Friday, August 23, 2013

Teenage Jobs Summer and After School

Maria's post asking where did you work when you were young @  started me thinking about how many jobs I had before I started working full time after I graduated Flushing High School. There were many and quite varied all spurred on by my mother who thought it was slothful to hang around and play ball all the day no matter how much I disagreed. Actually she got me my first job at Frank's vegetable store where I'd deliver purchases on my two wheeler which wasn't as sturdy as the ones the super markets used, and the basket was much slimmer. I worked at Frank's for about a week. The deal was he let me keep the tips, no salary. At the end of the week, one Saturday there was this humongous delivery I had to make. Just before I got to the house the three packages I was precariously juggling fell unceremoniously to the sidewalk with a great plop. There was squashed strawberries, melons with dents and squashed tomatoes among very dirty and bruised apples and vegetables. Apparently the person I delivered this to had the gall to call Frank before I returned to the store because when I got to the store Frank suggested I get the hell away from him and never darken his threshold again, unless of course I was buying something.

At thirteen my mother contrived with an uncle of mine to get me a job at The Astoria Pool for the summer. It paid fifty cents an hour which was minimum wage and for those only a few years from the Great Depression that was a lot of money especially for a kid. There was a couple of problems that had to be overcome. First of all my mother had a problem with me crossing Northern Blvd. where the RKO Keith's was located and this required me taking the bus and subway from Queensborough Hill Flushing into Astoria at all hours. The pool opened somewhere around noon and closed at ten in the evening. But she overcame her fear when she considered the fifty cents an hour being paid, remember that was a lot of moola to her.  The second problem was I had to get working papers which required proof of age, which was supposed to be fourteen meaning I was a year to young for working papers, and a physical. I don't know how they did it but mom and her brother gave me a birth certificate which proved I was fourteen and all I had to do was remember I was born one year later than I actually was born. The physical was my problem. For some reason the Doctors at the board of health were only women and they insisted in those days of testing for hernias which necessitated dropping ones draws and having the Doctor shove her finger behind one's testicles up your scrotum with the admonitions to turn your head and cough. Apparently I didn't have a hernia but when I coughed some phlegm when flying out of my mouth splatting against the wall. Well she didn't say to cover my mouth and what the hell I was only a street kid of thirteen. Anyway I passed the physical and got the job.

When I reported for my first day of work I was assigned a broom and little pick-up on a wooden handle and told to patrol the outside around the entrance keeping it clean. I wanted to go down into the pool area because that is where the guys were meeting all the girls but I was so good at my job as a garbage man they kept me on top never letting me come in contact with the girls in their bathing suits. Needless to say this was very disconcerting. I used to pray for rain because the pool would close and I could go bowling with my friends since I had some money from my summer job. The job was good though. I learned a lot from the older guys who let me know there were such a thing a gays (we called them different but I don't want to offend anyone) but I really didn't believe them. They also pointed out the "good girls" and the "bad girls" but because I was so young they never introduced me. Mom would've have a stroke if she knew what her little boy was picking up besides the garbage. By the way all teenage jobs required I turn in the pay to my mom and she would dole out whatever she thought was enough for me at the time. I never liked this arrangement but I found out later that she saved the money she kept and when I married she used it to pay for the reception as my wife's parents couldn't. Mom was always a saver.

There was a lull between that summer job and another job. Mom got me a job with a lady who lived around the block, at fifty cents an hour, to help her clean her house on Saturdays. When we got to the front windows my friends would wait on the sidewalk and hoot derision's at me to which this genteel lady would tell me they would be whistling out of the other side of their mouths when I would become rich and famous. Never happened but it was a good thought.

Worked for the first Italian super market that came The Hill in many capacities. Actually sold vegetables and fruit for a bit. Didn't know what I was doing but when the ladies would ask if this melon was ripe or not I'd expertly feel the end with my thumbs and say yes or no not knowing if it was so.  Some came back and said the melon was sweet and just right others would complain that I didn't know what I was doing, and they were correct. I stacked shelves, worked in the Butcher's place but only scrubbed down the blocks and swept the place they didn't trust me with any knives. Cleaning out the dairy freezer was disgusting as it was done once a week on Saturday nights and once you got close to it it really smelled of the sour milk and cheeses. BUT the job I liked the most was delivery. They had sturdy bikes, big baskets and the tips were very good better than the weekly pay. I managed to convince my mom it would be better for her to keep the whole pay if she let me keep the tips. I am ashamed to admit I lied about the amount of tips I was getting but one has to survive, doesn't one? Besides I was hitting the bars and pizzeria and really needed the money.

One summer I worked for my Uncle's dry cleaner. I called the job "Spotter's Assistant". Many clothes had dirt that the spotter couldn't get out and other mishaps such as vomit, feces blood and other types of human excrement on them. I would get about 100 garments a day in this condition that had to be hand washed. The three wash tubs and a big board was set up by the boiler. When July hit 95 degrees it was like 120 degrees where I was working. Had to change the water a lot. At the end of the day I waterproofed raincoats. Some needed hand washing they would be dipped into hot, hot water, then into cold then into the solution that had the waterproofing. I loved placing my arms up yo my biceps in the cold water. Two things, I was in great shape and the salary was upped to seventy-five cents an hour. I was pretty good at this and I used to get calls from dry cleaners on The Hill and Corona. The winter time at this job was warm like a hot summer day.

All those jobs kept me out of trouble and gave me a few bucks when I needed it. On top of it all I had plenty of time to play ball. Except for the fact that I couldn't play on Flushing High School's team because they practiced in the afternoon. Mom couldn't see me not working just to play ball. But there was plenty of time in the summer from six to nine when it would get dark and then Sundays when we'd play league games, PAL. OPEN CYO and the like. Yep Maria's blog mentioned at the start of this post evoked great memories.


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