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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

My First Job

Posted February 28, 2007

What was your first job and how much did you make? I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago in preparing for my return home to Morganton for a concert with my musical group Lorica.

I was probably 12 years old, maybe younger. My father asked me to help out at the family store on West Union Street. My first chore was sweeping up the cleaning compound on the wooden floor. My wage: 45 cents an hour. And I thought I was rich. My father frequently reminded me: "Bill, you must learn the value of a dollar." Well, it took me more than two hours to earn my first buck and it sure was sweet.

I remember setting up a savings account at the local bank just across the street. Later my wage grew to nearly $2.00 an hour as I learned to frame pictures, sell greeting cards and deliver wedding gifts.

Lessons learned in my first year of employment included "keeping the customer satisfied." My mother was particularly good at working with difficult customers. She had a smooth Southern grace and charm that could defuse the most thorny of situations. Tomorrow I will tell you about the most unusual employee we had at our family business.
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  • Granpaa Mar 2, 2007

    Good Blog Line, Bill. It creates forgotten memories for all of us, young and old alike. After working in my parents store during my chilhood, it was time to branch out. I started with Pep Boys on Fayetteville Street and made $600. a month. I got the call and joined the Raleigh Police Dept starting at $282. a month. With a wife and a baby on the way. $70.50 a week gross. Was that the "good old days"? Yes. My real first job was serving the community and don't regret a dollar I didn't make.

  • glcl6 Mar 1, 2007

    This post made me remember my grandpa...

    When I was very young my he paid me a penny a minute to scratch his back during lazy summer days at the beach - I would run to the pier and buy all the penny candy I could find!
    As I got older he paid me $2.00 an hour to work in the fields around the farm - I always earned money for camp this way.
    However, I am still most thankful for the $100.00 I earned when I learned to play the piano at his request...I think he got tired of hearing me bang out chopsticks on grandma's piano. :-)

    As I write, I long for a "job" where I could work beside papa again -

  • CestLaVie Mar 1, 2007

    My first ways to earn money when I was a young teenager: babysitting for $.50/hour and also housecleaning for a couple of local teachers for $1.00/hour on Saturdays. My first real job was as a summer counselor for the Town of N. Syracuse, NY during the summer breaks between my junior and senior years in high school in the early 60's. I can't remember how much I was paid, but it was a great job, and right across the street from my house. I got to play games (chess, checkers, kickball, dodgeball, etc.) with the kids all day, and we also went on field trips all the time to go swimming, hiking, to the movies, etc. I was outside most days and loving it. My earnings were used mostly to purchase new clothes, which alleviated the burden on my parents' budget.

  • f6rider Mar 1, 2007

    My first job was working for the "Colonial" grocery store chain (later changed to "Big Star" in Durham NC at the then "North Gate Shopping Center" at age 16 in 1972 starting at 2.34 per hr (union company so wages were higher) part time (min wage was 1.60) I started as a bag boy working for Mr. Oliver Brewer (we used real paper bags back then and issued green stamps to the customers, we even had electric cash registers ). I later became a cashier advancing to the produce department and later the dairy department. It was a great job that taught me good work ethics and values that I've carried with me on through my life that I still apply today. f6rider @ LKG NC

  • packandcanesfan Feb 28, 2007

    jinxi..so sorry for your loss. :(

    This is an awesome blog topic. Lots of good memories about hard work without much pay. Good and simple times. Thanks Bill for bringing people together like this. :)

  • jinxi Feb 28, 2007

    My first job at home was shining my parents' shoes for 25 cents a pair at about age 10 or 12. My first "real" job at age 17 was at a pizzeria making minimum wage (about $1.70/hour), where I also met the man who would become my husband. We married 2 years later, had 3 beautiful girls and 29 years together before he succumbed to cancer in 2003.

  • wilfhh29 Feb 28, 2007

    I was 17 and had just graduated from high school when I worked my first real job at a textile mill in 1994. I had received a scholarship from the mill because my daddy worked there. I ended up with a summer job at the mill every summer while I was in college. That first job was an office job in shipping (receiving cotton and shipping out rolls of denim). In other years, I was a sweeper for the weaving room, a sweeper for the spinning room, and an oiler/cleaner for the weaving looms (the most dirty job). However, I was always on time, I was grateful for the paycheck (as it was my spending money for the school year), and I made a lot of friends. The mill is shut down now.

  • mema6 Feb 28, 2007

    My first job was at Cuthrell's Department Store in Enfield when I was 14 years old. After social security came out, I cleared $4.98 for a 10 hour work day on Saturday. Being the third child of a poor farmer, I really appreciated that $4.98! We only got 1 new pair of shoes in the Fall when the first tobacco was sold, so I usually brought home a new pair of shoes almost every Saturday night! I still have a passion for new shoes, though these days, I need some new young feet more than I need new shoes!

  • lilybell Feb 28, 2007

    My first real job was at age 16 as a cashier in a movie theater in my hometown. I don't remember how much I made, but I looked up minimum wage then (1971) and it was $1.60, so that's probably what I made. We got a cup of free popcorn and a free soda every night on our break. I saw the exact same scene in whatever movie we were showing (movies used to show for weeks at a time back then) because my break was at the same time every night. We also showed "Willie Wonka" nearly every Saturday and kids would get up and run to the candy counter when the Oompa Loompahs came on, as if it was a commercial!

  • G.R.I.T.S Feb 28, 2007

    i think my first job was washing dishes at a local pizzeria in our town. the sinks were so deep that i had to quit that job because my back was messed up, and not even 2 months after i quit, the pizzeria went out of business. i don't know why, but my mom says it was because i didn't work there anymore.

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