August 22, 2008

The David Brooks column about Joe Biden brings back a memory of my grandfather and makes me ask a question about Wilmington, Delaware.

David Brooks has a column today called "Hoping It's Biden," and I noticed this:
Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.

His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.
This fascinates me. I was born in Wilmington, Delaware and lived in or near it (in Newark) until I was 12. My father grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and his parents — my grandparents Mom and Pop — lived there until they died. That is, unlike Biden, who started out in Scranton, my family was deeply embedded in the culture of Wilmington, Delaware. And reading that Brooks column called to mind something about Pop that I hadn't thought of in decades. Now, Pop was a perfectly nice man — you know Pop, I wrote about him fondly back here — but he used to toss nickels on the floor for the fun of having us scramble for them.

Is this some kind of Delaware thing?

ADDED: Was it "fierce working-class pride" to take umbrage at the coins tossed on the floor? Or was it the old rich-man pride? In my family, no one perceived it as offensive to induce a coin scramble. It was just fun. Obviously, the activity works when the coins are much more meaningful to one person than the other. Someone is willing to toss the coins for the fun of seeing the scramble, and someone else is willing to scramble. But what kind of person is disgusted by the display? The regular Joe?

ANOTHER THING: Amazing Delaware fact about Althouse: Long ago, I demonstrated how to make a hat to Governor Boggs.

125 comments:

Seven Machos said...

Did Pop own a car dealership?

Ann Althouse said...

No, as the linked blog post says, he had a small business as a mechanic, but he went out of business before I was born, because, as I heard it, he chose to specialize in the Pierce Arrow instead of the Chevrolet. I don't think he sold cars. He worked on them.

When I knew him he worked for Dupont at what was called the Experimental Station. I don't really know what he did, but he refused to wear a breath mask and ultimately died of emphysema.

Seven Machos said...

That was meant in total jest. I hope I didn't offend.

Meade said...

I'll bet it was a generational thing. My Indiana grandfather (1893 - 1975) did the same thing only with dimes. Hey, he was a relatively high roller!

Oh, BUT my grandfather was no Democrat - disliked FDR, respected Truman, despised LBJ - he was a TR Roosevelt Republican.

Kyle said...

I live in Wilmington, work in Newark, and have never heard of the throwing coins on the dancefloor thing. The closest I've ever gotten has been putting airline bottles of alcohol in a pinata for a cookout.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, sorry. I missed the point in the column. Sorry. Yes, that was funny. LOL... now.

Meade said...

"But what kind of person is disgusted by the display? The regular Joe?"

No. The effete joyless so-called liberal.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm interested in figuring out the ways of Delaware. When you're a little kid, everything is odd and also kind of normal, since you know nothing else.

I went back to Delaware once as an adult, and I was surprised how taciturn and unfriendly (or just closed) people seemed. It gave me some insight into my father, whom I'd always thought of as "mean."

Seven Machos said...

Whew.

Seven Machos said...

When I go back to my hometown (basically an 18-year sentence from birth) I immediately start drawling. I also love the food even though I know it's really not very good.

Christy said...

Ralph Ellison captures exactly that humiliating scene (but in a country club) in the early part of Invisible Man IIRC.

I find it degrading, but then I still shudder with shame to be reminded by family that I'd shimmy for nickles when I was 2.

Kyle said...

Wilmington's kind of a weird place. I agree that there's parts of Wilmington that are very unfriendly. One summer I drove an icecream truck, and they were even unfriendly towards me!

But other parts are a lot nicer. And it seems like it's been brightening recently. The state has also made great strides in the coolness of its coffee joints.

Meade said...

During my short life, It's been my limited experience that the States generally go from most meanness to most niceness as one moves from east to west.

Until one gets to California where people are just plain psychotic.

You're at home in the heartland, Althouse. That's perfect.

Outis said...

There's a difference between watching the children in a family scramble for fun and making adults do it to show who stands where on the social ladder. The answer your question, it's a pride thing, and rich or poor makes no difference.

Outis said...

Ralph Ellison captures exactly that humiliating scene (but in a country club) in the early part of Invisible Man IIRC.

Ugh. This makes me wonder if it's another piece of cribbed biography by Biden.

madawaskan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stupe said...

"I went back to Delaware once as an adult, and I was surprised how taciturn and unfriendly (or just closed) people seemed."---

They only acted like that towards you, in particular.

People always mirror back what they see in someone else.

Nevermind the horrible, elitist, generalization.

Skeptical said...

Dear Lord, please do not let him pick a pro-choice Catholic like Biden or Sibelius.

ricpic said...

MASTER AND MAN

It all depends
On how the Man
Sees Master
And
How the Master
Sees Man --

Unless they see each other
As part of God's plan
It ends in sheer disaster.

Christy said...

I had a beach house in Delaware for a decade or so and was very happy there. Who wouldn't be happy when they let one wander the beaches and streets with a cold adult beverage in hand. Very civilized. Alas, no longer legal.

reader_iam said...

I'm not sure I have the energy to respond tonight, Althouse, but I'm interested in your query.

As Althouse, and others, may recall, while I was born in Indiana and lived there and in Illinois until I was 10, I then moved to Delaware and lived there for about to 25 years until moving to Iowa 12 years ago. But I still have close, close ties to Delaware, and have spent and do spend significant amounts of time there every year (for example, my son is there right now, as he has been since June, and so I go back and forth for stretches). It's fair to say that I have a pretty good perspective on Delaware (and the Midwest).

Quick question: When you went back as an adult, how recently? And was it to NCC specifically, and Wilmington specifically?

somefeller said...

There's a difference between watching the children in a family scramble for fun and making adults do it to show who stands where on the social ladder. The answer your question, it's a pride thing, and rich or poor makes no difference.

I think Outis has it right. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but to me, making grown men scramble around on the floor for money seems degrading to the people doing the scrambling. Seems too much like making people grovel, particularly if there is a whole boss-employee thing going on. That's very different than playing a little game at home with the kids and some spare change.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

There must be something about Delaware. My Mom's family was raised in Philly, but Aunt Louise married Uncle Angelo and they lived in Wilmington, Delaware. Every year during our annual trip east, we'd spend a day with Aunt Louise and Uncle Angie. Aunt Louise let all of us grab a handfull of pennies from her penny jar. Littlest hands got to go first.

reader_iam said...

Just for fun (and I hope this is OK, RAA), Ruth Ann and I--who met through this blog--determined that one of her relatives was, in fact, one of my father's students and, later, a colleague. I knew him well.

Delaware is a small town. That's what we used to say, and in many ways, I think that's still true (for good and for ill), though not so much as it used to be. Plus lower (not so much "slower," as the joke used to go) Delaware has changed so, so much.

reader_iam said...

Sorry: Ruth Anne, of course. Got all caught up in thoughts of the degrees-of-separation thing, there for a moment.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Reader: As I have 'cousins by the dozens' [50 on Mom's side], please email me with that connection again. Although, I can narrow it down.

As to our degrees of separation: much less than six!

Scrapple for everyone!

Ann Althouse said...

"When you went back as an adult, how recently? And was it to NCC specifically, and Wilmington specifically?"

What is NCC?

I was driving to Washington DC for a conference and mapped a route that let me stop at a classic restaurant (The Charcoal Pit) and visit my old neighborhoods: Holiday Hills and Brookside. I parked the car, walked around, talked to a few people. I also went to a Borders (to buy some CDs for the car). So I interacted with a few people. I felt like... these people all act like my father!

This was around 2002.

reader_iam said...

Sorry: NCC=New Castle County.

Peter V. Bella said...

It must have been a generational thing. My great uncles and other older reletives used to toss coins about for the kids to scramble for. For some reason they got a big kick out of it.

reader_iam said...

RAA--Done. But think music and now lives in CA.

gophermomeh said...

I would say it's closer to working-class pride than anything, but not totally, that. It's just plain offensive and belittling, being that it was a work situation.

Sometimes people stand up adn do things because it's the right thing to do. Seems like that's what's happened here.

Can't comment on Wilmington...

Kyle said...

Oh boy, Brookside is not a good neighborhood at all. It fed into my middle and high schools, and I was never impressed with my classmates from there.

The Borders one is more mystifying, people are usually nice there.

rhodamine said...

All I know is, I'm born and bred Chester County, and have always been slightly afraid of Delaware.

It's like another planet!

Kidding. The Charcoal Pit - great place!

Hope to go to the Arden Fair next weekend - now that little town IS really another planet (albeit a very nice one).

oh and I knew Hunt Biden back in high school . . .

Meade said...

My other theory is that people in Delaware are mean because they're just so sick and tired of being made the butt of that timeless joke: What did Delaware?

Whereas Hoosiers are cheerful and light-hearted, well-loved by all, because theirs is that classic joke:
Where did Prince Charles spend his (first) wedding night?

reader_iam said...

Kyle, regarding Brookside, it would somewhat depend on what era you're talking about. I became familiar with it from 1971 on; Althouse's experience was quite a bit before that.

Ann Althouse said...

Holiday Hills is right next to Arden. That old "Bethlehem Inn" building on the corner used to be called the Arden Store. I spent my allowance on candy there many times. Penny candy!

Ann Althouse said...

We moved into Brookside when the houses were new, in about 1952. It was in no way a rough neighborhood.

Ann Althouse said...

By modern standard the houses were very small, but they were beautifully laid out in the "usonian" style of the era.

amba said...

Reverse social mobility. It's just as American as the other kind. Chutes and ladders.

amba said...

Was Abbie Hoffman from Delaware? Was that where he got the Yippie idea of throwing dollar bills onto the floor of the stock exchange? Or was that Jerry Rubin?

reader_iam said...

We used to go to Arden all the time.

I also worked in Chester County for years. A lot of them. And a smaller number in Cecil County, MD.

Delaware's so small, it's hard not to have connections in PA, NJ and MD. At least depending on what you do.

We turned the TV back on this evening. Both DH and I are getting a kick out of the Biden stake-out (because we know that area so well and the glimpses seem so familiar). His family moved from Kansas to Delaware the same year mine did, though in his family's case it was due to Uncle Dupie, not UD. (We didn't meet until many, many years later; he's more "Delaware" than I, though, 'cause he's a number of years younger than I and also doesn't have much of an early memory prior to the middish '70s.)

amba said...

Kyle:

See! THe caffeine is cheering people up!

reader_iam said...

Back in 1971, the reason I became familiar with Brookside is that there were still some faculty families there, including one of my dad's new colleagues. But there were signs of drift.

reader_iam said...

Husband and I are having a good time talking about Arden, and also trying to remember the feeder patterns for North Wilmington schools from the early '70s on. Things changed, and continued to change, in that regard, remember.

I was a senior in high school by the time the deseg/busing order was finally implemented. My husband, OTOH, was in 8th grade, and his sisters even younger.

William said...

Too little has been thought and written about the mystique of Delaware. But perhaps it is better not to inquire too closely into their ways of redistributing wealth.

reader_iam said...

Kyle: Now I see what your school era was. Won't ask which schools, but I can guess.

vbspurs said...

Re: the nickel thing:

John D. Rockefeller Sr. was famous for handing out shiny dimes to little kids, who obviously danced attendance on him for this very purpose.

This is 1914 dimes...bought you a buttload of candy.

I think it's a generational thing, and moreover, a sweet quirk from your working-class Pop.

I don't see anything wrong with it.

P.S.: My father's mother sent him a £5 note every birthday, when she was well into her 80s. Part of the reason was that she was as chintzy as he is today. But it was also a family tradition thing, and makes for a great anecdote. They were both aware of that.

Cheers,
Victoria

Kyle said...

it's ok Reader. I was in the Christina school district. Went to Gauger in the early 90s and graduated from Glasgow in 96.

I can imagine Brookside being a nice place when it was built in the 50s, but all I can really speak of is the relationships I had with the kids that came out of that neighborhood, and it was pretty much one of the rougher, non downtown Wilmington, neighborhoods around.

Arden is a really cool little town. A bunch of my friends are in the Arden Theatre Guild. It's pretty much different then anywhere else in DE, in a good way.

Eric Muller said...

These things actually exist. And not just in Delaware.

vbspurs said...

Hey, why doesn't our generation's JD Rockefeller, namely Bill Gates, hand out 20 bills to little kids?

What a cheapskate.

PatCA said...

It would be a good pick for him, as I do think he will need a grownup in his White House, but it will make no difference in voting for most people. Either you're in love or you're not. I'm not.

vbspurs said...

Where did Prince Charles spend his (first) wedding night?

Deep inside Spain?

Wait, no. That was Prince Arthur claiming he had bedded Catherine of Aragon (sounds like a teenage boast to me, which it probably was).

reader_iam said...

Kyle, may I just say that I hit the bull's-eye?

Pogo said...

How anyone can tolerate being in the room while Biden's mirthless smile blinks on and off like some idiot driver unaware he's left his goddamned turn signal on I'll never know.

I'd rather chew glass.

TitusStagLeap said...

Delaware is one of those states that you never hear anything about.

I went to Rehoboth Beach once-very gay-that's Delaware right?

I get confused around the Delaware/DC/Philly geography.

somefeller said...

ABC News says a Secret Service detail has been dispatched to protect Joe Biden. Looks like he's the guy after all.

Maggie45 said...

LOL, Pogo !!!

Itmo said...

Who wouldn't be mean after finding out, like 80% of the population of Delaware, that he lives in one or another "cancer cluster"? Not being able to drink the tap water is something I associate with Mexico or India, not somewhere in the US.

madawaskan said...

somefeller-

Gawd! They gotta be kidding-

Just goes to show you complimenting Obama on being articulate and clean will get you anywhere.
I'm tempted to repost that Outkast song-

So fresh and so clean, clean...

{Like an FDS commercial...}


So Obama Mr. Hope and Change picks the oldest white guy in the Senate.

Wonder what the Secret Service code name for Biden will be?


Foghorn...

reader_iam said...

I should hope so (and that, regardless of what actually happens tomorrow, there has been surreptitious, along with the obvious, observing already). As I said earlier, Delaware is a small town, with all that implies. 'Nuff said.

madawaskan said...

Wait, shit-

I'm sure there's older Democrats in the Senate-

like ummm, Byrd ...

reader_iam said...

Oops! My 10:29 refers to Somefeller's 10:14.

Beth said...

Riders on Mardi Gras floats toss beads, cups and doubloons to the crowd. It took me a long time not to be offended by that scramble after I first moved here. I'm sure that reaction came from my working class core. Up until the past couple of decades, Mardi Gras has been a class-based event, and it looked a lot like the aristrocracy tossing crumbs to the crowds to me. I was fourteen when I first saw a Mardi Gras parade and even then I envisioned the French Revolution and thought "no wonder they chopped off heads." I'm pretty sure if my employer tossed coins at the floor and expected me to scramble for them, I'd walk off the job, but not before taking a swing at the boss -- this will never happen so I can enjoy the catharsis of that imaginary scenario.

But grandpa, tossing kids nickels? I don't see that as offensive.

Isn't the problem with the employer doing it with adults that it emulates that paternalistic relationship, casting the workers as children receiving papa's largesse?

Trochilus said...

The very expression . . . a "Delaware thing" was itself a "Wilmington thing" . . . at least at one time I thought it was. I do recall hearing my mother use that rhetorical phrase a few times, about Wilmington.

EdgeMoor Terrace was my stomping ground, though I spent many, many fond days across Governor Prince Boulevard, up and over the railroad tracks, scouring the slag heaps of the Artic Roofing Company, sailing makeshift boats along the streams and swamps adjacent to the Purina factory, or talking to the old fisherman, down across the inlet, and along the banks of the Delaware.

Wolfey's Bowling Alley and Pool Hall in downtown Wilmington a few years later . . . or, a little shop called Books and Things, just down from the Neumours Building. I never thought of Wilmington as being mean. It was just never a "going out" town.

But Ann, I don't have any recollection whatsoever of diving for nickels, or pennies. I had to cut the lawn to get the the quarters. But no free nickel!

As for John D. Rockefeller, I've read that he apparently also tipped everyone a dime, and regardless of the service . . . which paints a bit of a different picture.

When I was a little older, we moved out Concord Pike, and had a house in Sharpley, no more than 100 - 200 yards from the Charcoal Pit.

Boy! The Charcoal Pit . . . now that was a very Wilmington thing!

reader_iam said...

Rehoboth has gone through various incarnations and evolutions and popularities over the years. I remember when it initially started to become a big getaway-from-DC place.

Anyone else remember the big deal that was made about Lynda Carter and husband Robert Altman setting up a vacation getaway in the area, way back when?

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

But grandpa, tossing kids nickels? I don't see that as offensive.

My Austrian great-grandmother once said a well-brought up lady could always get rid of a pestering young man in the street, by flinging some coins on the street behind her, towards him.

That was Victorian code for "beggar" -- the deepest possible insult to an upstanding person.

He would flee in shame immediately.

Thank God we live in the 21st century, where only Saudi Arabians have to worry about crap like that.

Cheers,
Victoria

Jack Denver said...

This really struck me as odd. My father was in a concentration camp and one of the stories I read about the camp (but not from him)is that the guards used to throw bread to the prisoners and enjoyed watching them scramble for it, until the prisoners organized and refused to entertain them anymore. Biden is the kind of guy who could read a story like that and reshape it to fit his own heroic family narrative.

Ann Althouse said...

"Biden's mirthless smile"

Did you read the part of the Brooks column about why he does that?

reader_iam said...

Time to head off.

Wouldn't it be fun to wake up tomorrow and find reality to be in an entirely other direction, time and place? At least as fun, if not more?

The most important thing is not to invest too narrowly, much less too deeply, in speculation, unless you really are actually doing it just for fun (which it sure can be). An alternative, the holding-pattern approach, would be to adopt the post-post-xx mantra "Whatever."

I don't recommend other paths-forward, myself.

reader_iam said...

Althouse: Didn't see your latest comment before posting and, in any case, my latest wasn't in response to any particular comment. Pure generality.

Kenneth said...

My take is that it's fun - both for the kids and adults - for adults to watch kids (i.e. under 12) scramble around for coins thrown by adults.

It's unseemly and rather degrading for adults to do the scrambling for other adults.

This same dynamic is why I hate most of what currently passes for 'reality' tv, but enjoyed it when the same type of shows used to be on Nickelodeon.

TitusStagLeap said...

David Brooks got his wish.

He picked Biden.

kynefski said...

You're from Wilmington? Please indulge a couple of Delaware stories.

(1) I was teaching at Padua Academy in the fall of 1976 when it was decided to have an assembly to impress on the students the importance of the political process. This was held exactly one week before the election, when there couldn't have been more than one hundred people in the building registered to vote. Nevertheless, we were addressed by the state chairs of the Ford and Carter campaigns, and by Pete Dupont and Sherman Tribbitt.

(2) I was visiting my mother, up on Naamans Road, after she'd had surgery. On her kitchen table are a stack of freezer containers from a neighbor who had brought her some meals. Says Mom, "I need to get those back to Mrs. Thorogood."

Honest to God true stories. Delaware stories.

reader_iam said...

Apparently, tomorrow morning meant just after 12 a.m., central time. Well, technically, it's the start of a new day.

reader_iam said...

At least that's what CNN, MSNBC, Fox, C-Span II (Capitol News) are ALL reporting, as breaking news.

reader_iam said...

And "Live!".

reader_iam said...

C-Span II, too.

vbspurs said...

Excerpt from Brooks piece:

Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, have trouble connecting with working-class voters, especially Catholic ones. Biden would be the bridge.

I know I said he was from Scranton, PA, and I came to a similar conclusion in my point-making. But all this palavah about Biden being working-class is ridiculous.

Few Senators who have lived in the lap of luxury in DC are working-class anymore.

Maybe Paul Wellstone could get away with that, (ironically so does GW Bush) but Joe Biden DOES NOT give off that working-class air.

He's a pampered pooch, with expensively tailored suits, and who was photographed golfing earlier this week.

Ironically, that's also exactly true of Obama.

Then there's the fact that the bloom has come off of Obama. The whole point with his candidacy was that he was EXCITING. That bloom has worn off, so he needed something that would inject a little extra oomph into his campaign again.

And Joe Biden isn't that guy.

I think it's a good, solid, even canny choice. It's not that.

But I sense Americans are going to look at Obama-Biden and say, eh.

As I saw in another blog earlier, Obama just went from hot stud to Bill Cosby.

Cheers,
Victoria

LonewackoDotCom said...

Althouse continues to amaze. She can't figure out why someone would be upset about someone seeing others scramble around on the floor like hungry beggars after a pittance for the amusement of the thrower? Seriously, someone get her a clue.

reader_iam said...

Eh, now, Victoria, I've got years--nay, decades--of finding points of amusement (among other things) about Biden. But be careful of the blank canvas you pick, and of painting too fast on account of wanting to be too clever by doubles.

--

At the same time, in my lifetime, Sen. Joe Biden! I'll be darned.

---

OTOH, orking class at this point, oh no. At the same time, there are certain WC-/MC- stuff Biden has done, among them being his commitment to getting home/commuting to his family. This does reflect a deep commitment to certain personal values, and the fact that he lost his first wife and a child in a car accident way, way back when.

--

At the same time, in my life, Sen. Joe Biden! I'll be darned.

...

...

Barry Dauphin said...

So Biden tells a news crew that he's not the guy, no good way around calling it a lie. He could have said lots of things and kept everyone guessing. But maybe nobody really believes much of what he says anyway. He gets into trouble with his mouth. No sign of that changing.

former law student said...

Biden, seriously? He makes Gore look like Mr. Charisma. Hard to imagine Obama picking a less compelling running mate.

I thought the conservative Brooks was being mischievous in suggesting Biden; like me, suggesting John McCain pick Newt. Working class roots, honesty and loyalty, Senate experience, were what recommended Biden to Brooks. No executive experience to upstage Obama. Damning with faint praise to suggest that honesty and loyalty were qualities in short supply among politicians.

Biden may be the literal "bucket of warm spit" VP that John Garner alluded to.

vbspurs said...

Eh, now, Victoria, I've got years--nay, decades--of finding points of amusement (among other things) about Biden. But be careful of the blank canvas you pick, and of painting too fast on account of wanting to be too clever by doubles.

Wouldn't be the first time I were accused of that, RIA.

I truly do mean that his advisors needed to go for the working-class vote, and the best non-Hillary option out there was Biden? A guy who reeks of Washington insider politics?

OTOH, there are two kinds of blue collar people in America.

Those who come from that background, and those who embody the background.

The latter includes those who punch in the clock every day, do a hard day's work, all without a lick of glory because stuff needs to get done, no matter how dirty or unpopular. You don't depend on anyone or anything but the sweat of your own brow and your get-up-and-go.

It's about sacrifice. About not putting on airs. About a lack of double-speak.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the guy who embodies all that isn't Biden.

It's not Obama either. What now?

Cheers,
Victoria

newscaper said...

Regarding making employees scramble for coins...

I'm in Mobile, and yes, there is(was, somewhat less so now) a class angle to Mardi Gras, but *here* the trinkets are thrown *to* the people -- the only scrambling is for stuff people didn't catch (again, that's more some kids). It's genuinely mutual fun, not one side being amused at the other from on high.

The events in the Biden story could be spun either way -- was the owner enjoying debasing his employees, and Biden's dad showing some self-respect, or was the boss trying to play Santa and Biden's dad just a snob? It's hard to tell w/o seeing it.

On another Christmas note -- when I was an engineer at an electronics mfg company for over 10 years, we never gave our boss an actual gift for Christmas -- there were just some cards exchanged, or sometimes *he'd* give *us* some token thing too.
But what was unseemly, disturbing, was that the hourly people in manufacturing pooled their money and got their managers something relatively substantial.
It just didn't seem right that such an unequal exchange happened in reverse ... the hourly grunts (non-union BTW) kicking in for their bosses who probably made at least 4x what they did. To me (and the other professionals) it always seemed a bit... shameful -- too much like groveling, like the peasants giving the rich lord of the manor a gift because he only takes half their crop in taxes (and they're at his mercy should the whim strike him to increase his cut.)

That just didn't seem very... American, if that makes any sense.

OTOH the hourly types were disproportionately female and women seem more prone to the workplace gift thing in general than men, who see such things as unnecessarily complicating work relationships.

vbspurs said...

The events in the Biden story could be spun either way -- was the owner enjoying debasing his employees, and Biden's dad showing some self-respect, or was the boss trying to play Santa and Biden's dad just a snob? It's hard to tell w/o seeing it.

Good comment.

I think it's both.

The gesture is old-fashioned enough to be understood as patrician (and patronising...), but honestly, what does it say for the mechanics and others who scrambled for the silver dollars when the boss-man threw them at the crowd?

Doesn't it make them look bad, because they're debasing themselves for a few dollars?

IMHO, no it doesn't. That's a luxury only the truly comfortable (or those who had been, like Biden Sr.) can afford to have.

I actually like that his dad quit "on the spot". But that is his pride showing, not just self-respect.

Cheers,
Victoria

Seven Machos said...

Tell us more about the World Trade Center, Wacko.

former law student said...

Quick: does anyone know if the Road to the White House has historically gone through Delaware?

I just had a sinking feeling: Maybe nobody good wanted the job, and Biden was Obama's best choice. Did the other Dems consider Obama to be snake bit, or perhaps they feared the wrath of the Clintons?

vbspurs said...

If the Clintons were all that powerful, Hillary would've wangled the nomination in Michigan and Florida. As important as they are, and still influential, let's not create a dual bogeyman just because the Democrats miss Rove.

I think if Bayh or Kaine had been offered the position, they wouldn't have rejected it. Neither would Hillary...

Seven Machos said...

I still maintain that Hillary Clinton was the first choice and wisely turned it down.

vbspurs said...

BTW, Biden should send a fruit basket to President Saakishvili of Georgia.

vbspurs said...

Well, I sense we're all about to turn in -- so I bid you all good night as I trot out this reply on Wonkette, regarding the sms freak-out.

Obama/Socks 08
(I know we can get a harmless Clinton in there SOMEHOW)


LOL.

Cheers,
Victoria

peter hoh said...

Biden. Hmm. Not my pick, but a decent pick for someone who can wield power in the Senate.

What's McCain's move? I think he'll be less inclined to pick a senator.

By the way, Reader, I was delighted to realize that I knew what NCC stood for. I grew up in South Jersey. Delaware was the destination for shoppers who didn't want to pay sales tax.

Daggo said...

Do you know that this happens in church weddings in Britain? Been going on for as long as I can remember - when the limousine pulls away from the church the groom scatters coins for the young kids to pick up. Thought this happened everywhere.
On the other hand I've never seen a bouquet being tossed.

Daggo said...

Do you know that this happens in church weddings in Britain? Been going on for as long as I can remember - when the limousine pulls away from the church the groom scatters coins for the young kids to pick up. Thought this happened everywhere.
On the other hand I've never seen a bouquet being tossed.

jeff said...

Huh, I think we all remember Alexander Solzhenitsyn telling of the guards throwing down dollars to watch the prisoners scramble for them. Coincidence? I don't think so.

vbspurs said...

On the other hand I've never seen a bouquet being tossed.

I'm British, and I can assure you cannot say "in Britain" to make this kind of generalising point.

I have been to many weddings where the bouquet was thrown over the railing, as recently as my cousin's in Edinburgh.

We throw rice to the departing couple, and though perhaps some do throw coins, this bridesmaid veteran typing here before you has yet to encounter the custom.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

Check out the Obama website's poster of the two together.

Official - It's Biden

Kimsh had a great bumpersticker yesterday, previewing Obama-Biden 2008.

But the way the Obama site positioned the names, it made me sit up and notice.

Did you know there are 6 letters in "Joseph"...and 6 in "Barack"? Curiously, there are also 5 letters in Biden, and yep, 5 in Obama.

Neat.

/was influenced by the JFK-Lincoln freaky facts list.

Meade said...

Biden on abortion:
"The best policy for our country on the question of abortion is a policy of cruel Government neutrality. Put another way: I do not believe that the government should be involved in making judgments on whether a woman can, or should have an abortion, or – if she chooses to do so – in paying for that abortion."

Okay, I added the cruel part.

Chip Ahoy said...

^^^ That seems a very sound position. It alters my view of Biden, which until this article and this thread has been ungenerous.

TitusStagLeap said...

Biden is ranked the poorest senator in the US Senate.

So he is probably as close to working class as anyone.

Making 180,000 a year or whatever they make is not that much. His wife is a school teacher.

Now John Mccain can pick Romney.

friend from Budapest said...

Senator-

Have you been to Mardi Gras? If so, please define the following: "doubloon". How does this relate to "scramble"?

ballyfager said...

Ann,

I grew up in NJ (Trenton). In 1960 I made a bus trip to Norfolk. First stop Wilmington Bus Station. I was shocked to find segregated lunch counter and rest rooms.

I was told Delaware was below the Mason-Dixon Line and considered itself to be a southern state. I'm a little older than you, was this still operative when you were a kid?

Host with the Most said...

Joe Biden: Liar. Well known for lying.

Oh Great! A ticket with 2 congenitally dishonest men on it.

David Brooks is only right about one thing: Biden is a likable guy.

But hiring him would place the least qualified person (Obama) with someone who changes his positions (loud "nuance") every few months on the Sunday talk shows. I'd fire my personnel director for even recommending 2 such people for any position of public trust.


McCain/Romney 2008

paul a'barge said...

Was it "fierce working-class pride" to take umbrage at the coins tossed on the floor? Or was it the old rich-man pride?

You don't differentiate between a game for children within a family and a game inflicted on adult employees in their workplace?

Peg C. said...

Brooks is no conservative; disabuse yourself of that notion. And the choice of Biden is already giving way to mirth and mischief. Heh!

Bob Hawkins said...

Bob Hope used to fold his writers's paychecks into paper airplanes and launch them from the top of the grand staircase in his mansion. He was from Cleveland, Ohio. But his travels must have taken him to Delaware, so this may be a case of cultural diffusion.

Kyle said...

Bally - Yes, Delaware was a slave state, but they sent regiments to both sides in the civil war. Oddly enough, the emancipation proclamation didn't free the Delaware slaves, it was done later.

This place is going to go crazy with the Biden thing.

Rehoboth is pretty gay now. They've taken most of the cheap tshirt stores and opened up trendy boutiques selling homewares and stuff like that. But the addition of dozens of really great sushi places is just plain awesome.

People from NJ, PA, and MD still come all the time for the no sales tax thing. Best Buy and the Mall are always full of out of state tags around Christmas time.

Ok, enough DE factoids for the morning. The big scramble around here will be who takes over Biden's seat when/if he wins.

somefeller said...

vbspurs says: [Biden's] a pampered pooch, with expensively tailored suits, and who was photographed golfing earlier this week.

So, in other words, he lives the dream of most people who grew up in working-class backgrounds. He can afford nice clothes, which he enjoys wearing, and he enjoys the luxuries he didn't have growing up. The fact that he now lives quite well doesn't mean he's forgotten where he comes from or he can't reach people who still live harder lives. If anything, he can serve as an example of someone from that background who's really made it. No shame there. And as was pointed out above, while he may live well, Biden isn't one of the richer people in the Senate.

Doesn't it make them look bad, because they're debasing themselves for a few dollars? IMHO, no it doesn't. That's a luxury only the truly comfortable (or those who had been, like Biden Sr.) can afford to have.

The issue wasn't how the workers looked, it was how the boss was acting, and how Biden Sr. responded to it. By the way, linking this back to the other comment, one could say your line about "That's a luxury only the truly comfortable can afford to have" is more apt for a critique of Senators (or anyone else) who came from wealthy backgrounds who prefer to dress down, than those who came from more humble backgrounds but who like to dress in expensive clothes, now that they can afford them.

Zeb Quinn said...

I'm from the west coast and the one and only thing I know about Delaware is that's where the rich, powerful, and well-connected Italian-American lawyer murdered his much younger Irish-American girlfriend and dumped her body out at sea. I read the Ann Rule book.

reader_iam said...

Slavery in Delaware.

vbspurs said...

So, in other words, he lives the dream of most people who grew up in working-class backgrounds. He can afford nice clothes, which he enjoys wearing, and he enjoys the luxuries he didn't have growing up. The fact that he now lives quite well doesn't mean he's forgotten where he comes from or he can't reach people who still live harder lives. If anything, he can serve as an example of someone from that background who's really made it. No shame there. And as was pointed out above, while he may live well, Biden isn't one of the richer people in the Senate.

Somefeller, you don't imagine I am AGAINST being successful, and moreover, showing you are successful, do you?

Because this is a complete misreading of what I wrote.

What I am saying is that Obama has an elitist look about him, and Biden doesn't have any kind of working-class look or reputation going-on.

Democrats are always talking about how they are much more down-to-earth than "corporate" Republicans, with their expensive suits, and country club demeanour.

That's Joe Biden.

Cheers,
Victoria

reader_iam said...

Good grief. You'd think Victoria was confusing Joe Biden with Pete DuPont or something.

Ann Althouse said...

"She can't figure out why someone would be upset about someone seeing others scramble...."

Hey, read better. This post is about the possibility of a Delaware custom, not whether it's a good one or not. Secondarily, it's about whether Biden's father was the one who got most upset because he either: 1. wasn't from Delaware or 2. had once been a rich man himself.

reader_iam said...

Or Mike Castle, even.

reader_iam said...

I don't know about it being a Delaware custom. I can remember being at town parades and town parties and whatnot in at least two states in which coins were thrown out to the masses by town leaders (generally speaking, "betters"). So ... .

somefeller said...

What I am saying is that Obama has an elitist look about him, and Biden doesn't have any kind of working-class look or reputation going-on.

Well, there seems to be a pretty widely-held view that Biden does have a working-class reputation going on, at least in places like Delaware and Pennsylvania. And as far as the look goes, I suspect there are a lot of working-class people who will see him as having the look of the guy from the neighborhood who made it big.

Regarding Obama's "elitist look", what exactly is elitist-looking about him? The fact that he wears a business suit and can speak well? It's not like he walks around with a Harvard Law School pin on his lapel or something like that. Sorry, the reverse class-snobbery ("he thinks he's better than me, him and that suit of his") that comes from many quarters, particularly with regard to Obama, is just as off-putting, and in some cases more so, than the other kind.

Almost Ali said...

Look for my memory of Delaware along Route #13 - the beautiful Gypsy girl who read my palm... with eyes of fire ignited by hairs of coal. We had a 5-minute love affair in the glow of neon, then it was over.

The end of Romeo and Esmeralda, me back to the road... next stop Baltimore. Always moving along a fair late highway to the next diesel diner. Searching for my Esmeralda.

Michael McNeil said...

Delaware, both state and river, and the city of Wilmington, have illustrious histories in America — the former founded in 1638 as the colony of New Sweden by the Swedish Empire (then at the height of its powers under 17th century military genius soldier-king Gustavus Adolphus, who planned the colony, though dying before its founding), and the town of Fort Christina, capital of the colony, located on the site of the modern Wilmington.

Here one can see a detail from a mid-17th century English map of what's now the middle Atlantic states of the U.S. Notice the text alongside “Lord Delawars Bay and river,” to wit: “This riuer the Lord Ployden hath a Patten [patent] of and calls it new Albion, but the Sweeds are planted in it and haue a great trade of Furrs.” (See the whole map here.)

Many Finns (Finland for centuries had been part of Sweden's empire) as well as Dutch accompanied the original expedition or arrived later to further settle the colony. The Finns brought not only Finnish baths with them but also that peculiar, seemingly “natural,” dwelling that came to epitomize frontier life in America — the log cabin.

(Here one can see a detail from an engraving in the atlas Braun's Civitates Orbis Terrarum of 1618, revealing a view of the 17th century Stockholm skyline — notice the log buildings prominently occupying the foreground. Here's the whole plate.)

As Swedish power began to fade, aggressive governor Peter Stuyvesant of the adjacent Dutch colony centered in what's now New York took action to neutralize its neighboring competitor, beseiging Fort Christina, forcing its surrender, and thereupon absorbing the colony in 1655.

Less than a decade later, in 1664, the English in turn seized Stuyvesant's New Netherlands colony, whereupon the environs of the Delaware became English territory — though as with the earlier Dutch annexation, the inhabitants retained their property and rights.

By the 1680's William Penn arrived with a royal charter as colonial proprietor (essentially feudal lord) to the right bank of the Delaware and points west, initially taking over the Swedish town of Upland (renamed Chester) to be his capital, before founding Philadelphia upriver.

Soon thereafter the now long-settled Swedish and other inhabitants of the lower Delaware downstream from Upland grew dissatisfied at being governed by the mainly Quaker-led newcomers in Pennsylvania, whereupon the proprietors granted them their own assembly — which ultimately led to separate colonies, and finally separate states. (Funny how history works, huh?)

As to the fate of the colonists in what became Delaware, as one history I read put it, “When William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1683 he allowed the Swedes and the Finns on the Delaware to become English citizens, and they lived in peace and harmony, contributing their pecular gifts to the epic of America.” Not a bad fate at all.

MikeDC said...

If someone were offended by the coin toss, why the hell would they go on to be a Democrat?

submandave said...

Christy, I, too, imediately thought of the similar scene from Invisible Man. And while "borrowing" memories from evocative literature seem to have become a popular modus operandi in today's political discourse there isn't enough here upon which to base such an assumption.

fav.or.it said...

When I was a law student, we read of a case involving the will of a rich English man who left money in trust for coins to be thrown on his grave once a year for the benefit of poor people who would have to scramble over his grave and fight for them. When I read the story of Senator Biden's father attending a party at which his boss threw silver dollars on the floor for his workers to fight over, I remembered the earlier story, and wondered if Senator Biden has once again appropriated some details of another's life, a la the Neal Kinnock speech.

sent from: fav.or.it

Jackline said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.