Let us go back in time, to the ‘50s or ‘60s when you might have been 10, 12 or 15 years old. Do you have memories of how you obtained a few pennies or dollars to purchase something or to do something you desired?
It may have been money for a new pair of Converse sneakers; or a new bicycle that had been on your “want list.” For some of us, what monies we had for things like these was as a result of saving an allowance that was received from our parents. Yes, the weekly allowance enabled many of us to do things that we wanted to do. You must remember receiving something like a quarter for your weekly allowance. You could do a lot with a quarter in those days.
You could purchase penny candy during the week and still have enough left to catch a Saturday matinee movie, and purchase popcorn and a soda. But you may recall the days when we engaged in a variety of employment and other money-making activities in order to have money of our own to use as we wanted. So, how many of you had jobs after school or on weekends as school age youngsters, back in the day?
The result of discussions with friends about their jobs, while in elementary and junior high school, indicates that the job of paper boy was a popular job that allowed one to earn a little money. You must remember the paperboy! For many boys, this was their first job.
Do you recall how the paperboy would come around and throw your newspaper up on your porch or against your front door? In order to deliver the papers, he walked with a large bag, rode a bicycle or pulled a wagon. Although the job of paperboy required getting up quite early in the morning, these boys were usually reliable. Sometimes this job required getting up as early as five in the morning to deliver papers before going to school.
Saturday was the day that the paperboy used to collect the money for papers delivered. Paperboys collecting monies ended years before the paperboy was replaced by carriers driving automobiles. However, these were boys who were on a mission. These were boys who were focused. Paperboys did not want to depend on an allowance; they wanted some money of their own and desired the means to do for themselves. If you did not deliver newspapers, then perhaps you delivered circulars. Newspapers were not filled with inserts as they are today. Thus, little kids picked up a dollar or two for going door to door in a specified area to leave advertising circulars. You do not see circulars being delivered today nor do you find paperboys. Jobs like these, for young people, have been left back in the day.
Some readers may recall washing dishes in a restaurant in their younger days. This was a job that required no experience and could be performed by any able-bodied person. The number of friends and acquaintances that worked as dishwashers was comparable to the number that delivered newspapers.
A friend vividly remembers the dishes being placed through a small window in the kitchen area where he worked. Not only did he wash dishes, his job included washing the pots and pans used by cooks. I suspect that some of you that worked as dishwashers also cleaned tables when customers finished their meals and took the dirty dishes to the kitchen area.
Some of you took out the trash, cleaned the floors and assisted in keeping other areas of the restaurant clean. Additionally, working in a restaurant, you may have also refilled the salt and pepper shakers and worked at the cash register. Others may have worked as servers, hosts and hostesses, and helped with food preparation under the supervision of the chef and cooks.
It was interesting to learn of the non-traditional jobs that school aged youngsters had in the past. One of my colleagues told me that he delivered prescriptions for a druggist on his bicycle. I thought that this type of job was unique, a bit unusual and only applied to him until I came across an Internet article titled, “Growing Up In the 1950’s and 1960’s,” from the Website, Down the Lane, by Kent Cricket. Cricket points out that at age 12, he obtained a job as a “Chemist Boy” which was a fancy title for delivering patients prescriptions also on his bicycle; a job that he performed three evenings a week after school was dismissed. I had a good friend that engaged in another interesting job as a teenager. While it was delivery work, it was different in that he, along with some friends, delivered baked goods for Greenberg’s Bakery which was located in the vicinity of 60th and Spruce streets here in Philadelphia.
For one day during the week, after school and on Saturday, he delivered bread, bagels and other baked items for which he received $3 for the evening and $5 for Saturdays. One of my friends from North Jersey shared with me how he was ashamed of the clothing he wore while in elementary and junior high school. He grew up in public housing and his parents did not have the means to buy him new and stylish clothing. But once he reached high school, he had obtained a job delivering alcoholic beverages from a liquor store and wore a new outfit every week.
Some of you may have worked as a caddy on a golf course. One of my colleagues remembered his experience as a caddy well; he smiled as he told me about his experience, particularly how he was treated to lunch once reaching the ninth hole. Others may have worked as a summer camp counselor. Do you know of anyone who worked as a tour guide for various sites while in high school? Of course, working as a stock boy was another way in which some of you earned money, back in the day.
While many of you had jobs working for a company, organization or a sole proprietor, some of you had your own hustles to make money in the past. I imagine that some of you utilized the super market and the grocery store to earn a few dollars or more. Were you one of the neighborhood kids that went to the store with a shopping list for Mrs. Johnson and her purchases were added to “the book.” Twenty-five cents may not seem like a lot today, but it could buy quite a bit, back then. For a similar amount, did you hang around the supermarket checkout counter to bag groceries? Or, did you hang around outside to help place the shopping bags into the shopper’s automobile? Perhaps you showed an enterprising spirit by parking your Ryder Wagon outside of the supermarket. Recall how the elderly women would be asked if they needed help with getting the groceries home?
Now, a delivery of groceries to one’s home was a big payday. I can easily go back in time and see little boys pulling their wagons, walking along side of a grandmother or mother, with a wagon full of grocery bags. What I would not give to have one of these back in the day images on a poster format to hang on a wall at home or on the wall in my office. This is the kind of image that gives back in the day true meaning.
Some of you vividly recall the snowstorms of the past. You must remember as I do, the little boys with shovels larger than they could handle were out in droves. They would knock on your door or ring your doorbell and politely ask you, “Can I shovel your steps and sidewalk. At the end of the snow shoveling days, little boys, full of pride over their earnings had their own little nest egg to purchase things that they wanted or needed.
Other youngsters had a hustle collecting old newspapers and other materials, which they loaded onto their wagons and headed to the junk yard. Following the weighing of their trash, they received nickels, dimes, quarters and yes, something called a 50-cent piece. Did any of you have your own shoe-shining hustle? Some of you are old enough to remember when empty soda bottles could be returned to stores in exchange for the 2 cents deposit. This was a popular money making activity for young boys and girls. It was the thing to do on Saturday mornings as the two cents per bottle could generate the necessary twenty-five cents required for admission to the Saturday movie matinee and purchase refreshments. Did you washed windows as a youngster? Well, I did and the pay was based on the number of windows I washed. I cannot tell you the last time I saw an adult washing windows, so I know that any image of a youngster washing windows was many years ago.
While little boys had their moneymaking activities, little girls had activities that were just for them. Babysitting was a job for many little girls. Recall how easy it was to get a babysitter in the past? Little girls also could count on helping with cleaning one’s house to get money for their needs and desires. Once becoming a teenager, doing someone’s hair usually meant more than a quarter or 50 cents. The dollar bill was introduced with this job, significantly improving one’s earning capability.
If you are a parent or grandparent with school-aged youngsters who constantly put their hands out for financial assistance, give them a copy of this article. Let them see how young people worked and hustled in the past to get those things that they needed and wanted. Emphasize to them that while this column focuses on jobs and money making activities of the past, they should take the initiative and seek out some of these similar opportunities to make a few dollars just as many of us did, back in the day.