Friday, April 20, 2012

Child Labor Laws? Not in the walk, you work!

Reading a post on my brother's Facebook last night, it reminded me why I am anxious or nervous if I am not earning a living. The people I was closest to were my role models in life, my life map for a career was laid out for me the first time my grandmother actually put me to work when I was in grade school. I have always been a watcher, in the background, don't rock the boat, but if it has to be rocked, just turn it over. Don't know if that makes sense to anyone who doesn't know me very well but who can understand a Hillbilly anyway?

My Mamaw worked so many jobs when I was young, heaven only knows how many she worked before my memory began to retain information. I can recall her working at the drug store, she helped with everything from the soda fountain to pharmacy. Since I could walk just about anywhere in our town in a few blocks, I would visit her quite often. It was also on the way to church and school. NO, the drug store was not opened on Sundays, but I went to church when the doors were opened, not just Sundays. Eventually, that soda fountain would be one of my first jobs as a very young teenager but before I actually paid into Social Security, I helped my grandmother at the indoor theater and the drive in.

The Graco, the indoor theater, had a balcony and small snack bar. In my memory as a child, it was the largest, most interesting building I had ever been able to explore. During the intermission of movies, (yep, they stopped the movie half way through so kids could go to the bathroom and snack bar), my grandmother would have me behind the snack bar counter bagging pop corn and grabbing candy bars to hand to her or the customers. She had me stand on a foot stool to reach the pop corn machine so I could empty a scoop of corn into the yellow goop I had to put in the popper first, then I flipped a switch and would wait to hear the pops slow down, flip the switch again, dump the popped corn and start scooping into bags that compared to our modern "tubs" of movie popcorn, made those little bags look like toothpicks next to redwoods.

When she took me to work at the drive in, I got to go into the projection booth and watch how spools of film were loaded and machines switched to keep the movie seamless between spools. I even know the reason why back then, if a film spool slowed or was stuck, it melted! To the grave I will carry this tidbit, or you could google it.

This was all very magical to a youngster but at intermission, I was on my stool scooping popcorn or flipping burgers, no more than nine years old. My best memory was going to the play ground in front of the screen and swinging before I had to go to work. The excitment of working wears off fast when there is a play ground. As my grandmother cleaned right before close, I can recall being in one of those old fashioned, new back in the 50's, metal chairs on the paito in front of the snack bar watching all the actors that became like family during this time of my life. I would scoot back and swing my legs trying to keep from getting eaten alive by the evening vampire insects.

I have always loved to work, may not have loved the job but my grandmother gave me a great gift; she was always smiles and polite to even the most rude people, she didn't complain about her paycheck and she took pride in a job well done, what ever job she set out to accomplish. Working so much must have kept the bacon fat she cooked with from resting in her body. She kept active in her older years, if not working, she would walk. Mamaw Arsula lived into her 90's. I am proud of how much work my family did to care for her, even when it was clear to everyone she needed more care than just family members can give, she passed on her work ethic to her son's as well.

The few times I saw her in the nursing home, she didn't recognize folks. She only recognized me once, but the staff talked about how she would go from room to room making up the beds and with serving food. I was told she thought she worked there. Because of this fact, I am sure she was happy in her last years, since she was always happiest when she worked. If it brought her joy, why not share with a nine year old by having her work side by side?

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