Vol. 11


The World’s Most Expensive Toaster

1958; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Just last month I was driving with my grandparents during a brief trip to Pennsylvania. Despite the cost of gasoline having recently dropped, it seemed that my grandfather grumbled whenever we passed a certain ExxonMobil gas station near their home. After I had observed this behavior on repeated occasions, I asked him why he acted this way. He replied, “Why don’t you ask your grandmother about the world’s costliest toaster?” I was confused.


My grandmother met my grandfather in 1950. She was a twenty-one-year-old girl from the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania. My grandfather was a twenty-three-year-old United States Navy veteran who had served three years in the Pacific during World War II. Using his funds from the G.I. Bill,1 he completed his college degree in textile engineering. After graduating, he landed a job with a chemical firm in Philadelphia. He was then ready to pop the question to my grandmother. This meant she too would have to move to Philadelphia.

However, before this could become a reality, she also needed to find a job. My grandfather’s salary was too meager to support a newlywed couple. Fortunately, my grandfather’s sister was able to land my grandmother a job in Philadelphia as a billing clerk at a regional office for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) was one of the companies formed from the breakup of the Standard Oil monopoly founded by John D. Rockefeller. My grandparents were married on February 16, 1952. My grandmother started her new job the following Monday, on February 18.

My grandmother worked at Esso for six years, until she became pregnant with my oldest uncle. Back then, once a woman began to “show,” it was expected for her to resign, since it was thought to be inappropriate for her to continue to work in that condition. As part of her salary, the company had established a profit-sharing plan. When it came time to leave, she had the option of either rolling one third of the accrued value of this savings plan into Esso stock or cashing it out for approximately $1,000. In addition there was the extra incentive of a brand-new Sunbeam T-20B toaster for cashing out.

The latter offer proved irresistible for the young couple still living in a two-room apartment with their first child on the way. With the extra money, my grandparents bought some U.S. savings bonds, new rugs, and a set of kitchenware to go along with that marvelous new toaster.

In 1973 Esso became Exxon, and in 1999 it merged with Mobil to form ExxonMobil. Although no one can predict the future, if my grandmother had kept the approximate $1,000 of Esso stock back in 1956, it is estimated that the value of that stock today would be over $137,000. On the other hand, she did keep the toaster for almost fifteen years.

So if you’re ever looking for sound financial advice, don’t ask my grandparents!


Molly Kuzma; North Carolina, USA


1. The G.I. Bill was a law that provided financial help to veterans. A G.I. is an enlisted person in the U.S. armed forces. Originally “G.I.” stood for “government issue” or “general issue.”



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


Return to Vol. 11 Stories page



Built by Hen's Teeth Network