Re: Did You Have an After School Job?

02/13/08 - posted by Paul Judge

Mary-Ann, what a great topic to get us to ruminate over. I’ve had a brain worm of that old tune by the Silhouettes, “Get a job, Sha na na na, sha na na na na” running through my head since you posted it.

My parents allowed me to remain gainfully under employed pretty much through my teen years, yet I wasn’t necessarily allergic, like Maynard G. Krebs, to the actuality of work. As it seemed for most kids there were always chores around the house that I was expected to perform - stairways and the garage floor to sweep, garbage to be taken out, dishes to be washed, dried and put away, kitchen and bathroom floors to mop, ashes to be removed from the fireplace, and the front and back yard lawns to be mowed and hedges trimmed. My sense of duty saw me also cutting the neighbors lawns on both side of ours. Every few weeks I washed the family car.

My allowance was two bits a week, adjusted at age 14 to four bits that doubled with each birthday through high school. Incidental income came from collecting pop bottles around the neighborhood and ransoming them at the corner market for their deposit money. That enterprise allowed me and other kids on the block to buy candy bars or Cho-Chos, Eskimo Pies and the like; or purchase our comic books at the Rexall Drug Store on 42nd and Balboa, or even attend a matinee at the Balboa Theater.

As a kid during the late 1950s I remember dutifully bringing my coins with a deposit envelope to be collected at school and placed in my savings account at the Bank of America on 38th & Balboa. I loved seeing how much ‘loot’ I was saving tallied in my small blue passbook when it was returned from the bank a few days later. By sixth grade I had something like seventeen bucks saved, wow! Plus, there was that mysterious aspect of earning interest on your savings - dollars making pennies by being placed in a bank, pretty neat concept. That money did better than the pocket change collected in the old mayonnaise jar that was the floor of my closet.

In junior high I felt a mixed sense of intimidation and admiration to the guys a few years older who delivered our newspaper. The hard part about that job was knocking on peoples door each month to collect their subscription. I felt too shy to perform that task. There’s a great WNP thread on the Stories Board started by jb about those paperboy jobs that struck a chord with a lot of readers. You can read it here:

During summer vacation my pals and I would shag golf balls or caddy up at Lincoln Park for a few bits when the bigger kids weren’t around. The most righteous job of all was getting hired to set pins at the bowling lanes in Rio Nido during our family vacations. Man that was cool! All those pins to rack and balls to place on the return rails. Hot and thrilling work just right for a kid. Those nickels that I earned were immediately fed to the pin ball and shooting gallery games in the arcade a few doors away.

During high school the job that I really coveted and fumbled was to work as a stock boy at the corner store on 43rd & Balboa run the Carrolls. That tiny pocket of a store could barely hold ten customers at a time. I watched Mike Scott do that job for years with a cool and confident bearing. I thought to myself that I wanted that job. Yet when the time came it went to Ken Berzin one of my best friends because in some kind of adolescent haze which I could not then, nor even now understand, I forgot to show up after Mr. Carroll offered me the job. I remember Mr. Carroll asking if I wanted the job and responding, “Yes, I do.” and him telling me that I could start the following Monday. I remember walking up the hill to my house with my feet barely touching the pavement and, and... A few weeks later I walked in to the store for something and as Mr. Carroll is counting out my change he looks into face and asks, “Didn’t we talk about you coming to work here?” and I just about melted through my shoes. Wow, what a way NOT to begin one’s working career.

My first job came soon after graduating from high school. I was hired as a desk clerk and janitor at the Park Presidio YMCA where I would remain and thrive working as a program staffer over the next three and half years.

I consider myself a career vagabond having ‘surfed’ a variety of jobs in youth services, experiential education, and outdoor recreation. I adopted a strong practice of ‘living within ones means’ that was instilled in me by my working class, Depression veteran parents. The habit learned at a young age of putting money away established my “chipmunk ways” of saving money for an important expense or a ‘rainy day’. Such thrift shaped my choices of what I did and when I worked. I value having time over having money but I also respect and enjoy having worked in a variety of interesting jobs and having the time - off that many such jobs gave me in the off season.

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