The Old Man

The Old Man
My Passport Photo

Sunday, March 28, 2010

This is my 2nd posting.  Since this is supposed to be about my 50 years of work experiences, I suppose I should talk about my 1st job.  I'd had jobs before this, but none that paid a regular salary.  I'd worked for the local grocer, Harry Light, who operated Adinoff's Grocery.  I was the jack-of-all-trades for Harry.  I swept up, I delivered groceries, I filled telephone orders; all for fifty cents a day.  Plus whatever tips I earned from the deliveries.  I also worked with my uncles George and Laurence, hauling trash during the summers.  I learned from George how to scavenge at the city dump.  I picked through the garbage to ferret out the stuff that people threw away because they didn't realize the value of what we now call 'recyclables'.  My younger brothers would later work for the garbage collector and they supplemented their income by picking through the trash and separating the good stuff before it got to the city dump.  My uncle George made me a gift of a tricycle he made from recycled parts he picked up at the city dump.  My aunt Paula and I would walk through the dump looking for returnable soda bottles.  We got two cents for the 16 ounce bottles and a nickle for the quart size bottles.  We could easily make a couple of dollars a day at the city dump.  I also made money as a youngster by picking flowers and selling them door-to-door.  I learned from my uncles to show up at the fish docks when the fisherman returned with their catch to pick up their castoff fish.  They may have been fishing for Flounder and picked up Bass in the net.  The Bass may have been cast overboard except for us 'needy' folks who took the catch and either consumed it ourselves or sold it to others for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost.  This apparently was a longstanding practice because my great-aunt Rose told this same story in her book entitled 'Love My Children'.  All of these activities preceded my first real job.
I got my first job at the ripe old age of 16.  I got tired of going to school with either no lunch money or in raggedy clothes or both.  There were no 'after school' jobs I could get.  Most of the boys could get jobs at the local bowling alley setting pins, but I was too slow and too clumsy.  I couldn't bring myself to stand on the corner as a 'shoe shine' boy.  Plus, I didn't know how to shine shoes, nor could I do all the fancy things with the shoe-shine rags I saw other boys do.  This also provided entertainment for the sailors who were the likely customers.  So, I quit school when I turned 16.  I didn't have a plan.  I figured I'd lay around watching cartoons until something came up.  What came up was my mother's ire when she learned that my step-father had signed the papers that allowed me to quit school.  She thought I should continue and eventually make something of myself.  So she kicked me off the couch and sent me off to get a job.  I was back in a few hours and resumed my cartoon watching.  She again kicked me in my butt saying 'I thought I told you to go get a job'?  I told her I had a job and I start Saturday; this was Tuesday.  I had been to the Employment Office.  I took a test--I was pretty smart.  I got good grades in school; that's why my mother was upset.  There was one job I was qualified for.  I was sent to the Franklin Printing House on Thames Street.  Aaron Slom was the owner.  Harvey Oest was the Foreman.  I interviewed for the position of printing pressman.  I learned to set type at Thompson Junior High School and I learned how to run a press at the George Junior Republic.  So, even though I didn't realize it, I had skills.  I didn't even ask what the salary was.  Benefits wasn't even a concept then--this was April, 1960.  I don't think there was a minimum wage.  Anyway, I worked for a week before I knew how much I was working for.  Friday was payday and Aaron presented me with a pay envelope that had the remains of my $40 weekly salary.  I was making a dollar an hour.  He took out taxes and social security.  I remember having to apply for a social security number to make everything legal.  That was it; I earned my first real paycheck in April, 1960.  And very likely, I'll earn my last real paycheck in April, 2010.
That job was actually a lot of fun.  I was only 16 years old, but the guys treated me like I was one of them.  I played cards with them at lunchtime.  That sometimes involved gambling.  I remember Harvey was a heavy drinker and sometimes we would meet at the shop on Saturdays and play cards while he got drunk.  Needless to say, I ended up with all his money.  He didn't seem to mind.  I eventually learned to operate every piece of machinery in the shop.  They used me as the fill-in guy whenever anyone was out sick.  Aaron didn't pay if you didn't show up for work, so he loved it when I filled in.  Since I was the lowest paid person in the shop, he made more money from the jobs I worked.  I eventually became the person he used to work any overtime.  He paid straight salary regardless how many hours you worked--no overtime pay rate.  I was lovin' it.  I was learning and earning.  After six months, I asked for a raise.  I asked for a 25% raise, from a dollar an hour to $1.25.  He wanted to give me a ten cent raise.  I would have been happy with that, but his wife Rita made all those decisions.  She decided on a salary of $1.20 an hour.  Which was fine by me.  Since Aaron calculated your time to the minute, having a salary that eliminated rounding errors was to my benefit.  Six months later, I asked for another raise.  I had it in my mind, that you were entitled to a raise every six months.  This time I wanted a take-home pay of $50 a week.  With that salary, I was already making more money than my uncles who had families to support.  I was living large. 
One of my favorite tasks was to print the newspaper for the Navy base--the Navalog.  It was a six page paper.  I printed four pages on the big Babcock machine.  It used a 25 by 36 inch sheet of paper that I hand fed.  It really required skill and a certain amount of coordination.  Plus, the area where the machine was located on the first floor had a big picture window facing a major parking lot.  I used to draw audiences on Thursday night when the press was cranked up.  This machine was only used for this weekly publication and a few other infrequent publications.  It would take an hour to run 2,500 sheets through that machine.  I was printing pages 1,2,5, and 6.  Aaron's brother, Earl was printing pages 3 and 4 upstairs on the Meihle Vertical machine.  I could run that machine as well.  The concept we used was called 'work and turn'.  We laid the pages out so all four pages were printed on one side of the paper.  After the first time through, we allowed the ink to dry, then we turned the paper over and printed the same pages on the other side.  After the final printing, we'd cut the paper in half and fold producing a perfect newspaper.  Earl did the same thing upstairs with the inside pages.  I was pretty proud of that effort.
It was that same effort that ended my tenure at the Franklin Printing House.  Next time...

1 comment:

  1. WOW! How fascinating! I cannot wait to hear more. I know these stories, but not to this level of detail. I'm really enjoying learning all about you!