Mom saw to it that my brother and I saved most of our massive ten dollar check each month, but she did allow me one luxury.
I was able to go to the Ben Franklin five and ten cent store on Will Rogers downtown each month to buy a new toy model car based on the latest and most luxurious cars built at the time. Was it to be a Grand Prix or an Impala SS409 this month?
All month, I dreamed of the toy car I would buy and frequently went to the store after running my route to study the new cars in stock.
As mentioned before, it seemed that Mr. Haddad suspected everyone of shoplifting and therefore always followed you around the store. Maybe right with you or an aisle away, he was always vigilant watching for sticky fingers.
Finally, the end of the month came and I was able to go to Ben Franklin and get the toy car of my choice, but after going home and checking up the collections, something was wrong. We checked up long $1.50; just the amount of the toy car.
I would have never stolen anything in a million years, but it was obvious I had become so excited about my new toy car that I had walked right out the door without paying!
I had accidentally stolen from Mr. Haddad, who already thought me well on my way to the penitentiary!
After all the dust settled, however, one thing that happened that day I have remembered a for a lifetime.
Mom took me back downtown in her old faded Pontiac we called “Jewel”. I had to go face the music and pay Mr. Haddad. But something more important happened. She insisted on parking well down the street and around the corner out of sight .
This, she explained was to protect my reputation. She didn’t want Mr. Haddad to think I had been caught by a parent and forced to pay.
It was important that Mr.Haddad saw that I was on my own and hadn’t been forced back to the store after being caught with the goods.
At age ten, she taught me that a person’s reputation for honesty is their most important possession. “A reputation for honesty,” she said, “will get you through the hardest times in life and must be tended and guarded at all costs.”
I went to the front of the store with the toy and paid the clerk and left. I’ll never know what Mr. Haddad thought of the situation, but I have an idea.
-by Robby Melton