and we moved up from ‘poor’ to ‘very low run of middle class’. Her new husband’s father had just died and left him and his brother a little house in the boonies. One bedroom cabin. 4 people. We had to get creative. And then my brother was born in 2000. Heh! So he got a small mortgage to cover it and another refinance later. I still had to cover my own expenses, though - paid for my own clothes, school lunch, car, gas, insurance, etc. in high school. He was a roofer who was unemployed part of the year. When I was growing up, my mother had the following jobs: pest control, housecleaning, babysitting (that didn’t last long), working in a nursing home and FINALLY she went back to school and is a paramedic.

Poor. We lived in a trailer park with Mom (Dad hauled ass early and didn’t pay child support). I remember “soup over bread” as a favorite meal. Recipe: one can Campbells’ Chunky Soup, three slices of bread. Serves three.

However, my mom’s parents were middle class. They paid for us to go to a private Christian school and we spent a lot of time at their nice house.

A little of everything. My Mom had me as a single parent while attending engineering school, so we were a recipient of ADC and Medicaid. I do recall one of the games we played was smashing cockroaches with our shoes. My Mom fed me cheese because she couldn’t afford meat. That was poor. I had enough family members who cared to never go hungry or want for things like clothes and other basic necessities.

Once my Mom got a job when I was about 7, we were more normal middle class. She quit her job after only a few years, however, because she hated the culture. Then she remarried and took over a small business with her new husband. There were good years and there were lean years, I know we were living under the poverty threshhold in a very small house, but we also had some nice toys, so it was kind of inconsistent.

If I had to put my childhood into one category I would say working class. Yes, my Mom is well-educated but we grew up with a very working class mentality, and most people in my family are working class.

Poor and working class. Lived on a farm with questionable utilities but that was more due to them always breaking than to not being able to pay for them. Burned wood for heat but we always managed to find a supply somewhere. Constantly switched between free school lunches and merely subsidized school lunches depending on our fortunes.

I’d say “upper middle class.” My mother came from a very wealthy family, and my father’s people were literally peasants (that’s what it says on his grandparents’ Russian wedding certificate: “peasant!”).

I grew up in an old-money area, and we were were rather outsiders, being a) Jewish, b) immigrants (only in the country 100 years or so) and, c) my mother worked. This was actually great for me, as I grew up knowing “the rules,” but also knowing I was never going to be “one of their kind, dear,” so I never took it at all seriously and just had fun with it.

That’s pretty solidly upper middle class, there…
Myself, I would say we were working class until I was in mid-grade school, and then middle class after that.

I’d say low middle class. My dad was a deputy sheriff of the County of Los Angeles and my mom a housewife. I think early on there were money troubles, as I remember mom got a job as yard matron at a grade school, but we kids weren’t told about family finances.

Yeah, we ate Depression-era cooking (even though this was the 1960s), and our vacations were a bit of camping in tents and driving around in the old beater Ford station wagon.

Middle class. My parents both had college degrees, we had a three bedroom house for our family of four, my dad worked as an electrical engineer, I didn’t have every single thing I ever wanted, but I certainly never went without anything important, and they paid cash for my brother and me to go to private colleges.

The area we lived was definitely more blue collar with lots of poor kids bused in. I’m still regularly astonished by the privilege I see where I live now.

Working class. My dad worked for Ford but as an unskilled laborer and he was laid off the first 5 years of my life. Mom worked a tiny bit but mostly she wanted to raise her two kids so she stayed home and he split wood, laid asphalt, delivered cars and drove a bread truck.

He went back to work eventually, with spates of being laid off. By my teens dad had gone to trade school and moved up to skilled trade at Ford and mom moved from school lunch lady to school secretary.

So by the time I went to college we were comfortably middle class, but with my parents having 20 years of lower middle class sensibilities under their belts.

Very poor. We had no money for anything. Like $5 was a big deal to us. I lived with my dad, and he didn’t work. So we had foodstamps, section 8, no car. . I remember one time we went without electricity for 2 weeks. When we did have a car, we never had gas money. I remember once we had to buy 10 cents worth of gas, cuz that was all we had.

Both sets of grandparents were rich, rich. The grandfathers both received mail addressed to: Surname, Esq.

My parents were both only children and both graduated university (1950). Mom was a stay-at-home; Dad was an engineer, so our perceived wealth came from the graces of the grandparents.

We had too many clothes for our closets. We took family trips and the kids had skating, ballet, horseback riding, etc. Three out of four of us went to boarding schools and three out of four went to Europe as part of their education.

We didn’t have everything our little hearts desired because our parents valued hard work. We did however go to some pretty fancy resorts and had memberships at some nice clubs.

It was a handicap in some respects as we always understood money would be handed down to us - so a couple of my siblings failed to create a livelihood of their own.

Middle class for most of it, then after my parents divorced when I was 8 a bit lower. Post-divorce Dad paid the private school tuition but Mom paid for everything else (of which there was precious little). All the academic advantages of middle class, none of the fun stuff.

But we never wanted for anything we actually needed.

Plain old middle class: house, car (two cars beginning when I was about 10). We hit Disneyworld three or four times and visited my dad’s aunt in a cottage in Michigan for family vacations, and that’s about it. Dad managed the medical lab at a hospital and mum dabbled in starting her own business, but sold it after a few years.

I didn’t really know about class as a kid: some people lived in rental units; some people lived in small houses; some people lived in big houses. I was probably 14, or so, before I started to connect the dots. I hung out with everyone though and didn’t really care. Still don’t.

We were solidly middle class. And my situation was sort of the opposite of Eve’s: our extended family and community was working class so we were better off than many of the people we knew.

Solidly middle class. My mom grew up working class (her dad worked, mom did not, they struggled) and my dad grew up poor (he was literally farmed out at 12, had to quit school). By the time they adopted me, Dad was a manager at a local auto parts store. They had bought their first home 10 years prior, when my sister was born. My grandparents had a cabin - that’s where we spent all vacations.

Mom went back to work when I was 7, pretty much doubling the household income. I was in dance, had private music lessons, was in many musical activities, and they bought their own cabin when I was 9.

However, my Dad was 60 when he bought his first new vehicle. We went on one “real” vacation, ever. I never had the “cool” clothes, there was no school shopping for me (well, there was one time when my mom and I splurged at Daytons, and my dad had a conniption. I loved my penny loafers and Jordache jeans, though).

Pretty poor most of my life, lower-middle class as I got in my late teens.