Joining the work force

It’s a long, interesting road when you join the workforce!

In spite of my dismal performance, somehow in the Spring of 1965 I graduated from Syosset High School. I really felt like a fraud. It was almost as if I had never really been part of that scholastic year, as if whatever I did was not important because I was going to graduate come what may. The “Powers that Be”, whoever they were, had deemed that I was too young for admittance to college at the age of 16, so was I just biding my time?

I’ve no idea, but graduate I did, and in the meantime I had acquired a job at the local IGA “HUB” market. My uncle arranged it with the manager, but I guess they were looking for people anyway. So I got a social security number and donned a yellow smock with a trainee badge. Great!

The picture here is much more recent than 1965, but this is approximately where the HUB market was located then. I spent about 6 months there ringing up orders and packing bags for $1.25 an hour.

No scanners then. You had to remember prices and punch them in to an old-fashionned register, and then you had to figure out the change.

I was happy to be employed. For one thing it got me out of the house. And the idea of actually earning money was gratifying. I didn’t earn much but at least I could help support myself.

The work was pretty easy, once I got the basics. One night I packed two bottles of orange juice in one bag. The bottles then were glass. Freddy, the manager’s brother, came and yelled at me as I mopped up the floor. But he was more mad at me the day I somehow got in a muddle and rang up two orders together. By the time the second customer was pointing out my error, the first customer had driven off with a free bag of groceries. After that, I knew when to double-bag and how not to daydream and there were no more mistakes!

One of the other girls was called Cathy, or something like that. She was a year older and I think she went to St John’s. She was a lot of fun and I liked her. So did my uncle! She was blonde and shapely and she looked swell in shorts! I lost track of her when college started up again and we went separate ways. I have often wondered how life has gone for her.

But when I started college it all got too complicated, what with riding the Long Island Railroad to and from Garden City. This involved taking a train to Jamaica and then another back to Garden City. Time consuming, not to mention expensive.

So I learned to drive. More or less. Kay taught me on her Sunbeam Alpine which was a small, zappy little thing. As soon as was possible, I scheduled my test. I was nervous, of course, when we got to the test site.

There was a queue of cars, maybe half a dozen in front of us, so Kay and I edged forward as she chatted trying to keep me calm. Which was all for naught, when we pulled up to the front of the line, and the examination man leaned down to advise us that the car was overheating and we had better go and get it sorted before I took my test.

Clouds of steam began to rise from under the hood as we pulled away, trying desperately to remember the location of the nearest garage. Fortunately we found one immediately, but then we looked at one another and between us could only come up with a quarter. Yes, as in 25 cents. That’s how broke we always were!

What to do? Well, it’s awfully sexist, by today’s standards, but Kay was a very attractive lady and men couldn’t wait to help her out. A young lad emerged from the office and got water to pour into the radiator. He was happy to do it, free of charge. After all, it was only a can of water. Still, he could have told us to get lost.

I think the car only overheated because we were crawling forward slowly in the queue, talking instead of paying attention. We got back on the line, carefully monitoring the engine temperature and finally my turn came again, by which time I had decided I was doomed to fail.

We went through the motions, including , the dreaded parallel park. I think I got the car to about a 30-degree angle. It was bad. Imagine my surprise when I found out that I had passed! The man must have been sorry for me, or maybe he too was influenced by my aunt’s charm. She never did anything deliberately. It was just the way she was, all bubbly and funny. People just always loved her. Especially me.

Now I was the proud holder of a driver’s license, and no car. God bless Grandpa Smith. Although I had had to tap into his generous gift already, I still had enough to purchase a second hand car.

The father of my erstwhile “boyfriend” was a car dealer, so once again, Ray organized things for me and pretty soon I found myself behind the wheel of an old Ford Fairlane.

I don’t know how old it actually was, but it felt like a oversized slug. It was the size of a tank and it had no power steering, so it maneuvered like one too.

Then, there I was driving this huge old clunker, coming home in the dark, and I realized I had no business being on the road! But the option was the LIRR, so it was an obstacle I soon overcame!

My dear Grandpa Smith. 
He was such a nice old man.
I would love to have known him better.

With my new schedule at college, I couldn’t work at the supermarket any more, so I sought employment elsewhere. I found myself a part time job in a small factory where I could work odd hours for $1.50 an hour. I was thrilled…

Rosie the riveter….that was me, sort of…

One thought on “Joining the work force

  1. Markets were so small back in the day. I miss my co-op. I drive a long distance to shop at Trader Joe’s and Sprouts to avoid the giant so called grocery stores that sell clothes and household goods. And here in Arizona stores sell wine and liquor. Everywhere! The stinkin’ drug stores sell hard liquor! Culture shock from Western NY. Sigh. I can only imagine how you must have felt coming from Asia.

Leave a Reply