Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Get A Job!

Hi Bill

Today I have been thinking about the jobs that I had while I was in high school and college. As you know, when I was in high school Dad had some severe health problems and had to retire on disability. That meant that our parents did not have much extra money for me to throw around. Therefore, I had to find work to pay for gas, movies, restaurant food, etc. Today I was trying to remember some of the jobs that I worked, or tried to work during high school and college. Thinking of them made me realize that I wasn’t always a very good employee when I was young.

My HS Senior Photo

Less than successful job experiences:

Gas Station: I got a part time evening job at Frank Rabit’s (or Rabitts or Rabbits- I can’t remember how he spelled his name) gas station (Esso) and service/repair shop in Altoona. Dad knew Frank very well and also knew most of the employees, including Eddie, who was a very good friend of yours. I took the job because I needed the money, even though I didn’t know squat about automobiles and their mechanical problems. Working evenings at a gas station during the winter was not fun, especially back in the days when there were no self-service pumps. I quickly learned to use the gas pumps and how to check the oil (which was important back then), and check the tires, etc. However, beyond that I was inept. Early in the job I was “helping” change the oil of a car and I opened the drain for the transmission fluid instead of the oil. Luckily one of the other guys saw what I did and quickly closed the drain while bitching me out about how expensive transmission fluid was. I also remember accompanying guys who luckily knew what they were doing on road service calls. One night, when it was very cold (like freezing), I went on a service call that required lying on the ground under the car trying to help do something that I didn’t know anything about and didn’t care to learn about. I really did not fit in the auto repair business and I did not last long at the service station.

Sandwich Shop: I landed a job at a small restaurant/sandwich shop on Logan Boulevard in Altoona for a short time. I don’t remember much about it because I was sort of there for the blink of an eye and then gone. All I remember about it is that I worked evenings until closing (maybe at 10pm or 11pm) and my duties included washing and cleaning. That’s all I remember, washing and cleaning and grease everywhere - all over me, and everything in the place. I quickly decided that I never wanted to eat anything in that place and warned my friends and family to enjoy their repast elsewhere. Obviously Clark must have been prissy back then. Anyway, it was another short employment experience until I slid right out the door on the grease.

Knitting Mill: I also landed a job at the Puritan Sportswear Knitting Mill in Altoona. My good friend Frank A’s father was a honcho there and Frank somehow convinced him to take a chance on me, which didn’t pay off for him in the end. I worked full-time evenings until midnight and that really messed up my social life, which was the reason I wanted a job, i.e., so I would have money for a social life. I quickly realized that problem, but I was determined to stick with this job. Of course that didn’t happen either because I discovered that I was a pathetic knitter. I had to keep three or four big knitting machines operating continuously feeding out flawless sweater material. Well Clark was not even close to flawless on the knitting machines (or anything else). I probably ruined a mountain of sweater material/fabric (or whatever it is called). I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do it properly. I quit after a few weeks as my boss was about to kick my ass out of the building.

Puritan Knitting Mill Logo

Puritan Sportswear

Okay, believe it or not, I eventually landed some jobs that I could handle fairly well, and that I actually enjoyed:

Rivoli Theater: One of my favorite jobs during my high school years was working as an usher at the Rivoli Theater on Logan Boulevard in Altoona. My good friend Frank had gotten a job there and told me about it. So I quickly applied and was lucky to get hired. The theater furnished us with black tuxedos and one of our most important duties was to help ticket holders find seats. We had to be especially helpful to older people and/or people with disabilities. In addition, when the more popular movies were showing, the theater would become extremely full and we had to quickly find seats for viewers and even ask people who were already seated to move a seat or a few seats within their row to fill empty seats and make room for others. In addition, we had flashlights to help late arrivers find seats after the movie had begun. We also changed the marquee when the movie changed. In addition, we got to hang out in the projection booth sometimes. It was a fun place to work. The other employees were great to work with and we got to see many great movies, including Doctor Zhivago, Thunderball and others. We could almost recite the dialogue word for word from many of the movies that were shown while we worked there. Another perk from this job came from Francis S who was an older gentleman (in his late 50s or early 60s) who was a ticket taker among other duties. We liked to BS with him and we got to know him well. I should be ashamed to admit that he was our liquor supplier. Of course, we gave him extra money for that service and we somehow survived lots of good times. I’m not proud of that now, but back then it was a great thing and sort of prepared me for my future college life.

Rivoli Theater 

Demolishing the Rivoli Theater 1980

Holiday Inn: My friend Bob M helped me get a job at the Holiday Inn in Altoona for a summer. His Mom was in charge of the restaurant and she hired me as a busboy. I have good memories about that job, which involved bussing tables, delivering room service and miscellaneous other duties. They taught me how to create fancy napkin displays for the table settings and how to refill water glasses and lots of other important stuff that didn’t seem too serious to me at the time. However, I enjoyed working there and was grateful for that job. I was not the brightest bulb back then. (I’m still not a very bright bulb and I am becoming even dimmer as time goes by.) Anyway, I made some stupid mistakes including one unfortunate room service delivery early in that job. I was told to take a room service order to a certain room on an upper floor. Of course I eagerly agreed and carefully carried the order to the correct room. However, for some reason I just used the room key to open the door and walked in with the tray. The couple in the room were very surprised and displeased to see me just open the door and walk into the room instead of knocking. I too was shocked and embarrassed and apologized profusely. I thought I would get fired when that happened, but Mrs. M was too nice. She warned me to never enter another room again without knocking and announcing room service. I came to like that job very much, mostly because of the people I worked with, and I stayed for a whole summer.

Weis Supermarket: I landed a job at a Weis Supermarket in Altoona during the summer after my first year of college. Amazingly, it was a full-time job which I held until I returned to Pitt in September. I was the guy who stocked the soap and detergent aisle. I did the ordering and stocking of the products in that aisle and I loved the job. At first it was a little rocky. I didn’t know how to calculate how much product to order and I ordered way too much of some products (especially for my first order) and not enough of others. When we were unloading the truck with my first order on it, I got bitched out big time because it was difficult to find space in the storage room for all the Tide and Cheer etc. that I ordered. The objective was to order just enough to keep the shelves in my aisle filled until the next truck arrived. I soon learned how to order more precisely and how to keep my aisle looking full and inviting. We all had to help unload the huge semi-trailers when they arrived and most of us enjoyed that very much. One person would be in the trailer throwing the boxes on the rollers and the other guys would be on either side of the rollers that extended into the storeroom. It was always a competition with the guy in the truck trying to overwhelm the guys on the receiving end of the rollers. I especially enjoyed working in the trucks. I was young, competitive and liked the challenge. I also worked the cash registers occasionally when needed and there were no price scanners back then. I worked at that Weis store for two summers and enjoyed it very much.

Heinz Hall: I also worked as an usher at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh when I was an undergraduate. If you are interested, you can read more about that job in my blog post: “My Evening With Charlton Heston” published on April 29, 2015.

I’m sure you have read enough about my jobs back in the day. However, I just remembered that I occasionally delivered newspapers for my good friend Pat H when he was out of town or otherwise unable to make the deliveries. That’s it!

Bill, I’m amazed when I think about all the experiences (good and bad) that we have gone through. Some of them I wish I could undo, but they all contributed to a great life so far. I’m sure you had some interesting jobs when you were in high school and college, and I would be interested to hear about them.

Take care Bill.

Sincerely, Clark

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