Hunting Cash

Raising Money as a Kid

By Jeff Salter

This week, we’re recalling how we earned money as kids… plus memories about chores and early jobs.
Well, in my family, none of us kids had a measurable allowance until the year we moved (from Louisiana) to Iowa. My big brother was already in college by then, but I (in 10th grade) and my sister (in 7th) each received about $2.60 a month, as I recall. We never asked why we were suddenly paid “big bucks” (compared to the nickel every month that we’d gotten in LA). I always figured it was a sort of “compensation” – or “bribe” – for them having uprooted us from our friends and hometown during pivotal years of our youth.

So unless you count that nickel each month, during all those other kid years we weren’t paid for chores, either. A ritual on Saturdays (during the 7-8 “mowing” months of the year in southeast LA) was picking up sticks and pine cones so Dad could mow. We had zillions of pine trees and each one deposited 932 cones every week… not to mention all the twigs and small branches. But that was easy compared to the point at which Dad stopped mowing and turned over that labor to my brother and me. We still had a manual mower – yes, folks, that means no motor… you pushed it by hand and the blades cut by the rotation of the wheels – and that stupid thing was even second hand. It was also heavy! Neither of us could push it more than a couple of feet per shove, so we rigged a rope to the handles and one of us would pull as the other pushed (and guided). To a bystander, it probably looked like a kid behind a mule-boy plowing a field. Finally Dad agreed to buy a cheap power mower from Sears in N.O. but it was hard to start!

Speaking for myself, I really resented having to spend my Saturday mornings dealing with yard work or washing cars. [Looking back on it, years later, I realized it was an important part of growing up — learning that life often involves hard work that may yield little reward.]

At a very early age, my brother sold greeting cards, door-to-door. I went with him sometimes — usually on foot, as I recall, though I can’t imagine why we didn’t use our bikes. Most residents were civil, but few were interested enough to spend $2 for a box full of Christmas cards or all-occasion greeting cards.

Later, my brother had a paper route for several years. He was under the legal age when he began, but nobody enforced things like that in those days. He delivered the Bogalusa Daily News in Covington (which had no daily at the time). It was hard work… in all kinds of weather. On several occasions I went with him. A few times – when he was out of town, I suppose – I ran the route for him. In those instances, because I was still so young, I think Mom drove me from house to house on his widely-spread route.

I focus on those two of my brother’s jobs mainly to point out that I had already experienced enough of both to know that I wanted no part of either. So I turned another direction.

bottles-2

Practically the only ready cash to be had for kids in those days [late 1950s] was the two pennies for each soft drink bottle we could find, rinse, and redeem. Despite all the competition for those bottles, we could nearly always find at least some along the ditches and street shoulders. If not for the careless litterers of that day, I would have never had any candy and comic money!

Special Jobs

There were a couple of notable exceptions to the free child labor racket in my family:

One Saturday, I was employed for the whole long, hot day to help my parents dig up the scraggly privet hedge which went along the Madison Street frontage of our double lot… and replace it with boxwood (slightly less scraggly). [To me they looked nearly the same, so I never got the point of that endeavor.] I earned the princely sum of ONE DOLLAR. I needed that dollar so I could buy a pair of flip flops, in the year the craze first reached our region. I think we had to go to N.O. to buy them. [Mine had brown straps and I think they were still called “thongs” at that point.]

My grandmother would sometimes hire me to do odd jobs for her. She wanted help building a dog pen, stringing a fence, hanging a gate, wrapping the pipes under her house, etc. I never knew how much I’d earn until just before I left, when she’d sit on the couch by her front door and we’d haggle over the value of my work. I do recall that she paid a lot better than my parents did.

Golf Balls

My brother and I also spent a lot of time hunting golf balls in the rough along the neatly trimmed fairways of Tchefuncta Country Club, outside of Covington. I’ve gotta tell you, it was hot work, full of briars and poison ivy… and often snakes. Occasionally we’d approach golfers at tee boxes with some of our most pristine examples. We even sold a few that way. But at some point we also were told that we’d better stop trying to sell balls to golfers or we’d get into trouble. So what to do with golf balls you’d spent the day hunting? Well one time I took a sack full to the pro shop and offered to sell them to the pro for his driving range. I figured he’d look them over and say, “this one’s worth 50 cents, this one’s 40 cents, and those three are 30 cents each. But the rest are a dime apiece.” Nope, he held up the bag and asked how many balls it contained — there were 20. Without a word, he stowed the bag behind his counter and gave me a dollar bill from his register. A nickel a ball! What happened to the bidding war?

Working for Others

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, my older brother got a job at Burns Dry Goods, a clothing and fabric store on one of the main streets in Covington’s business section. It was just an hour or so each shift, on six days a week. Daily, we had to sweep the entire floor. Weekly (or maybe twice weekly) we had to also mop the entire floor. On Saturdays, we had to also wash the glass front. It paid the opulent sum of two dollars per week. Over time, my high school brother turned that job over to me and I’d walk (from the junior H.S.) the several blocks to Columbia St., perform the work, clean up the back room that I dealt with, and then walk the 1.5 miles home.

Hard Labor

During my one year in Mt. Pleasant IA, there wasn’t much money making opportunity for a new (H.S.) sophomore in town. But one day I was invited to join a small group of classmates who were helping a local farmer bring in his hay bales. Folks, that was hard work! Those bales (the old rectangular type) probably weighed as much as I did at the time… and it was a struggle for me to wrangle one with both hands. For that full day’s work, I earned $8.25. So I guess it was $1 per hour.

Steady Work

The summer after my junior year, my friend Norman M. got me a job at his father’s feed and seed store on Gibson St. To begin with, it was only on Saturdays, I think, but as the summer of 1967 progressed, I was working more and more hours each week. After that summer ended, I continued to work on Saturdays during my senior year… and that following summer, I worked “full time” (or close to it). Initially, I’d been hired mainly to candle eggs… but my duties expanded. I sometimes drove the store truck to pick up un-candled (and therefore also un-weighed and un-sorted) eggs at the various places out of town where the layers were caged in immense long houses. I also hauled feed, seed, and fertilizer to customers… and occasionally helped unload boxcars. Later, I even worked the register out front [probably filling in for somebody’s vacation weeks]. For a short period, while Mrs. M. was on vacation, I also handled the posting of bills. That wonderful job (which I truly loved) paid $1 per hour, which was good money for a high school kid in those days.

College Kid

The summer (1969) after my college freshman year, I worked as a laborer for the T.J. Murray construction outfit, hired to build an addition to Forest Manor nursing home (on the Madisonville Highway), not far from my house. Started out digging footings — 1.7 zillion miles of ditches… enough to bracket the Panama Canal. By the time I’d worked some 8 weeks or so, I had also tied steel (re-bar), and had hauled countless wheelbarrow loads of mortar or cement over narrow boards to reach the proper destination. Also, I hauled countless cement blocks — one in each hand. I don’t remember exactly, but I think the job paid $1.25 per hour.

At some point, late that same summer, on a rainy day, I drove to nearby Hammond (about 20 miles west) and applied for a job at the Daily Star. They happened to have an opening for a reporter and I had amateur journalism experience on my university newspaper. They started me off on… wait for it… obituaries. True. [It took a full week before I understood that the bereaved were the survivors… not the dead people.] I soon graduated to minor news and features. Later, incredibly, I was made acting sports editor — but that was due more to turnover (including one guy who was drafted) than to specific aptitude on my part about the sports world. Briefly, I was switched over to advertising — which I didn’t like and wasn’t very good at. For a while I was even their principal photographer, though that, too, was because of manpower shortage rather than specific talent on my part. I continued to work there part time during my sophomore year at Southeastern Louisiana University and full time again during the summer afterwards. I think it paid $80 per week, which would have been $2 per hour.

The next job I had, on a weekly paper, paid $90 per week and that was what I was earning in late 1970 when we got married… before I took a pay cut and went into the Air Force, where I earned $131 per month (i.e., about $33 per week). [But that’s another story].

Question

What kinds of jobs did you have as a kid?

[JLS # 301]

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About jeff7salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Twelve completed novels and five completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015, "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015, "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015, "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014, "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014, "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014, "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014, "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013, "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013, "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013, "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012, "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012. Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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10 Responses to Hunting Cash

  1. WOW, but does THIS bring back memories–most of them unpleasant! I had thankfully repressed most of these memories of boring, hard labor under-the-broiling Louisiana sun, but you brought them all back. Actually, they weren’t all bad–I rather enjoyed the exercise of riding many miles per day on my bike delivering newspapers in my very widely scattered route, although I detested collections (which were hard to complete due to some people not answering the door, or strangely without any cash, or even skipping town owing me 3 or 4 weeks worth of payments, every penny of which then came out of MY pocket as the newspaper never accepted shortages). And the people at Burns Dry Goods always treated me very well and gave me a lot of flexibility about when I had to show up, given the fairly limited window between the end of the school day and the closing of the store. But some of the other jobs Jeff describes were REALLY painful, the worst being to try and mow the lawn with a push mower. In the years since, I have used light push mowers on small, flat lawns with more delicate grass and had no trouble whatsoever. But in Covington, we were using a very heavy and recalcitrant push mower over rugged terrain with thick grass which actively fought back as you tried to cut it, and invariably clogged the rotary blades and brought you to a screaming halt no matter how much speed and force you started with. It was MISERABLE!

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      I remember one time when one of the Matisse brothers took pity on us and loaned us his power mower to finish that back yard section where we played football. But that was only once.

      Like

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Your adventures sound a lot like the things my brothers did for extra cash. I guess that’s one advantage in being a girl – people were more likely to hire us for babysitting, while the boys were called on to do the hot, sweaty yard work. I did help with their paper routes from time to time – like below zero weather, and in the rain. I’d forgotten about returning bottles and cans!

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      I was still picking up redeemable bottles when I was in grad school. Didn’t go looking for them, but if I spotted one on my regular route (on foot), I’d pick it up and bring it in. Heck, two cents was two cents.

      Like

  3. I certainly remember taking bottles back for cash, but being the youngest,I didn’t get my hands on very many, or much of the money. My brother got most of those, and went scouring the area with his friends.I believe they had some kind of a golf ball thing going on at one point, too.
    I’ve known my husband for 40 years and I’ve been married to him for almost 34, yet I just found out last week that he had a paper route!
    Your family paid better than mine did!

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      I had friends who received generous allowances. And other acquaintances who apparently didn’t need allowances because everything they needed or wanted was bought for them.

      Like

  4. What a variety of work you had.
    What does it mean to candle eggs?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      to “candle” — borrowing a phrase from when they used to literally hold up the egg to a candle to see if there was an embryo inside — is to place the eggs (shipped in cases with 10-12 layers of “flats”) on a ramp. the eggs roll down the ramp and over a light bulb, where you visually inspect the for cracks, embryos, or “blood spots”. then they are taken to a series of weighing spots where the XL trip the scale first, the L trip the next one, and the Med trip the next… leaving only the smalls for the final scale. Leaving each scale, they roll down into an area from which you place them in traditional boxes (usually a dozen per, but sometimes 18). Then you pack those containers in the large 30 dozen case they arrived in and store them in the cooler.
      On a typical Saturday, we’d sometimes candle 30-40 cases of eggs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jbrayweber says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of character building jobs, Jeff.

    I didn’t get paid to do my chores. They were just my part of being a part of the family. Granted, there wasn’t much by way of chores that I did. Keep my room clean, feed all the animals, vaccuming/sweeping from time to time. The main thing was to keep my grades up. I got my first real job at 17. I worked at Show Biz Pizza (which is now Chuck E Cheese) as a hostess (very short lived), game room attendant, the character Jasper T. Jowls, and cook. That same year, I worked at the Texas Renaissance Festival (leading a donkey around the grounds advertising the gypsy show) until I was forced to quit due to a broken hand. Another part time job I had as a teen was being a “fragrance model”. Yes, that was what my official title was called. I was the annoying girl at the mall trying to squirt you with perfume or cologne. From there, I worked in a head shop before getting my first full-time job in the aftermarket automotive industry, where I stayed almost 10 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      post a pix of you leading the donkey!
      Not familiar with the Jasper Jowls character.
      I’ll bet you were a cute fragrance model.

      Like

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