Turning A Buck

by Harry T. Roman


Do kids look to turn a buck today? I don't think so from what I have seen. It does not seem to occupy their thinking. Maybe their parents just reach into their pockets and give them what they ask for.

I distinctly remember trying to earn money so I could buy what I wanted. My parents certainly did not have spare cash burning a hole in their pockets.

How did you turn a buck?

Washing and waxing cars was a major way I made some "jingle". Usually took a whole morning to get the job done, but it made it worthwhile. I might make $10 if my customer had some "coin" to spare. I would look for the guys who were working at a nearby shop, or small commercial outlet. By the time they came out at night, their old jalopy would look neat as a pin all polished up with windows cleaned and interior swept or vacuumed out. Almost always got repeat calls for business.

"Hello Anna?" (my mother)


"This is Lou the butcher. Can Harry stop down and clean out the meat cases for me?"

"Sure Lou, I'll have him get right down there after lunch…OK?"

"That's great! I'll throw some pork chops in too."

Lou Ruggerio the butcher was always a good work site for me. I would crawl into his glass meat cases with a bucket full of Pine Sol and water and make those babies as clean as a whistle. I can still see Lou there now, cutting the big slabs of beef and pork. He would make those Japanese steak house cooks look like amateurs.

By the time I was done, Lou had 6 pork chops ready for Mom and a nice $20 bill for me. It was often dirty, sweaty, work, but I earned it myself. I always thought twice when I spent hard earned money; and that's the way it was supposed to be. They called it responsibility back then.

Shoveled snow too and made a few bucks here and there; but only after I shoveled out our house. [I see some glimmers of hope here. The last couple of years, I have seen kids asking to shovel snow in my neighborhood. Maybe all is not lost after all.]

But the toughest work I ever did had lots of heat added in for good measure. Ever tar a garage roof? Try that on a hot summer day! It's like trying to paint a blast furnace. Did a small commercial roof once. "Oofah" was that a job! Got $50 for it and thought I was in hog heaven. Every time I smell a tar roofing job in progress, I remember those jobs I did.

Let's see, I also did plenty of yard clean-ups, garden and digging jobs, and general things like painting. Amazing how those acquired skills come back when you grow up and get your own house to maintain.

Did my share of dog sitting, walking, and taking care of pets when owners went on vacation. Was not a baby-sitter for sure. Not my cup of tea.

In high school, I repaired radios and other electronic gizmos. Had a faithful following of teachers who partook of my repair services-including the gym staff at Barringer…..

"Hey, isn't Roman supposed to be taking gym class this period? Where is he? (new gym teacher speaking)"

"I gave him a special athletic dexterity test. He is taking it in the electronics lab. (head gym teacher speaking)"

"What is a dexterity test?"

"He's fixing our office radio!"

"Is that something he gets credit for?"

"It is if I think so!"

I always got along with the gym teachers. We spoke the same language.

When the new Barringer High was completed, I worked that summer moving the science labs over from the old building to the new one. Worked 5 days a week, got my lunch paid for, and got to keep anything the teachers no longer wanted. Quite a lucrative summer if I do say so.

When I got my old jalopy, it opened a whole new universe of buck turning. I can't remember now many times that old station wagon was pressed into service for a quick moving job, hauling a newly bought refrigerator home, or shuttling folks to and from places. That old car paid for itself several times over.

When I was 15-and-half, I got my working papers and a part time job at Robert Hall clothes. Worked my way through high school and college; and upon graduation got a job at PSE&G and have been there ever since. Seems like yesterday I was wrapping clothes at Robert Hall. Wouldn't change a thing, even if I could.


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