Thursday, April 19, 2012

My First Job

Everyone remembers their first job and mine was memorable. I was not even six years old.

My mother and I lived in a second story apartment in Wilmington, NC. Our landlady (a Mrs. Davis) lived downstairs. Both the upstairs apartment and the downstairs had a back porch which ran the entire width of the house. Judging from what I now know as an adult about the space required for certain pieces of furniture, I would judge the depth of the porch to be about eight feet. Ours had a wide staircase that went down to Mrs. Davis' porch. I used to lie across one step to talk to Mrs. Davis as she watered her plants. Both the upper and the lower porch was enclosed in white lattice.

One day, as Mrs. Davis was preparing for the summer canning season, she offered me the job of washing her canning jars. She set up a work station on her porch under the steps. She gave me a galvanized tub of warm soapy water and one of warm clear water. Behind that was a long narrow table which she covered with fluffy cotton towels. I remember being impressed with how fluffy her towels were because ours were so thin by comparison.

I sat down on the floor and filled the soapy tub with jars. I took each out and scrubbed it, then laid it in the clear water to rinse while I repeated the process with the next. When the rinse tub was filled with jars, I called her out to "inspect" my work. I can still see her holding each jar up to the sun to see if it was clean. If and only if it was spotless, she stood it upside down on the towel to drain and dry. When all of them met with her approval, I got paid.

She paid me a penny each. I was so proud of the quarter she gave me though there were some smaller coins as well. This was 1947 or 48 and it was the first quarter I had ever owned.

She taught me something important that day. In my desire to hurry and finish, I had to rewash several jars until I slowed down and paid attention to the work at hand. She taught me that, if I had time to redo the work, I had time to do it right the first time. That lesson has stood the test of time. I also remember the last tubful. That one, she did not refuse a single jar!

1 comment:

  1. That is the same lesson my Dad has finally managed to teach me (though I am still impatient at times). Such a charming memory.