By Bill Ward
---- — Recently there was an article regarding teenage jobs and the wages paid to teens and school students. They were discussing what life was for a school student in their youth and frankly I found it interesting. My first job came about right after I managed to get my drivers license. Prior to that time I mowed yards for a few dollars starting out in about my 8th year. As I grew older I also raked leaves in the fall and put up hay in the summer. Raking paid better than putting up hay but we took what we could get. We were paid a penny a bale from stacking on the wagon to stacking in the barn, a penny a bale and we thought it was good pay. Hard work, miserable work at times, but the money we got was enough to keep our interest. When I was younger, dad would give me a 50 cent a week allowance. For that I was required to place flyers under the wiper blades of all the cars parked downtown on Saturdays telling of the game of the week on Philco Television and radio at Ward Sales and Service.
When we moved to San Diego I found it very difficult to find much of any kind of job unless you could drive. I got my license and the school helped me find a job. Sterling Routhwaite was my boss and he owned the Pacific Beach Paint and Wallpaper store. I was paid $5 a day be it a one hour day or a 10 hour day. And I was really glad to have it and enjoyed driving the Crosley station wagon they had for a delivery vehicle. We also had the telegram franchise for Pacific Beach and I would receive, tape, check and deliver telegrams too. And that part, the delivery, was at times very interesting. I delivered a telegram a week at the minimum to a young man in our area. I wondered out loud one day about his frequent and different telegrams. It seems this handsome young man made a living being a gigolo which was something new to me, a hick from Indiana. The next time I delivered a telegram I asked just how business was. Thankfully he was a nice guy and did not take offense to my inquiry. Good thing because I think he could have wiped the sidewalk up with me easily.
It seems he functioned as an “escort” to older ladies who came to town and needed a male companion for various social functions. He was paid for this service and evidently made a fairly good living from it. We also delivered telegrams to individuals concerning who had been killed while in the Armed Service, this part I disliked and would do so only under duress. It was surprising how many just regular people received or sent telegrams. Sending money was a big part of our telegram business. Many used money orders to pay bills and buy things by mail we sold money orders as well as Western Union Money Orders used to send cash via telegram. I delivered paint, wallpaper and telegrams for a couple of years and was happy with what I made. The most I ever took home was $30 a week which at the time was a pretty good deal for anyone my age.
My senior year in high school I changed jobs from delivering to sending. I took a job at a very expensive and exclusive stationary store in the Green Dragon Colony in La Jolla. They sold a lot of things none of which were to me a necessity of life. Not only that anything they had was way too expensive as well as usually useless. My job again paid $5 a day but I actually spent much less time doing this job than my prior one. All I did was after school go to the store, package, wrap and mail items that had been purchased during the day. I was surprised that many items were sent to movie actors John Wayne, my favorite among them. Some of the TV news casters also were recipients of my wrapping and mailing. This job was a six day a week job just like the one before.
When we moved back to Indiana after my mothers death I worked for my father at White Felt for summers between colleges. I was paid the minimum wage all of $1.25 an hour for a 40 hour week. I worked at Rushville Furniture for a short time for the same wage but didn’t care for the job I was doing. At this time I spent most of the year studying and spending money rather than making it.
My first job after graduating from college was with Sears Roebuck in Omaha, Nebraska, at the Cross Roads Shopping Center. I was in the management training program and really enjoyed it too. I was paid a salary but was required to keep a time card although not one on the clock but one I filled out myself and sent in weekly. I was paid $75 a week salary and worked five days a week. We were closed Sunday so I had that day off and could either take Tuesday or Wednesday off for my other day off, I chose Tuesday. I was promoted to department manager and did not get a pay raise but did get much more head aches and problems, but I still enjoyed it. After four years I was promoted to assistant store manager of the Grand Island Nebraska store and made the huge amount of $90 a week salary. The only year I received a bonus at the end of the year was my last at Omaha and my bonus was all of $35. A friend who ran the paint department next to my house wares got the same. We took his wife and my date and blew the whole $70 for a night at Shakeys Pizza Place.
In between my college years and Sears I spent three years in the US Army. The highest rank I attained was Sergeant and for that profound rank I received $280 a month. I did send some home for dad to invest for me and took out some other minor expenses but that was what I received to keep me going for the month. I had overseas pay as well as hazardous duty pay in that amount but honestly don’t remember how much it was. After I left Sears I went back to work for the family business and over the years did fairly well. I at one time figured out if I could manage to make clear $5,200 a year or $100 a week I could live pretty well as I wanted, have enough money to do as I desired. Doubt if one could do that today.