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  • August 5th, 2008 | 7:38 AM
Tuesday Memory Challenge - Your first job

I know I owe responses to last week's challenge and a dog update and I need to read other blogs and respond but right now, this is the best I can do.

This week's memory challenge is inspired by the fact that the company I work for in my dayjob is being "merged" (otherwise known as sold by not calling it sold) with another company and layoffs will be coming most likely by the end of this month and will number in the hundreds. (I've heard 500 thrown around.) I have an odd job that was created for me by a boss that is no longer with the company so I have no idea if I will survive this latest adventure or not. And the idea of being 50, not being an engineer, and trying to find a job in tech in the Silicon Valley is more than a little scary.

So on to happier thoughts - memories of my first job. I never babysat as a kid (which might explain why I was so unprepared for motherhood.) I did work once a month for mom stuffing billing statements into envelopes. And I cleaned house for my skating pro in exchange for skating lessons. But the first real live job I had myself was at Woolworth's Drug Store in the Park 'n Shop center in Concord.

(No, this isn't the one I worked at. I don't even know if it is still there anymore.)

Why Woolworths? Because they had animals in the back of the store.

They had fish, which I thought were kind of boring but they WERE animals.

They had turtles which I really loved.

And they sold this little plastic lagoons which I know are horrible for them but I confess that as a child in the sixties, I had some.

And they had lots and lots of birds like these which I could watch for hours.

When I went to apply for the job I had to meet with the manager, Mr. G. He was tall and wore dark rimmed glasses and looked like a science teacher. He had a thick accent from some slavic country. He didn't like the idea of hiring a girl but he needed help. He said a classmate of mine was applying as well, Vint Vastine.

Mr. G asked me a lot of questions and I must have answered them okay because then he took me over to show me the most important thing in the store.

It wasn't quite that old of a cash register but it sure wasn't one of those new-fangled computer ones. He showed me how the cash register worked and how to make change. You always counted the change back to the person to end up with what they gave you. If they gave you $5.00 and their total was $2.97 you had to count back, $2.98, $2.99 when you put the pennies in their hand, then $3.00, then $4.00 then $5.00. He said you always put the change in first. To this day what irks me about people making change (ESPECIALLY in the drive-through) is people give you the paper money and then try to balance the change on top. And they NEVER count it back.

Before he would hire me, Mr. G gave me a math test. But not on paper. I had to do it my head. Fast. I passed but not with the flying colors that my classmate, Vint Vastine got on the same test. Vint got to work the cash register and take care of the animals and I was sent over to the lunch counter to wait tables. Sigh.

The only good thing about that was that I learned how to make one of these:

The gal who ran the lunch counter didn't care for me being there. She was an old-timer and she got all the tips. I did clean-up and filled sodas. I didn't stay there very long. I took a job at Bob's Big Hamburgers. It wasn't a chain, just a little hole-in-the-wall place that made single, double and triple hamburgers dripping in barbecue sauce. Boy they were good. We'd leave the sauce simmering on the fire and cook up the burgers then dunk the entire burger in the sauce before we put it on the bun. My friend Linda Belcher worked there too and we had a lot of fun working together and having our current boyfriends meet us at back for quick breaks. 

I remember dating someone name KC (can't remember his last name) who drove a black El Camino and for some reason the song Old Black Water by the Doobie Brothers always makes me think of him.

The hamburger place was right next to Dutch Pride dairy, the only drive-through dairy in town. It was also the place that Dennis (also can't remember his last name) worked. Dennis drove a bright orange Ford Fairlane (50s? 60s?) I think his dad worked at the same car dealership as my mom. The dairy had a huge walk-in freezer which was also nice for, ahem, quick breaks, during the short time I dated Dennis.

(Laura, just so you know, when I started this post it was just about Woolworths and Mr. G. I remembered the rest as I was writing it out.) (And Jama, I haven't forgotten I owe you a picture of Simon.)

I didn't last long in the food industry. Lousy hours and pay and not enough time for boys. I stopped working until after high school where I promptly went into the exciting field of corporate accounting. But I'll save that for another time.

Your turn. What do you remember about your first job?

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 24 comments — Leave comment )
August 5th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
I remember the little plastic lagoons too. We had turtles, but we caught our own at the lake, and at least the lagoon Mom and Dad popped for was bigger than that, but it did have a fake palm tree.

Good luck with the "merger." Every company I've worked for has been sold, so I know what you're going through. Not fun, and the worst is the politicking that happens before the sale actually goes through!
August 5th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
I remember the little plastic lagoons too....
Me three! :-)
August 11th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
Oh fun to catch your own turtle. I have a dream of a turtle finding my someday backyard pond but I know that's just a dream. But maybe I'll get a frog or two.

The merger is just plain yuck!
August 5th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
My first job was as a waitress at a HoJo's in a marine corps town. I lied about my age (said I was 18 when only 17.) It was miserable. I worked 12 hour shifts and had my butt pinched so many times it was permanently bruised. My boss drank and would periodically turn off all the lights and roar at customers to get out. I was stalked and had my tires slashed. And the pay was bad - $1.80 an hour. I quit after a month. Good learning experience, though.
August 5th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Good learning experience, though....

Jeez! Public stockades sounds like it could be a "Good learning experience" in comparison.
August 5th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Good learning experience, though....
lol. I learned a lot about human nature, which comes in handy now ;o And there were some good people mixed in, like the little old man who always had just a cup of coffee but left a big tip. It wasn't enough to offset, but it made me appreciate the next job after that a lot more!
August 11th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Good learning experience, though....
LOL on the public stockades and the learning experience. And very true on the learning about human nature. I often feel that is where I am lacking because I spent so many years being afraid to live that I forgot to watch what was happening in real life.
August 11th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
Yikes! What a first job.

I would have never managed a job where I had to wait tables. Never.
August 5th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
What an awesome post!
I SO remember Woolworths!

Friends and I once stoled a mutated turtle! He had only one eye! It was weird and cool and scary all at the same time. Someone shoved it in their big jean's pocket.

I don't think the turtle lasted more than a couple of days. They stopped carrying those turtles cuz they were all "mass-produced" and potentially disease-ridden.
August 11th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
Re: What an awesome post!
okay, the stolen mutated turtle totally belongs in a story!
August 5th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
First job...
Peddling papers...

Some conniving young entrepreneur divided up his 70 plus paper route and got all us suckers to work for him. We peddled Monday thru Friday. And he did them ALL on Saturday and collected the tips from our hard work and paid us a flat fee. But when you're 13 and you need something to augment the "sometimes .25 a week" allowance, you'll put up with anything. Fortunately, this "slavery" didn't last but a year and he offered to sell the routes to those "still around" and interested. It was only 30 papers but it was all walkable from my house and in my neighborhood.

It had it's typical paper route "down-sides" -- weather, schedule, dogs and one dead-beat customer.* (* plus side of this, is they got all the wet papers!)

I kept this paper route for six years. From 7th grade til I graduated from High School.

I walked it. I rode it on a bicycle. On my motorcycle. And as "shotgun" in my friend's car.

My customers loved me if for no other reason that I was the same paperboy all those years. And I was lucky. Papers were cheap. .07 a copy. So, .42 was easily rounded off to .50, which made a nice tip! And at Christmas, it wasn't uncommon to get $5. and sometimes ten!

I would sometimes custom-tailor my route to back-track and leave customers who liked to chat near the end. One in particular, an old veteran who would always pay me in pennies. He'd invite me in to count the spilled pennies on his kitchen table to collect what he owed. And I would listen to all his war stories -- even the ones I heard before.

Yeah, I could write a big chapter of my life about my paper route -- my first job!

Edited at 2008-08-05 04:21 pm (UTC)
August 11th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: First job...
This is a great memory! Wow. My friend Kevin had a paper route that sounded a lot like yours and for about as long. Love the story of the old vet and counting pennies. Slatts, you've got some great stuff for book.
August 11th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
Slatts, you've got some great stuff for book.
The Story of Slatts? I dunno.... :-)
August 5th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
Tommy, my turtle, had a lagoon!
August 11th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Tommy was the name of my imaginary pet mouse!
August 5th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Susan, I hope that your job is safe!!!!!!!!!!!

I know, no matter what, you will be doing great because you ARE great!

Hang in there.

I am glad you have your new puppy!!!!!!!! :))
August 5th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
First job... man. First job I had was mucking stalls at my grandfather's neighbour's farm. I mucked his stalls, he gave me $20/week to ride out there, seven days a week and take care of all his stalls (there were 5, so $4/stall/week.) Not bad when you're 13.

After that, since I ended up twisting wrong and hurting myself (I had been trampled only 3 years before), I went to work at a pet store as all around gofer and helped with the dog grooming and stuff.
August 11th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
I love your farm stories! I never got paid for mucking stalls because I was always traded the chore of doing it for the chance to ride.
August 5th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
Good luck on the job thing, Susan. Fingers crossed!

When we were sixteen, the family rule was that we got a summer job--mostly for practice, I think. The woman who had been the secretary at my elementary school had opened a bookstore in town, and I went to her first--she hired me part-time. Then I ended up getting more part-time work at a children's clothing store. (We had one of those old cash registers, too!)

As nice as both the shop owners were, both those jobs pretty much turned me off retail as a career, I think. Just too much straightening, folding, dusting and not enough thinking, interaction, or creativity.
August 11th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we never do seem to get paid well enough to just sit and think and we do it so very well!
August 6th, 2008 01:10 am (UTC)
Thanks for wonderful Woolworth memories--I loved the place.

It wasn't my first job, but I worked in a store called Combination Cash. It was a tiny version of Woolworths.

At night I worked in the concession of a drive-in theater--boy do I have wild memories of that place!
August 11th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome for the memory.

Ooh, I hope you tap into your job at the drive-in for a story. Sounds like you could do a lot with it.
August 18th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
My first real job was working at the real estate company where my Mom worked. I started as the front desk receptionist but got a better job as the assistant for one of the real estate brokers. This lady was old-school in a big way. Besides making a million copies of the mountains of paperwork involved in real estate transactions, I spent most of my time doing data entry into her high-end, computer because she didn't really know to turn it on and printing out updates to her "Filofax" because she couldn't read her own handwriting (and because several of her elderly clients died every year). I also did the odd-job for her, everything from opening doors for plumbers and building inspectors to returning random stuff to Stanford mall to getting her car washed, I even had to feed her 3-legged dog once. You may have heard of her: her name is Shirley Bailey. :-D
August 18th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
LOL. Thanks for sharing this memory. I think you should write a book and put Shirley in it!
( 24 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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