The first jobs were the standards--mowing lawns, raking leaves, and shoveling snow. My first steady job was delivering papers for the Homewood-Flossmoor Star. Mom said they had to get special permission to let me deliver papers so young. This was a local paper--the Chicago Tribune was using the more efficient "guy throwing blindly out of a car as it drove by" method of delivery.
I modified my bike, came up with a process before I even knew what one was, and found the most efficient way possible to deliver the papers. I learned the benefits of good service because I always got great tips and and customers on other routes asked if they could dump their paperboy and join my route. I always put the papers on the porch, between the doors when it was raining so they didn't have to go outside.
I delivered through some of the coldest winters on record and turned over my route when I was 16. A paper route and a "real job" were too much. I still shoveled snow (later using a snowblower...guess Dad should have got a cut of the profits) on the side.
I had some overflow between the first jobs and the first hourly job. I went to work with my Uncle Bob Sanaghan. He cleaned banks at night with his sons. One dropped out, and I became #2. Being low man on the totem pole, I got bathrooms and windows. I'd take windows over bathrooms any day. I cleaned more toilets than I ever would have believed. Uncle Bob was though, too. Those toilets had to be spotless or I'd be doing them again. And I did.
I did learn one thing. You'd assume that the men's room would be harder to clean because we all know that men are bigger slobs. It was a life lesson learned--I'll take a men's restroom over a woman's rest room any day. It was a lesson learned young that served me well.
There's only one good window story. It was winter and I was "improving my process." I started at the left side of this 100 foot bank of windows. I started spraying the window cleaner and just kept going down to the end. I went back to the beginning--and it was frozen. We tried to get that stuff off, but there was no getting it oft. We had to leave it. All this fun for $5 a night, three nights a week, under the table.
First Hourly Job
The first hourly job was working for the Carousel Snack Bar in Washington Square Mall. Everybody should do their time in the food services industry. It's very rewarding....or at least gives you an idea what people have to put up with. It was in the middle of the mall, so the counter was all around us. There was nowhere to escape from the customers. Cook, clean, get this, people griping about prices, and my favorite phrase: "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean." I hated that phrase. I also hated the slimy spray cleaner we used to shine the stainless steel.
Second Hourly Job
After about a year, I'd had enough of working there. I was the only male and I noticed that some of women had a bit of a catfight going. The customers were wearing me down and I knew I wanted a change. I went down the mall and got a job working in the Service Merchandise warehouse. No more customers! I wore shorts and a t-shirt during the good weather, I often ran to work and it didn't matter I was all hot and sweaty when I got there. It was great.
The trucks came in the back, we loaded the stuff on a one of three different conveyor belts and sent it up. We then loaded it to it's proper spot on the shelf. The customer orders came up on a printer, we got the stuff off the shelves and sent it down the front conveyer belts. Mom's friend Jenny worked in the jewelry lockdown cage and also had access to the same conveyer belt. We didn't stock the jewelry, but we occasionally brought them their stuff when the truck dropped it off. The boxes were unmarked, but it was still a box full of jewelry, cameras, or other expensive stuff.
I never did understand why they picked me to work there. They guys I worked with all monsters. Taller than me, built like brick ....outhouses. These guys got down lifting heavy stuff all day and went to the gym to lift more heavy stuff. I was definitely the runt of the litter. Still, it didn't take me long to find my place.
These guys were all big but I was smaller and quicker. They had a bunch of gorillas, but I was Monkey Boy. We worked in a giant warehouse full of stacked shelves. All the extra stuff had to go on the top shelf and I was five foot seven....just tall enough to stand up on the top shelves and not hit my head. I'd climb up, jump across the aisles from shelf to shelf, and they'd throw the extra stock up to me (the stuff that overflowed it's spot on the regular shelf). They'd throw boxes of toasters up to me real hard and try and knock me down, laughing. I'd chase them down across the top shelf and drop small, but soft, stuff down and try and hit them. Hey, I wasn't stupid. I wasn't going to hit them with anything hard. It was fun. When stuff got stuck on the conveyer belt going down to the customers, I was always the one that volunteered to go running down it and break up the log jam. I wasn't worried about getting hurt.
We also dealt with the returns. Surprisingly, especially around Christmas when were busy and there were more people working there, there were a lot more radio returns...especially Walkmen and boom boxes. We'd set the "broken" boom boxes up at the various points around the warehouse so we could hear the music. Some we'd sell later as "open boxes." Some of them really were broken, but as long as the radio worked, we were happy. We couldn't cover all the points in the warhouse, and sometimes we didn't like the music that other people did, so that's why sometimes the walkmen that were broke took a long time to make it back to the manufacturer, too.
I did help with the heavy stuff sometimes. I learned that the dorm fridges weren't that hard to carry if you did it right. I could carry them if they were on the shelf, up in the air already. I'd bend over, slide them onto my hips, and carry them on my butt. All the weight was on my legs, and those were plenty strong. I came around the corner one time, carrying our largest dorm fridge on my back, and one of the big guys saw me and just shook his head. He told me I was going to kill myself.
The worst stuff wasn't the heavy things. It was the light stuff that was the fad for the year. I still remember when Cabbage Patch Kids came out. We filled an entire section, floor to ceiling (about 30 feet high) with boxes of Cabbage Patch dolls The came in boxes of 5 and as many as we stacked up, when Christmas started getting closer, we started hauling them back out again. It was like the tide, semi's would roll in loaded with the dolls, we'd stack them up high in the room, then the customers would come in and we'd pull them all back down again.
Returned Cabbage Patch dolls were the best. We'd play All Star World Wrestling Federation with them. We throw them, dive on them, crush them under heavy things. It doesn't come off in writing very well or sounding like a lot of fun (much like trying to explain a drunken episode after you're sober...'And then he threw up on his pants!), but there's nothing like a tag-team piledriver on a Cabbage Patch doll, burying it into the concrete floor.
The next big craze was Teddy Ruxpin. That was the bear that had a cassette recorder inside him and he would sing and talk to you, with his face moving with different expressions. We hated him, and with the hard plastic spots in his face (his snout and nose), you couldn't do a flying piledriver with him because you might get hurt. We still had our fun with them anyway. We had one weird guy that was ex-Air Force, he got the idea to hang Teddy in effigy. He tied up a noose and put it around his neck. I got some pink paper, made a tongue, and taped it in Teddy's mouth, sticking out. Then we hung him right where the conveyer belt started to drop down to the customers. Every time something went under him, his little legs would kick and he'd spin around. It was great.
Then we got busted. If you looked down the belt, you could see about 8 inches above the top of the customer counter below. Usually this let you see a lot of belt buckles and that was it. Some little kid was there with his father and looked up to see where everything was coming from. He saw Teddy being hung, flipped out and started crying. Everyone started looking up to see what we did that caused the kid to get upset, then the store manager came running up (he had to go a long way around--he was a big guy and made it pretty quick) and told is to take it down, NOW. He thought it was funny, but he had to worry about the customers. We hung him by the order printer (where the orders came rolling in), but it just wasn't as funny without his legs kicking all the time.
On the side I did a little work delivering pizza as well. It didn't last very long. I worked at Service Merchandise until I joined the Air Force in the Delayed Enlistment Program. I had ten months before I left so I still kept working there, but my time was running out.
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Joining the Air Force (or the Navy or the Marines)
I had great ASVAB scores (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery--a combination SAT/ACT and skills testing all in one) and everyone who knew me assumed I'd join the Marines because of my attitude. Even when I was in, people assumed I was in the Marines. I don't know why. They were too unthinking at the lower levels and not at all conducive to my further goals of college. The Army was tempting with their extra money, but I'd heard too many stories and didn't think it was for me. I flip-flopped, driving my mom nuts, but the Air Force it was.
From here, you'll have to jump to the Military page.
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