Thursday, February 18, 2016

Growing Up in the 1930’s and 1940’s: Part Time Jobs By Aunt CB and Uncle Jack

Six years ago, for a family newsletter, Mom and Dad wrote this about their part-time jobs:

From Aunt CB:
I think I am probably the Queen of the ‘summertime jobs’ club! You must remember that I grew up during the Depression. I didn’t get a weekly allowance nor did I know anyone who did! And if I wanted to be ‘in style’, I had to shag myself along and earn the money for my own school clothes—therefore—

Lucille Taylor, nursing school

1939—I was 12 years old and plenty old enough to amuse my piano teacher’s five year old son from 9AM to 12 noon on Saturdays. Got no pay but only had to pay fifty cents for piano lessons at 8:30AM!

1940—Now I got into the real money! Got $2 a week for watching my science teacher’s two boys from 9AM until 12 noon all summer. Picked strawberries and raspberries at the Experimental Station in the afternoons.

1941—I helped hold a family of five children (ages 2-8) together for the summer   ( I was 14!). The grandfather did the wash, I gathered it from the lines after he hung it, and I folded and ironed it. I also made the beds, fixed lunches, played with the kids and saw that they did chores. I earned $10 per week.

1942—This summer I worked at Grant’s 10 cents store in Geneva. What fun as sailors came in to buy gifts to send home and needed packaging material also. So we helped them wrap to send.

1943—This summer I worked at the Almarco Printing Press in the center of downtown. They printed catalogs, books and papers, and the jobs were interesting—printing, folding, sewing spines—right up my alley.

1944—Big time now, at 17 years old. I worked at the American Can Company as a speed drill operator. This was wartime and I was sure I was drilling parts for a machine gun to use against the enemy. I was so proud—only to be told, ‘No, that’s a part for a beer machine!’

1945—18 now and I became a telephone operator at the Geneva exchange. It was a busy time as Sampson Naval base and the Army depot, both located on Seneca Lake near the city, channeled all sorts of calls through the office. Most exciting was the end of the war in August when the city was full to bursting with service men and women, all thronging the streets, bells ringing, fire horns blasting and as we finished work at 9:30PM, hardly a clear or safe path to get home. Some night!

Yes, all these jobs bought my school clothes and I had some savings to share to help Doris through school. However, when I lived at Heffernons I paid $5 per week for room and board, and money evaporated!

Luckily for me, the US government needed nurses and passed the Bolton Act in 1943, establishing the Nurses Cadet Corps. This paid hospital schools of nursing to train students and even gave a stipend of $15 per month for the first 15 months, $21 for the next 12 months, and finally, when you really had some ability to help, $30 per month for the last 9 months. 

Lucille Taylor, Trudeau Institute at Saranac Lake
NY State Student Nurse of the Year, 1947

There were extras needed—shoes, white stockings, cape, special school needs, but student uniforms were included in the government package. When I ran short, and I did, I borrowed from Harold, who was back in Waterloo High School, spending Saturdays cleaning hen houses so I could buy the work uniforms I needed! Is it any wonder I love him?

From Uncle Jack:

Jack Kinsella, taken 1948

When I thought about it, I had a wide variety of part time jobs, starting with a newspaper route right after I bought my first bike (it cost $8 paid for by picking cherries at a local farm). At that time, the daily paper plus the Sunday one cost 18 cents a week. I remember that because when I stopped to collect my money at a bar on Swift Street, I was always paid with 18 pennies. I can’t remember what my weekly earnings were from this paper route but one year I received a bonus. The newspaper had a contest about ‘interesting observations’ and was awarding $5 for the best ‘observation’. I wrote about my paper route and said my first customer was named Lincoln and my last one was named Booth. I won the $5!

Some summers I picked various crops for the local farmers and I caddied at the Cayuga Lake Golf course for two years. I also worked for the A&P grocery store waiting on customers. This was before ‘do it yourself’ shopping. A customer handed me a list and I had to run around and fill it out.

Probably the most labor intensive job I had was when I worked on the Lehigh Valley R.R. repairing their tracks. This meant pulling out old ties, replacing them with new ones and spiking them into place. 

I worked at the Woolen Mill, the Canning factory, the School Bus factory, the Wagon Shop, Patent Cereals in Geneva, and after the war, at Sampson Naval Base as it was converted to a college to serve the need of returning veterans who wished to get a college education via the GI Bill. This proved to be the most interesting job of all. I started out as a carpenter which meant remodeling barracks into dormitories for students. Somehow, two other guys and I were pulled off of our carpenter duties and given the job of running the post office for the college. None of knew a thing about running a post office, but we learned fast and I think I did a reasonably good job.

The most ‘fun’ job was the one Jack Felber and I had at the Wagon Shop, then known as the Mid-State Body Company. They had been awarded a contract to convert regular cars into station wagons. This meant cutting off the steel body and replacing it with a wooden one. We must have been 15 years old as we didn’t have driving licenses, in fact had never driven a car. Part of our job was to drive to where the cars were parked (in a Model T Ford) and bring one back for conversion. We banged up several before we learned to drive properly but the good news was that it didn’t matter. The body was cut off and thrown away: banged up or not, it didn’t matter!

Jack Kinsella and Lucille Taylor, taken 1948
At Jack and Jane Felber's wedding


Evelyn Taylor said...

What wonderful articles on jobs that CB and Jack had! I was amazed to hear the number, variety, and of course, the pay. The younger readers of the family probably cannot imagine working that hard for "peanuts." Kudos to you CB and Jack. You are an inspiration to all.


Susan Kinsella said...

Even though I must have read this in the newsletter when Mom and Dad first wrote it, I don't remember this! But I do remember individual stories about many of these jobs. Fascinating to see them all in one place, and to see how lucrative they were. Thanks, Pat - and also for the photos.