To begin with, First Blabber Business and The Point System came to be because we had to find a way to be fair. All our lives we tried to be fair. Whether it was cleaning our room, holding a baby, or going on the bread delivery route with our mama, we tried to make things fair. There were six of us, ten years separating the oldest from the youngest. Mama was busy with her bread business and maintaining a house by herself. She expected us to find a way to figure out fairness by ourselves. We did. This was our way.
The Point System = Fairness
We also developed a Point System to help us take turns when no one wanted the responsibility. There came a time when we grew tired of going on the route with Mama. It was more fun to stay home and read or play. We came up with a system for that, too. Tuesday’s route, the shorter day, was one point. Friday’s route, the longer day, was two points. We kept track of our points. If no one wanted to go along on the route, whoever had the least points accumulated had to go. No point in arguing either, because it was marked down for all to see. If you wanted to be free a certain week, you accumulated points earlier so you were guaranteed more points than the others and thus would be free to do what you wanted to do.
The Business was all about being fair, and being FIRST. In some ways, one could consider it selfish. In other ways, the BUSINESS was about learning to be fair and to not squabble about always being first – and learning to take turns.
Granted, we weren’t so concerned about making certain things were fair to our siblings. We just want things to be fair for us. So we came up with our systems. Of course, when you’re one of the younger ones, the chances of things being fair are slim to none. The older ones had a way of manipulating things in their favor. I’m sure they would argue they had to bear the brunt of the work, but I’m the one writing this story. Anyhow, we took what we got. Amazingly, we survived.
First “Rubber” Business
*Rubbering involved listening in on a phone conversation (sometimes without the other person knowing). In the days when there were party lines, a person could “rubber” in on his neighbor’s conversation unbeknownst to the parties on the phone. [Yes, we were guilty of that one.] We think this term came from the word rubberneck – “one who cranes his neck in curiosity; one who tries to discover what does not concern him.” 2 There were two phones in our house: one in the dining room and one in Mama’s bedroom. If she was on the phone in her bedroom, the person who had First Rubber Business got to listen in to the conversation on the dining room phone first when older siblings away from home called long-distance. Phone calls were short, because you paid by the minute to talk long-distance. One did not want to miss out on a conversation, so having First Rubber Business was important.
First Baby Business
When we knew children were coming to our home to be babysat (and there were many because we begged for children to babysit), whoever had First Baby Business got to hold the baby first. It worked. There was not a one of us who didn’t want to get to hold that baby first, and we finagled any way we could to be first to hold, so First Baby Business made it work. Mama even set the timer on the kitchen stove so everyone got a fair turn and time in holding a baby. Everyone got their turn, but it was sooooo important to be the first to hold that baby!
First on the Bus
When we walked the half-mile out the lane and up main street in town to the bus, whoever said First on the Bus got to get on the bus first. I mean, it was really important to be the first one on the bus, wasn’t it? Back in the day when we all went to the same school and rode the same bus, it seemed especially important. We usually had our “seats” where we sat, so why it mattered who got on first is beyond me. It surely was important then.
I suppose it gave us something to talk about and something to do when we trudged the 1/4 mile out the lane and up through town to get on the bus. As our older sisters moved to other buses to go to high school, First on the Bus phased out because it no longer seemed important.
First Blabber Business
First Blabber Business simply meant that when there was a secret to tell, an announcement to be made, whoever had FBB that day got to be the one to tell. No one, but no one, dared tell if the one with FBB wanted to tell. Why we chose the word blabber, I’ll never know. There certainly were less derogatory terms we could have used. Back then, it didn’t matter that the real definition of blabber is: to talk foolishly, mindlessly, or excessively. To us, when you got to blabber, you got to be the one to tell. Who cared what it was called when you got to tell!
There were a few rules. The deal started over at the end of the day. Midnight, to be precise. Whoever was up at that wee hour of the morning called First Blabber Business. Except, there was a time we were upstairs playing late into the night. Our mother, asleep in her room downstairs, had no clue as to our shenanigans. I noticed the clock just as it struck midnight. I waited a moment to be certain it was after midnight, and announced, “First Blabber Business!” to which one of my sisters (who shall remain nameless) said, “I already thought it, so I get First Blabber Business. She did, too, because she was older.
First Blabber Business covers it all
When someone had a baby, announced an engagement, when somebody died or there was an accident, whoever had First Blabber Business got to be the one to tell. Anything sad or happy, silly or frightful was yours to tell when you had First Blabber Business.
In time, whoever had FBB also carried the title of everything else in all the businesses. When you had FBB you also had First Baby Business, First Rubber Business, and First on the Bus.
News that most families heard on the national television we heard only on the radio, for our home had no television. The day JFK was assassinated, my sisters and I raced across the yard arguing with each other which one of us had FBB. Each of us wanted to be the first one to tell. Imagine our chagrin when the door slammed behind us as we entered the house to discover that (of course) everyone already knew. I was eight years old and I still remember that argument as we ran across the yard. We argued about who had First Blabber Business running across that lawn, and I’m certain I thought I did because I wanted to be the one to tell.
Fair and Square
I don’t recall our mama having an opinion about First Blabber Business. She allowed us to work out our own solution for time management and fairness. If none of us came complaining to her, she was fine with our solution. We learned to divvy our turns by developing this system. In time, First Blabber Business ended on its own. We outgrew it, I suppose. For the time, it worked for us. We had a problem, and we found a solution that worked. We didn’t need an adult to help us figure it out because we were capable of finding a solution on our own. I suppose that is one of the reasons why First Blabber Business worked – it was an great idea that worked. It solved the problem, and we could claim it as our own.
1 Family Jaunt of Memories by the Floyd J. Miller Family, Lulu Online Printing, June 2009, p.448.
2 Ibid. p. 454.