Tag Archives: money problems

Minnie the Meanie [1982]

We’re heading towards that time of year to be extra-generous to people while spending up large on gifts, holidays and other treats. But here’s a cautionary tale from Judy not to take either one to extremes. The consequences can be just as damaging as for the other extreme that we always hear about at Christmas – Scrooge. As the parents in this story found out, not even a pools win is a limitless amount of money for spending.

Published: Judy: #1153 (13 February 1982) to #1166 (15 May 1982)
Reprinted – Judy: #1564 (30 December 1989) to #1577 (31 March 1990)

Episodes: 14

Artist: Unknown artist – “Merry”

Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Hard Times for Helen

Plot

Minnie Mill and her family live in a shabby house in Badger Street. Then they win £300,000 on the pools.

Unfortunately Mum and Dad let the whole new flush of money go to their heads and turn into super-spendthrifts. They go crazy on buying new things right, left and centre. They treat the money as if it will never cease to end and begin to lose the meaning of its value. For example, when Dad receives a letter saying there’s a back payment from his old company he scorns it because it seems like chickenfeed to what he has now and can’t be bothered collecting it. Minnie is horrified at his attitude, and she collects it herself because someone around here has to be sensible. They give no thought to investment or long-term planning at all, despite the offer – and warning – from the pools representative.

The worst of it is that Mum is a good-natured woman with a heart of gold, so it is an all-too-easy matter for the money to turn her generosity into over-generosity. Dad is just the same. And Minnie is quick to realise why the residents of Badger Street who previously took little notice of them are suddenly crowding around to be nice and friendly – they are out to take advantage of the money and the parents’ generosity. Dad soon has a well-earned reputation for spending and giving away huge handfuls of money as if it were nothing and people say he’ll give away his last penny.

Minnie is also finding that kids are taking advantage of her as well and pretending to be friendly while finding ways to cheat her out of huge sums of money. Several of these tactics are really despicable. For example, one girl, Gladdie, appears to be genuine, so Minnie trusts her with £600 to pay her mother’s rent with. When she discovers the money has in fact gone into Gladdie’s bank account, she orders her to pay the money to charity – or else. Another girl, Ida, cons Minnie out of money that was supposed to go on replenishing her grandmother’s empty coal cellar. When Minnie finds out, she helps to replenish the cellar secretly. Even a girl who is far richer than Minnie cheats her out of money.

Minnie reckons she has no friends anymore; the ones she had have joined the bullies who shout “Minnie the Meanie!” at her. Only one girl, Rosie, seems to be a friend. But by now Minnie has been so badly burned she just can’t trust anyone.

Because of all this cadging and cheating, Minnie becomes afraid to display her generosity openly and with the gay abandon that the parents do. She resorts to doing it in secret, and where she sees it is going to a genuine cause, such as replenishing the grandmother’s coal supply or getting treatment for a sick dog.

Minnie also starts saving any money she can get her hands on (including Dad’s unwanted back payment) because she realises their money will run out because of their careless spending, and a reserve will be required for when this happens. This and not displaying her generosity openly give the impression that she is turning into a miser, a reputation she believes she must cultivate in order to protect her parents’ money as best she can. The people of Badger Street start to bully and jeer at her, calling her “Minnie the Meanie!” in the street. This causes misunderstandings with her parents, who think she is turning into a miser too. So they don’t listen when she tries to tell them that people are taking advantage of them. They just brush it off because they have lots of money anyway, so what’s the big deal?

At first the parents dismiss warning signs that they are spending too much. Dad laughs and says there’s still plenty left. They buy over a house next door (and make an overinflated offer for it!) so they can add it to their own and develop their residence in accordance with how they are rising up the social scale. Once the redevelopment is complete, Mum throws out the furnishings they only just bought when the money first arrived and buys whole new ones!

Ironically, the parents don’t even approve of Minnie saving money instead of spending it as they do and think it’s just more of her miserliness. This attitude gets really bizarre. For example, when they find out what Minnie did with the back payment, what angers them is that she saved the money instead of spending it! They are far less bothered about her taking the money herself.

Minnie’s saving causes other problems too. For example, she goes on a shopping spree, and then returns the gifts for money, which gets banked. Nasty Ella Stevens finds out and starts blackmailing her. To get Ella off her back, Minnie tells the folks herself. She then teaches Ella a lesson by compelling her to donate £20 to the Youth Club Roof Fund.

One day Dad comes in looking awfully worried. He does not say what is wrong, but Minnie guesses that Dad is paying more heed to warning signals that the money is running out. Indeed, he now becomes more wary about spending money. Strangely, Dad would still much rather have Minnie spending than saving, which she steps up of course. Meanwhile, Mum pays no attention and continues with heedless spending.

Dad getting worried about the spending prompts nasty gossip from the neighbours that the parents are getting as mean as Minnie. Despite Minnie’s protests not to give in to such bullying, Mum tries to stop the gossip by lavishing even more generosity on them.

One of the worst cases of this is when Mum takes the residents of Badger Street on an outing that includes a funfair and an expensive lunch. Dad joins in Minnie’s protests that they are spending far more than necessary on the trip, what with buying snacks for the residents on top of the lunch and giving them all spending money at the fair. Mum just tells him that he’s getting as bad as Minnie and he gives in to keep the peace. Minnie secretly cancels the lunch and temporarily hides Dad’s wallet so he can’t treat the residents elsewhere, hoping their reaction will make the parents see sense. Their reaction is to accuse the parents of pulling cheap tricks despite the other treats they provided, stalk off to find a cuppa without including the Mills, and they show they care more about a free lunch than Dad getting his wallet nicked. Dad is outraged and disgusted at this, while Mum does not open her eyes at all. However, Minnie has new hope that Dad is beginning to see things her way.

Indeed, Dad starts quarrelling with Mum over her overspending while she says he’s just a big meanie like Minnie. Minnie cannot reason with her either. Dad groans when the latest bank statement arrives, and Minnie can guess why.

All too soon the inevitable happens because of Mum’s overspending. But by the time she learns this, it’s too late – her latest spending spree has not only eaten up the last of the money but also run up an additional £29,500 in bills to pay! So they are now in huge debt and there are angry creditors on the doorstep.

Fortunately Minnie managed to save enough to clear the debts, and there is even a bit left over. The parents now understand why Minnie was saving so hard. So the next time the bullies call Minnie a meanie, Mum gives them a real piece of her mind and tells them what Minnie did for them. After this they apologise to Minnie, admit they were just jealous and how horrible they were, and they also guess who the secret beneficiary was. Minnie gets her friends back and forgives their conduct. The other Badger Street residents rally around to help out once the word spreads (with a few gloating exceptions).

The parents have to find a new way to make ends meet. At Minnie’s suggestion, they use the two cars they have now and the remaining money to start a taxi business.

Thoughts

This story is so realistic because it draws on so many real-life stories that we hear about. People who go from rags to riches, only to end up in rags again. People who win vast fortunes – only to lose the lot within a few years because they handled the money badly, as the Mill parents did. People who come into a huge amount of money get taken advantage of by cadgers and false friends. Which is precisely the reason why some people who win the lotto prefer to stay quiet about it. Over-generous people losing huge amounts of money because they can’t stop giving – sometimes even when they can’t even afford to give – and cadgers taking advantage of them as well. People who found that huge wins turned sour for them and prove the old adage that money is not everything. All of it is revolving around in this story.

Through Minnie’s eyes, we see an exploration of greed and how it brings out the worst in people, even in people Minnie thought were her friends. Minnie always sees vultures swooping in on what the parents have to give away and cadgers dropping in to take advantage with sob stories and such. She also sees jealousy in people when they’re not grasping, such as nasty gossips. Jealousy is clearly behind all their nastiness towards Minnie as they were whispering she was turning into a miser well before she started on her so-called miserly conduct. At the party to celebrate the win they are gossiping that she is a miser just because she doesn’t look so happy; in fact it’s because she already suspects their cadging.

While the residents of Badger Street say Mrs Mill has a heart of gold, they do not reciprocate it in any way or show any gratitude for the things the Mill parents do for them. They don’t even give the Mill family a cup of flour when they ask for one or offer to help out when Dad loses his wallet. All they do is take, take, take from the Mill family now that they’re in the money, and they don’t give anything in return. They have a nerve calling Minnie a meanie when they are so mean themselves towards the Mill family and don’t show them any generosity. It’s not until the very end that they rediscover their kindness and give something back to the Mill family.

The story also comments on how a huge supply of money can get people to take things for granted. Dad laughs off the back payment because it looks nothing compared to his win. Mum throws out brand-new and expensive furnishings and thinks nothing of the expense of buying new ones. An expensive trolley goes when the vultures swoop on the old furnishings, but Mum dismisses it as no big deal (Dad is more horrified). Mum thinks little of a woman cadging off her because she’s got so much money anyway. The parents would never have thought that way in the days when they lived in shabby accommodation and Mum had to be a careful housekeeper because they did not have much money. Minnie never goes that way at all and is appalled at her parents’ attitude.

This story is no exception to girls’ serials where the protagonist has far more brains, common sense and perception than her parents. While the parents are so blithe to the cadging or shrug it off, Minnie can see right through it. Minnie gets victimised by the cadging too, but at least she rumbles the cadgers and does something about it wherever she can. Also, Minnie never catches the “buying disease” as her parents do and goes crazy on spending, so she is quick to realise where it is all going to lead. She is the only one to take active steps to prepare for that eventuality. Dad eventually heeds the warning signals about the impending doom, but he does not really do anything about it. He does worry and quarrels with his wife about overspending, but he does not actually tell the family what is going on or show them the bank statements. Nor did he put any remaining money into a reserve, as Minnie did.

Minnie is more assertive than many protagonists. So many of them, such as Helen Shaw from “Hard Times for Helen”, just suffer in silence and don’t speak out (until the end). But Minnie is not afraid to speak up. She constantly speaks parents about the cadging, even if they don’t listen. At times she even talks back at the cadgers and bullies.

And of course it’s all thanks to the protagonist that things do not turn out so badly for the parents in the end. If it had not been for Minnie, their stupidity, lack of foresight and heedless spending would have ruined them entirely and they would ended up even worse off than when they were to begin with. As it is, Minnie’s money and brains and Mum’s not-too-bad idea of buying a second car enable them to begin on a new business venture that keeps them from going right back to square one or even worse.

It’s a relief all around when the money goes, because it brought only trouble. But then, much of that was due to the parents handling the money badly and not heeding the advice of the pools representative. If the Mill parents get another chance at the pools, they will no doubt try to use the money more wisely.

Tara’s Treasure

  • Tara’s Treasure – Nikki: #87 (18 October 1986) – #99 (10 January 1987)
  • Art: Barrie Mitchell (?)

Plot

Tara Fleming is a shy girl, that struggles to make friends, this also isn’t helped by her strict parents insisting she comes home straight after school and concentrate on her schoolwork all the time. Her parents do reward her for doing well at school such as buying her a bike but as Tara hasn’t the courage to ask to bike with the others in her class she ends up going on her own. When she is biking one weekend and it starts to rain, she takes shelter in a old abandoned house and finds money stashed there.  At first she thinks she should take it to police, but then she decides there’s no harm in taking a little to buy some presents to make friends. She buys one of the girls in her class a cassette that she talked about and leaves it on her desk. Unfortunately she’s too shy to say it’s from her, so she decides to continue to buy gifts in secret until she has courage to tell everyone.

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Buying gifts for others doesn’t always work out, such as when she buys a teddy bear to replace the one Emma lost. The other girls tease her for such a babyish gift and Emma blames her friend Lucy, assuming she told people about her original teddy.  When Tara tries to buy a  top for Lee, she gets the last one available.  But Lee’s mother works in the shop and recognizes her so Tara knows she can’t give the top to Lee without revealing her secret. She buys Lee some trousers instead, Lee knows Tara got the top and the other girls have a laugh at her expense wondering where would a quiet, nerdy girl like her wear the top. Tara doesn’t even get to keep the top, as her own mother finds it and dumps it for something sensible (Seems a waste to go straight in the bin she could have at least tried to return it!).  It’s clear Tara’s parents really aren’t helping her, she isn’t allowed things that other girls her age like. When tries to watch pop charts, her father turns the tv off and tells her to read book instead, when she buys magazines to get fashion tips, her mother calls them rubbish and wants to bin them.  This means more topics at school she isn’t confident talking about.

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Tara still justifies her actions, spending the money as she is not spending it on herself. She fully believes when truth comes out everyone will be her friend. Although naive in this thinking, this is the first show of confidence she has had in herself. She is becoming more reliant on her secret gifts, at one point she considers talking to another quiet girl, Jenny, but instead tries to help her with a beauty contest her sister is entering. Two girls, Fern and Doreen decide to catch Ferndale fairy godmother, but ends up in a camera (that was a present) getting broken and they have a falling out. Tara then makes a mistake in trying to impress new sewing teacher getting her a gift, which leads to story of Ferndale Fairy Godmother getting out and this brings the attention of the  head. Now Tara is worried and actually begins to wonder where the money came from and whether it belongs to criminals.

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She decides to get rid of rest of money by returning it to the house. But after seeing Mary’s bike being run over by a car, she decides one more gift when she sees a second hand bike for sale. Although the person selling the bike looks familiar to her she doesn’t realize it’s the postman and he recognizes her.  Mary convinces the postman to tell her who paid for the bike and she goes to confronts Tara. Mary turns out to be a good friend to Tara after she breaks down and tells her everything. The money belonged to an old woman who didn’t trust banks. Although Mary would keep her secret, Tara knows its time to own up to everything. Her parents help pay back the money and also take responsibility for Tara’s desperate actions, as they acknowledge they have been too strict with her. Tara becomes sick with worry about going back to school, but Mary rallies the class around her and they also admit they could have made more effort to be friends.

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Thoughts

This has a similar lesson to recent post I Wish… in that money doesn’t solve all problems. Each episode show Tara picking a new classmate to buy a gift for, sometimes these work out sometimes they don’t, but what is more interesting is the development of why she is doing these things. Her parents are not intentionally unkind, but we see how overbearing they are for Tara. She hasn’t the confidence to speak up to her parents. When her father turns off tv and tells her to read a book, when her mother insists she will pick out what clothes she can buy, and that she will throw out rubbish magazines she doesn’t really argue back. She is grateful when they buy her bike for her hard work and she does love them and know they want the best for her, which again makes it more difficult for her to rebel.

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Tara does shows she has a good heart, although her intention is to make friends she is happy when the gifts work out and she makes people happy (equally she is upset when things go wrong for people). When she sees an old man get mugged she doesn’t hesitate to help him, which ends up with her losing the concert ticket she bought for a gift (she does get a new ticket from owner who saw what happened).  When she finds out the money belongs to an old lady that is in a home, she does the right thing and owns up.

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Tara can be misguided, naive and lacking confidence but is still a good person, she just needs the right support  She is a sympathetic character and we want things to work out for her in the end.

 

 

I Wish…

  • I Wish…. – Mandy PSL:  #194  (1994)

Plot

I wish 1Helen West is an optimistic kind girl who likes to help people. She is well known around her village as she helps out at youth club and does a paper round. At the end of her paper round she reads to an old lady Mrs Stone, as well as doing small jobs for her. When Mrs Stone asks her if she could have anything in the world what would she want, Helen again shows how appreciative she is of her life, she wants for nothing – she has loving parents, a good home and friends.  The one thing she does say is that she would like to make people’s wishes come true but she knows that’s a silly dream. Not long after this conversation Mrs Stone dies and surprises Helen by leaving her nearly half million pounds that will be distributed to those of Helen’s choosing anonymously through a solicitor, Mr Benson. She wanted to make Helen’s dream of being a fairy godmother come true.

The first wish to grant is clear to Helen, when the struggling youth club’s roof collapses. Helen not only pays for repairs but also buys new equipment for the club. But she is a bit worried that the “mystery benefactor”  catches the attention of local reporter Danny Lions. She continues doing her good work getting young Kevin Jones a mountain bike for his birthday, pensioners food parcels and paying for a girl Jenny  to go for life saving operation in America.  Then one of her wishes backfires as Kevin is knocked down by a car. Mrs Jones is upset, she knew he was too young for bike, and Helen feels terrible as she never thought that Mrs Jones had safety reasons for not getting Kevin a bike, it wasn’t just about money.

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Meanwhile Danny is  still persistent with his investigation. Due to his meddling the newspaper, hints that Major Vincent may be benefactor, as his granddaughter is a youth club member. This causes more drama as undeserving people try to wheedle money off the Major.  At this point Helen hears of genuine case when she gets talking to Tom Grayson’s mother. Tom had an accident and lost his job but when she sends a cheque his pride won’t allow him to take the money, and he is ashamed to think that his mother went begging even though she denies it. His refusal to accept help also upsets his wife and Helen is upset that another one of her “wishes” has caused more problems.

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Even when things go right like when Helen replaces a wedding dress that was burnt in a fire,  there are still others that aren’t happy as they  think it’s a frivolous expense.   Danny begins to get suspicious of Helen, after reporting on a 100 year old woman wanting to fly, and seeing Helen waving the woman off after the mystery benefactor has paid for flights. Yet another donation doesn’t go as planned when helping church repairs fund reach its target, the vicar is disappointed because the point was to bring community together. By now she is having doubts about whether to continue her work Mr Benson convinces her to give it another shot. Helen brings a family home from Australia for parents anniversary, only the other siblings are not so happy to see people they perceive to have abandoned their family turn up out of the blue. This is final straw for Helen and she decides to donate the rest of the money to set up a talking books library. Danny Lions is there to hear this reveal and unmasks her but other than some surprised people this doesn’t have a negative impact on Helen and she is relieved to no longer be “fairy godmother”.

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Thoughts

With the best of intentions, Helen sets out to help people, but unfortunately she doesn’t always put thought into the consequences. It is understandable as a 15 year old girl would not have the experience of an adult, so she wouldn’t think of safety concerns for a child on a bike or that a proud man may find charity insulting. Although somethings do go wrong, it’s not to diminish the things that go right, and all in all i think she does more good than bad.

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The biggest difficult for Helen is having such responsibility put upon her with little support.  She only has Mr Benson to confide in and at the same time she has added pressure of trying to keep her donations secret from a nosy reporter. Surprising that there isn’t much consequences for being revealed as the benefactor, perhaps because at that stage, Helen doesn’t have more money to give away, so won’t be pestered by people. Other than the youth club, we don’t see the reaction of people she helped, once the secret’s out. It would be safe to assume most would be grateful, or understanding if things didn’t turn out great.

There’s a nice build up to the story, it’s established what kind of person Helen is, it shows donations working out for the better before some turn out bad. We also have Danny snooping around and Helen trying to keep her secret to add more tension to the plot. It’s interesting that at the start of the story Mrs Stone tells Helen “Your kindness is worth all the money in the world”. This does prove to be the case, Helen is a good person, she doesn’t need money herself to make her happy and she discovers money may help  others but doesn’t solve all problems either.

Lucy’s Legacy

Plot

Lucy Dewhurst has been living in a children’s home since her parents’ deaths. She has been left with a huge legacy, but wants to be fostered for herself, not her money. However, each prospective foster family fails because of her legacy.

Notes

Appeared

  • Lucy’s Legacy –  Bunty: #2064 (02 August 1997) – #2072 (27 September 1997)

Grimm Street

Plot:

In 1934, when Cathy Collins’ father  died, she and her mother moved from their comfortable home to 13 Grimm Street, ip a poor part of town. Cathy’s one remaining joy was her piano, but she had to find money to keep up the payments on it. Cathy’s move also meant a change of school.

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Notes:

Appeared:

  • Grimm Street – Judy:  circa 843 (06 March 1976) – (?)

 

 

“I’ll Get That Part!”

Plot

Cassie Langford’s dad managed to pay her fees at the Jeanelle Stage School by working lots of overtime. But when his firm lost a contract, this was no longer possible. One day, Dad had even worse news, he was made redundant. Cassie felt obliged to keep taking commercials to earn money.

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Notes

  • Artist: John Armstrong

Appeared

  • “I’ll Get That Part!” – Nikki: #186 (10 October 1988) – #194 (5 November 1988)