The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Bill Mead
Columnist Emeritus 

Money doesn't always talk

The Overall Picture


Bill Mead, Columnist Emeritus

Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill Mead

Reprinted with permission

There's an anecdote about multi-millionaire cowboy actor Gene Autry that claims he kept paying his dues to the telegraphers union long after he had amassed more wealth than he could count. The way the story goes, he told his wife he wanted to keep his options open in case the movie business went sour.

Like most yarns about famous folks, this one probably isn't true. Nevertheless, it does capture Autry's attitude, as well as that of thousands of other well-off Americans, regarding money. There's tons of evidence that not everybody who comes into the chips is compelled to flaunt it. On the contrary, studies suggest that a majority of people who acquire enough assets to be classified as rich aren't apt to go on spending sprees. They are more likely to continue living as they did before they hit the jackpot.

A recent article explores this characteristic of the "invisible rich". The gist of its findings is that people who make a lot of money tend to be fixated on money to the exclusion of what it can do to put a luster in their lifestyles. Those who like to flash big wads are more likely to be four-flushers who owe everybody or those who came into big dough unexpectedly, like rock stars, cocaine dealers and computer nerds. It's interesting that even winners of lotteries often keep mundane jobs and put their bonanzas into investments.

The article about the invisible rich told of a company that hosted a lavish party for prospects with assets of $10 million or more. It was a fiasco because most of the "rich" guests had never been to such a fancy affair, they didn't know what to wear or how to act and were unfamiliar with the upscale cuisine.

I can understand this. People don't easily change the way they live or find new friends just because their financial status changes. Old habits die hard. Even the late Sam Walton, who launched the Walmart empire and became America's richest man, lived in an upper-middle-class home, drove a well-used pickup and flew a second-hand airplane. He made his fortune counting pennies and couldn't get out of the mindset.

It reminds me of the bumper sticker that says, "Lord, let me win the lottery and prove to you that wealth won't spoil me."If you don't know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill's writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column "The Overall Picture" ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi's Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was "older than the oldest Model A Ford" and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.


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