Rushville Republican

September 17, 2013

California and my first jobs

By Bill Ward Rushville Republican
Rushville Republican

---- — When I turned 16 and could attempt to get a driver’s license I was living in San Diego. We had moved there from Rushville a couple of years before and after the initial cultural shock wore off I pretty well accepted things and found my niche in the school and neighborhood. We did not have driver’s education in school so it was up to the mom and dad driver’s school to get me ready. At the time, to get the coveted license I had to take a 250 question test and could only miss 5 answers. Then I had to take a ride with an examiner and pass his, and it was all a his examination. I do remember San Diego examiners had a fetish for hand signals. If you turned left your hand was straight out, right it was pointed up, stop down. In a moment of teenage stupidity I happened to question the examiner, What if it was raining cats and dogs, should I still be concerned with the hand signals? After he quit laughing he told me in San Diego that was not a problem, it seldom rained. Guess he was more or less used to teenagers. I also remember parking, parallel parking on a down hill street; oh what fun!

One of the better aspects of getting my driver’s license was I was then able to take up a job offer by the Pacific Beach Paint and Wallpaper Store. I was to deliver paint and wallpaper as well as telegrams as they were a Western Union agency. I did more telegram delivery than paint and wallpaper, which was fine with me. The pay was $5 a day. If I worked an hour or 8 hours I got paid $5. That was enough for me to have gas and date money so was fine with me. While working for Mr. Rounthwaite, the owner of the shop, I drove a Crosley station wagon. I loved that car. One funny thing about it though, it seemed every two weeks the mechanical brakes would go out. I learned rapidly how to stop by rubbing the tires against curbs.

When the Crosley was out for repairs I ended up with a Packard Coupe, a V12 Packard Coupe. The engine on that baby doll was about the size of the Crosley wagon in its entirety. When I changed the oil on it we used gallons, not quarts.

I much preferred to drive the Crosley but I made do with what I had at the time. I worked after school for an hour or two and a half day on Saturday, all for $5 a day. Later on, I changed jobs and was the shipping man for The Green Dragon Colony Stationary. My pay was the same $5 a day, but fewer hours. I would go to work after school and wrap and mail packages for the store. I had my own closet outside of the shop itself with a bunch of boxes and paper and labels for my packages. I would wrap, tape up, put on labels and take the packages to the Post Office on a daily basis.

Frankly, at this job I could not for the life of me see anything of importance I would buy. And I also felt the items they had were way overpriced. There were some interesting people I sent packages to: John Wayne, Clark Gable, Marylyn Monroe, and Governor Earl Warren, just to name a few. And nothing that was sent was something I felt was of use. I also helped clean up the store periodically and whatever “go for” jobs I was requested to do. I got along fine with my fellow and lady employees and I loved the location, right on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. On the ocean side our store was all glass windows. Of course, La Jolla High was also on a hill overlooking the ocean, not at all conducive for a student who could look out the window and see a beautiful sandy beach not far from the school.

My jobs were not overly taxing, but paid enough to make it worth my while to do them. Besides, Dad informed me no gas no go, so that was a very important part of my desire to do this. It was fun. I never met any of the celebrities who I sent things to but I did know their home addresses, which was something, I guess. I had worked back in Rush County as a hay baler for a penny a bale from the field to the barn and up to the top. I did little jobs for Dad at his auto agency and for that was given 50 cents a week allowance. I was also expected to mow the grass, rake leaves and other things around the house. So, I did work while in school and made enough to get by but not enough to save much.

After we left California following my mother’s death, I worked for Dad at his factory and I got all of $1.25 an hour, which was at the time the minimum wage. I had it all figured out, if I could make $100 a month clear I could live the way I wanted and do what I would want.

My, how times have changed!