During the Great Depression, and before and after World War II, money was hard to come by in Powell River. The idea of a weekly allowance for children was mostly unheard of, if heard of at all.
It was Ruth Allan, affectionately known throughout town as the Credit Union Lady, who, through the original credit union’s school-savings program, taught children about the value of a penny saved.
“In those days we weren’t talking about having a pocket full of $20 bills,” said Don Krompocker, who was part of the savings program as a child. “We had a bunch of pennies we collected, put in a little sack, took to the credit union and came home with our little passbook. That’s how we learned to save.”
Allan recently passed away at the age of 102. She leaves a lasting legacy, including the Ruth Allan Scholarship.
The school-savings program no longer exists, but during its time and under Allan’s stewardship it taught countless children the importance of saving.
“It was designed to support children to learn to save,” said First Credit Union vice-president of communications Sandra McDowell. “The credit union started in a time when savings were important and finances were difficult.”
Established by First Credit Union, the new $1,000 scholarship named after Allan will be awarded annually to a Powell River region grade 12 student who has made a commitment to making a difference in the lives of others, and demonstrated the capacity to save for and contribute to the cost of their education.
According to School District 47 superintendent of schools Jay Yule, Allan taught financial literacy, life skills and project-based learning, before those phrases were invented.
“She taught generations of students the value of saving and practical skills of using banks,” said Yule. “A scholarship is a fitting legacy to Ruth’s dedication and work with children.”
One of the children who learned the value of saving was Allan’s daughter, Evelyn McCann.
“My mom was widowed very young with my two brothers and didn’t have two pennies to her name when she came to Powell River,” said McCann. “She had to work really hard in order to support them. Anything she had was hard-won. She had to save for everything.”
Saving was Allan’s way of life, said McCann. When it came to money, she said her mom’s philosophy was never buying on credit, but to always save.
“She would save and grant us a few of our wishes, instead of just our needs,” said McCann.
One of those wishes left lasting impressions on McCann and her brothers, she said, because of the sacrifice that went into it.
“She saved and saved until she could buy them each baseball mitts,” said McCann. “That was a tremendous sacrifice; my brothers still have them.”
People use fond memories and words to describe Allan. There are stories behind the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters saved by children during Powell River’s early years.
“All I ever bought when I had money was those crazy turtles at the old five-and-dime store downtown,” said Krompocker. “You’d buy a turtle in a little bowl, bring it home and two days later the thing had died, so you’d save up, go buy another turtle and hope it was going to live.”
According to McCann, one of Allan’s fondest memories was of Phil Carriere, who used to come barefoot across the field to Kelly Creek Community School, bringing his nickel to deposit into his savings account. Allan attended Carriere’s graduation and saw him go off to university.
Even though she taught children the value of saving, her daughter said Allan did have a credit card later in life.
“I went to cancel it,” she said, “and I found out they owed her 18 cents.”