To work or not to work

To work or not to work

(It wasn’t even an option when your parents were tightwads.)

Column by Kay Frances

I discovered the joys of having some jingle in my pocket at a very early age. My “allowance” for doing my chores was 25 cents a week, but that wasn’t nearly enough to support my candy bar habit. So, I found other ways to earn money.

For a while, I subcontracted under my brother by helping with his paper route. I remember going out one Sunday morning before daybreak. There was snow everywhere and it was very, very cold. I made it to about three houses before dashing back to the warmth of my bed. He didn’t pay that well, anyway. When I asked for more, he said that I should just be grateful that he was going to let me live another day. So, I had to find alternate means of income.

One Christmas, I got a metal loom and a huge bag of cloth loops to make potholders. So, I went door-to-door peddling my wares for 25 cents each. This made for a nice little side hustle aside from my chores. You might wonder why my parents allowed me to knock on the doors of complete strangers. Truth is, I’m not sure they even knew. I would go out on my bike and my parents weren’t really ever aware of my exact whereabouts. As long as I was home before the street lights came on, all was well. My bike was my main mode of transportation, my freedom and my ticket to the candy store.

In the fall, I would take Dad’s rake around the neighborhood and offer to rake peoples leaves for — you guessed it — 25 cents. I got a fair amount of business. Maybe people were just tired of seeing me and I had worn them down with my incessant sales pitches.

My parents made sure we had the basics. But, anything “extra” was going to have to come from the sweat of our brow. I could never decide if we were poor or they were just really, really cheap. I didn’t realize that they were instilling a work ethic in us.

I started babysitting at 12 years old and started picking raspberries at 13. That was a tough way to make a living. Your hands would get cut and stained and you only made 10 cents a quart. Yet, I couldn’t have been happier. When I turned 16, I got my work permit and I was really off and running!

All of my friends worked, too. We all had stingy parents who wouldn’t give us money for anything they considered frivolous. And, the lengthy explanation you’d have to give to pry any money out of them at all just wasn’t worth it.

I discovered the joys of work and the resulting independence at a very young age. It doesn’t seem like kids today work the way my generation did and it’s really a shame; the world would be a better place with more potholders in it. And, those leaves aren’t going to rake themselves.

Salt Magazine