“Let’s look in on a high-school bookkeeping class,” begins this short film from 1947. And when we do, we’re introduced to a variety of students who have decided that bookkeeping is just what they need to get ahead in life.

This film argues that bookkeeping knowledge is important for everyone. It’s like a propaganda piece for the subject. Bookkeeping is useful, it says, for a variety of reasons:

  • If you plan to go into business.
  • If you want to be a farmer (!?!).
  • To fill out your income-tax forms.
  • To invest in stocks.
  • To get a good job, or to earn a promotion.
  • If you plan to go into politics (!?!).

The film points out that bookkeeping isn’t just useful for those going into business; it’s useful for families, too. Why does everyone need to know bookkeeping? Here’s how one father puts it to his son:

A family is like a small business. We have our income and our expenses. Some things we buy with cash, others on open charge accounts, and some on the installment plan. Important transactions, such as buying our home, call for careful planning, and the keeping of records to be sure our plan is carried out.

[...]

Like a business, a family that keeps regular accounts can plan better for the future, and it’s less likely to go broke. Why even your mother finds it helpful to understand bookkeeping.

It’s a lot of fun to see some of the old technology from 1947, such as the grocery store’s manual cash register. I never realized these machines tabulated cumulative daily totals. The grocery store itself is interesting because it’s transitional: moving from the “ask the grocer” model to our modern “get it yourself” model.

It’s also fascinating to realize that the grocer carried charge accounts for his customers, and kept the records by hand. Kris and I just made a huge grocery trip this afternoon. I cannot imagine the folks at Safeway allowing us (and the thousands of others who shop there) store credit, or keeping paper records. It’s only been 60 years since this video was produced, but things have changed a lot!

Yes, all the students in the bookkeeping class will use the skills they learn later in life. But what’s this? “Someone seems to be absent today! Or perhaps this vacant seat is for you.”

Great stuff.

This film reminds me a lot of a guest post from two years ago in which Flexo explained how to be CFO of your own life.