Stylized line drawing of mark playing the flute

The worst thing you could be in the 80's was poor

When I was kid in the 80's, everything was about social class.

Every movie was rich kids versus poor kids. Or every TV show was the poor kid dropped into the rich family.

Maybe its still the same now. I'm not in the loop anymore.

All the insults in school centered around poverty.

The worst thing you could call someone was a scrounge. You're so poor, you can't even buy stuff. You have to scrounge for it.

Or telling someone their mom shopped at K-mart. That shirt is stupid. Did your mom get it at K-mart? That looks like a blue-light special shirt.

And heaven forbid if you wore something homemade. The worst I ever got teased in middle school was when I got caught wearing a pair of homemade shorts. I loved those shorts and I thought they were they coolest thing ever. But I never wore them again after that.

I think about all the kids I knew growing up in Redding, CA who were poor. I didn't realize so much then. When you're a kid, you don't put the pieces together. But I see it now, looking back.

There was the brother and sister who lived in the little red houses on Cedar Dr. near Highway 273. The bus would stop right in front of their ratty little houses. They always looked pale and unkempt, like they hadnt slept in ages. I loved it when they were on the bus or together and at recess because itd take the focus off me for a while.

There was a big group of kids who got picked up outside the Capri Motel on Westside Rd. I'm certain at least some of them lived there.

I took the bus to Red Bluff, CA for high school. An hour ride with stops all along the way.

There was a girl who got on at the Jellys Ferry Rd stop, just off I-5. People would refuse to sit with her because she smelled bad. Now I think, its because she lived somewhere that didn't have running water. She only lasted a few months at school and then disappeared.

I was a lucky kid. We werent super rich or super poor. Solid middle-class. OK, maybe upper-middle compared to a lot of people in this town. My parents both worked full time and they worked hard. We didn't have a lavish life but I never suffered. We were happy.

And I did a lot of shitty things as a kid but I always let that girl sit with me.