W is for Work: My odd jobs in high school. Twenty-third of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
To get a summer job during my teen years, I applied for my working papers at age 15 – a certificate of employment that told businesses they couldn’t work teens for too many hours after school or in the summer.
But even with working papers, part-time positions were hard to come by. So, I ended up doing odd jobs during the summers to earn some income. Here is a sampling of some of those jobs.
I started babysitting in junior high, but only for families on our street with my parents just a phone call away. In high school, though, I graduated to babysitting for families off the block – mostly friends of my parents, who would pick me up and drop me off after my sitting gig.
The customary drill was to get the children to bed after some early evening TV watching. Then I had the empty house to myself until the parents came home.
Sometimes the quiet house could be scary, though – like the house near the bowling alley where hot-rodding cars were always careening by, or pretty much any house if I watched a horror film on the Saturday night late show.
How many times did I turn off the TV to check for random noises? Too many to count! But a job was a job, and I managed to get it done every time without calling home.
In the 1960s, white shirts with a suit and tie were the work uniform for most professional men. Boys also had to wear dress shirts to school, although theirs were usually plaids or colors.
Wash and wear fabric wasn’t a thing yet, so getting all those shirts professionally laundered and pressed cost a fortune. This created a market opening for someone who could iron – someone like me!
Through her church network, my mom found women with mountains of shirts that needed pressing – and I took in ironing over the summer for $3.00 a basket. (To put this into perspective, gas cost 35 cents a gallon then.)
My maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence was a clothes horse who taught me the correct way to iron a shirt, as illustrated in the video below — and how to use a laundry sprinkler to get rid of wrinkles.
With these newfound skills, I set myself up in our cool basement rec room on a tall chair and ironed away — while watching Edge of Night, The Secret Storm, General Hospital, and other daytime soap operas. Not a bad gig at all!
And let’s not forget the job my grandmother got me at the Altamont Fair – located not far from my grandparents’ home near Albany, N.Y.
Boom, as we called her, was president of the area’s Esther Stevens Brazier Guild of Early American Decoration, Inc. and regularly entered her tole-painted items at the fair – winning blue ribbons in contests at the Arts and Crafts Building.
They needed young people to staff the building and guard the artwork – a job I did for a few of summers. The first time I worked there during junior high, I had braces on my teeth and felt self-conscious – especially around the teen guys who ran the spin-paints booth outside the building.
In my later teens, though, the braces were off, my straightened hair was fashionably arranged, and I was a veteran of Friday night dances at the K of C hall. So, with Boom’s permission, after my shift I’d head off confidently to the teen dance at the other side of the fairgrounds. Plus, unlike my other odd jobs, the one at the Altamont Fair came with an official paycheck at the end of fair week!
And just like that the summer would be over, and it was back to high school – but with a bit more money in my pocket!
Up next, X is for X-ercise: High school sports before Title IX. Please stop back!
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