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
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.