Serious business happens at the Federal Reserve building in St Louis. Guards stop visitors entering its free Economy Museum for x-ray and visitor tags.
“You have a pair of scissors in your purse?” the guard asked.
“Yes,” I had forgotten them.
“We can’t hold for you. You have to get rid of them off the grounds.”
The three grandchildren followed me around the corner to find a hiding spot for the scissors. We returned to the museum. I showed my license. They scanned the purse. We clipped on visitor tags.
Huge doors silently opened us to a room with a wrap around the history of the Federal Reserve. The lights dimmed and flashed, a recorded voice spoke. Sophie, 11, stared, “wow!” She and her brothers watched and listened to the brief history.
I wanted to stay and read all the display, but the lights brightened and the next doors opened to the main part of the museum. Sophie and I concentrated on the section regarding “How people make decisions.” Each touched on a decision’s social and economic impact. No high school diploma? Your chances of low to no income far outweigh those who pursued more education.
Every time you say ‘yes’ to do one thing you are saying ‘no’ to another. Let’s say you have two offers for Saturday afternoon: Mow a lawn and earn $20 or go to the movies with friends and spend $10. Have more cash and less time with friends or less cash to spend when you go with friends. Thought provoking concept for any 11 year-old let alone her 67 year-old grandmother.
We meandered over to the wall of screens presenting short videos. I quickly learned that the Federal Reserve began before World War I to stave off the cycles of economic depressions and bank closings. I did not know that J.D. Rockefeller pledged half his wealth to shore up the nation’s economy in 1907. Other men of wealth also stepped in to stave off the problem. If the banks and stock market failed, the whole nation would be plunged into a massive economic depression.
Once the crisis calmed, plans, programs and laws developed that lead to President Woodrow Wilson signing the bill establishing the Federal Reserve. We visited the Eighth District of the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. It covers the finances in seven states and aims to stabilize the economy against collapses.
Other videos showed how everyone has some connection with the nation’s economy and trade: “Buy a gallon of paint to remodel your room, you have affected the economy.” We smiled proudly when they named the company where my son works.
Henry, 6, stared at documentary then returned to play the Trading Pit game. I tried to compete with him. I lost because I actually looked at the numbers to get the best prices. Henry just kept hitting the buttons quickly and grinning. He always won. I guess that the best choice for keeping the economy alive and going well is to have the reflexes of an athletic six year old.
Sam, 9, glanced at some of the 100 exhibits, pushed buttons and asked “When can I go to the gift shop?” He wanted his free bag of money – finely shredded dollar bills. We each took one before we left. I went around the corner to get my scissors. No one asked to use them to open the bags. Good thing, because I am sure the guards would not have been happy. Confetti makes a mess at parties and those serious guards would want that taken off the grounds.