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Work Work Work

funny-workI started working for money in 1950 when I was thirteen years old. I was hired to work as a “page” in our small town public library. Pages shelved books, checked books in and out using a stamp with a pencil attached, filed index cards, “backed” magazines for checkout, and did whatever else needed doing. The head librarian (there were two) was my boss. She was tall, had black hair pulled back in a bun, wore old-lady black laceup shoes with one-inch heels, had a long thin nose, and from day one she was probably sorry she ever hired me. Thing is, I was friendly and liked to talk. When patrons came in, I talked to them, and they talked to me. They didn’t talk to her. She was too forbidding and stern, a storybook librarian from gothic tales. I lasted about a year. The end came when a boy from the sophomore class (I was a freshman) who was the paperboy and delivered the afternoon paper to the library stayed too long talking to me. I must have enjoyed his attention too much because Miss Jones (not her real name) ordered him out and promptly fired me. I went home crying and my parents were horrified — not at her, at ME. That was back in the day when parents believed teachers, bosses, policemen, etc. were to be respected and obeyed, and children were always in the wrong. If memory serves correctly, I made $60 a month working every day after school and on Saturdays. I gave most of it to my mom. Those were also the days when children shared in the responsibility of supporting the family. In this way, we learned that if you wanted a better life, you had to work for it.

Later on in my teen years I worked at a five & dime (Woolworth’s) in the shoe department (trust me, that wasn’t much fun), and then in college I did secretarial work for the Dean of the Business Administration School. I also worked one summer for Addressograph Multigraph Corporation as a typist. I used this machine that stamped plates, and we were paid by the piece. Because I could type more than 100 wpm, I made good money, more than most of the girls. And for one semester I taught a combination 2nd grade/3rd grade class at a local parochial school.

Over the years since college I’ve worked at all kinds of secretarial positions, as a bookkeeper, as a guitar teacher (oh, those 70s!), as a real estate sales person, as a counselor for a placement service, and also held various jobs within a community newspaper. It was while holding my last position with the newspaper (Classified Advertising Manager) that I finally signed up for a creative writing course and began my long career as a writer.

I’m still working. Thing is, I like to work. Work has been my friend, it’s kept me busy and productive and engaged in the world. Work never hurt anyone. In fact, learning the value of hard work is one of the best lessons my parents ever taught me. Today I’m sending them a big thank-you.

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