Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Worldly Adventures of a Teenage Tycoon (Book)

image(1956)
By Roger W. Eddy

Back in the day, there was a small subgenre of books where people reminisced about their childhood, replete with humorous stories. Cheaper by the Dozen is probably the best known and there were others that were often seen as fodder for what would now be called YA books. I read several, but the one that sticks in my mind was Roger W. Eddy’s The Worldly Adventures of a Teenage Tycoon.

The book was abridged from a longer work, The Bulls and the Bees. Evidently, the adult version had some passages about how Roger learned about sex from the animals in the farm where he lived.  This was obviously unsuited for teens in the 1950s, but the rest made some good reading.

It was filled with anecdotes. Roger’s father was a stockbroker in the 1920s in addition to living on the farm.  The one that sticks in my mind was the one that gave the book its name.

Roger developed a liking for stocks.  Not as investments, but for the stock certificates themselves.*

And, indeed, there is much to like. Certificates were intricately engraved, much like currency, and featured elaborate artwork representing Progress and the company’s mission. Roger would pore over them, admiring the mottos and art. So he began buying them.

He had $1 a month to spend, so would pick out stocks that fit in that budget for his father to buy.**  Over the years, he had papered his bedroom with them.

Then came the stock market crash.  Roger describes the scene that night as his father came into his room and started ripping his beautiful certificates off the walls and into shreds, bemoaning the fact that they were worthless.  Roger knew better than to stop him, but couldn’t understand what was going on.  Didn’t they look as good as they ever did?***

The book was a nice, ironic look at growing up in the 1920s, that doesn’t sentimentalize the era.

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*Today the hobby is called scripophily.

**Probably commission free.

***As an aside, if you find an old stock certificate, don’t throw it out.  It may be worth something to collectors. And it may actually still be worth cash: the company may have been swallowed up in a merger (or several) and it descendant company could still be around. The certificates don’t expire, so long as any portion of the original company exists, you can cash it it. When I worked at a brokerage, we had one person whose job it was to track these down and figure out what they were worth. It gets complex to calculate the value with all the various splits and mergers over the years.

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