My father watched me present a credit card to the service station attendant. The Christmas visit to my parents' home in Arizona
was over, and I was filling my camper with fuel for the drive back to California. This was in 1972 B.C. (Before Crisis).
Dr. Miller's father in 1915 at the age of 16 (top). In 1943, Dr. Miller had the picture below taken of himself at the same
age; he framed the photos as a Father's Day gift.
"You use credit cards, huh?" Dad observed.
"Yes, I have for the last few years. I find them convenient, and I don't have to carry a lot of cash with me."
Dad was silent a moment before he answered. "I don't believe in them! I believe in paying for everything in cash."
"Yes," I answered, "I know that. You brought me up that way—to never buy anything unless you could afford to pay cash for
it. That's why I resisted credit cards for so long. They seemed immoral. And that's why I'm so compulsive about paying my
bills. I just wish everybody was."
"Well," Dad mused, "times have changed. I never bought anything on credit. If I couldn't pay for it, I got by without it."
"I know," I said. "I guess except for your automobiles you never bought a thing on credit in your life."
Dad looked at me disdainfully. "Automobiles! I never bought a car on credit! I paid cash for every car I ever owned. Remember
our first car, the 1927 Chrysler? It cost $120!"
I remembered the old car. I was just a kid then. We called the car Asthma. Dad spent most of his Sundays under that car. And he paid cash for it and for the succession of jalopies that followed.
Not until after World War II did he own a new car, and unknown to me, he had paid cash for it.
"You mean that you've never bought anything on credit?" I asked, amazed. "The house is the only thing you've ever made payments
Dad looked at me again thoughtfully. "I paid cash for our house, son," he said. "I never bought anything on credit. That's why you were brought up in rented homes. I didn't buy a house until I'd saved enough to pay for it outright."
I was stunned. Here I was middle-aged, and I never knew this. "I've never heard of such a thing." I said. "I can't believe
"Listen," Dad said. "I've never paid anyone a cent of interest. Do you realize how much money the average person pays out
in interest? I never made much money, and if I'd bought things on credit, I'd be living on social security today. How do you
think I'm able to travel and live comfortably in my retirement? I worked all my life, and I saved every cent I could. I bought
only what I really needed and paid cash for what I did buy. I didn't have an education and a profession with a sure income
I looked at this man, in his 70s, my father, really seeing him for the first time. Memories from my childhood came flooding
back to me. I remembered a penny stick of chewing gum torn in half to be shared with my sister. I remembered how he worked
all during the depression and never took a cent of welfare. He said, "There's always a job for the man who is willing to work
hard enough—and cheap enough!"