A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 14, 2014
“I grew up surrounded by poverty—my maid was poor, my butler was poor …” (joke)

An old joke describes a rich person who claims to have grown up surrounded by poverty—the maid was poor, the butler was poor, the chauffeur was poor and the gardener was poor. The joke dates to at least 1944, when the daughter of a wealthy movie producer in Hollywood was assigned to write an essay about poverty. She wrote:

“Once there was a very poor little girl. Her mother was poor and her father was poor. The cook was poor, the second maid was poor, and the gardener was poor, and the chauffer was poor, and the governess was poor, and everybody was very, very poor.”


Google News Archive
15 June 1944, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Hollywood” by Hugh Dixon, Daily Magazine, pg. 4, col. 2:
According to Irving Hoffman, the daughter of a movie producer was assigned to write an essay on poverty. Here is what she turned in: “Once there was a very poor little girl. Her mother was poor and her father was poor. The cook was poor, the second maid was poor, and the gardener was poor, and the chauffer was poor, and the governess was poor, and everybody was very, very poor.”

11 December 1947, Blytheville (AR) Courier News, “In Hollywood” by Erskine Johnson, pg. 8, col. 3:
It’s Carleton Young’s story about the daughter of a rich movie producer who was asked at school to write an essay about a poor family. Her essay read:

“Once upon a time there was a poor family. The mother was poor. The daddy was poor. The children were poor. The butler was pour. The chauffeur was poor. The maid was poor. The gardener was poor. was poor.”

Google News Archive
18 June 1953, Victoria (TX) Advocate, “Flying Family Keeps One Airplane Hopping” by Kenneth Hopper, pg. 20, col. 1:
Jokesters have it that when asked to write a story about a poor family a wealthy little girl thought long and hard and came up with:

“Once there was a poor family. The father was poor, the mother was poor, the children were poor, the maid was poor, the butler was poor, the gardner was poor. Everybody was poor.”

Google Groups: alt.true-crime
Abandoned Boy,Steven Kelso’s Parents Visit
George Byrd
2/12/00
(...)
>Yeah.  Steve Forbes was just explaining that to me.
Hey!  He was born to a poor family.  The maid was poor.  The butlerwas poor.  The chauffeur was poor.  The cook was poor.  They were all poor.

10 October 2005, Garden City (KS) Telegram, “Blondie” comic strip, pg. A&, col. 1:
Panel One:
Rich Old Man: WHEN WE WERE FIRST MARRIED, WE WERE POOR AND TIMES WERE TOUGH
Panel Two:
Blondie: SOMEHOW I CAN’T PICTURE YOU BEING POOR
Rich Old Man: I KNOW BUT IT’S TRUE
Panel Three:
Rich Old Woman: AND IT WASN’T JUST US…
Rich Old Man: CORA’S MAID WAS POOR, MY BUTLER WAS POOR, OUR CHAUFFEUR WAS POOR…

Free Republic
“...and you have only two televisions, and only one of them is hi-def. You see, I know poverty. Our maid was poor, the butler was poor, the gardener was poor...”
70 posted on 1/11/2008 9:11:03 PM by Ignatz (Winner of the prestigious 1960 Y-chromosone award!)

Fox News
Lesson for the GOP— It is one thing to be rich but try not to act like it
By Lloyd Green Published November 13, 2012
(...)
I am sure that if Hubbard had lived through the Depression, he would have written that his maid was poor, his butler was poor and they were running low on the Grey Poupon.  This man is also the dean of Columbia Business School and might have been our Treasury Secretary or Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Twitter Gordon Aplin
‏@GordonAplin
Joe Hockey grew up surrounded by poverty. His butler was poor, his chauffeur was poor, the upstairs maid was poor ...  (Sorry, old joke)
10:39 PM - 13 Aug 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Thursday, August 14, 2014 • Permalink