I'm 60-years-old and I still remember my very first job over 50 years ago. Can any of you readers match that? My first "paid" job was at the Gulf filling station at the corner of National Avenue and West Street, across from Hedge Motor Company. Where the Gulf station was, is now Emmert Realty. Casey's General Store sits where Hedges was.
I had a lot of bosses at that job, although none of them claimed to be my official boss. After all, who wants to let a five-year-old work, anyway? A few of the names of my bosses were Claude Bowman, John Hayes and Art Meadows. Two who really recur in my mind are Art Jensen and Richard "Dink" Bussing. Dink left this world at the age of 54 in 1990. So young. Art Jensen is still Art. I can honestly say that Art has not changed all that much. I have seen Art around Brazil for the last half a century. He is just as kind now as he was back then, even to a five-year-old that is now 60. I worked with Art's son, Art, Jr. and I am Face Book friends with Art Jr.'s son, Eric. The last time I saw Art was outside of Sam's Hardware. His wife, Bonnie was inside purchasing a few items and told me that Art was in the car. Art had just been released from the hospital after suffering a broken hip. I had visited him in the hospital, too.
Let's get back to my career at the Gulf station. I lived on Church Street, a block north of the gas station. My father had passed a couple years earlier and my siblings were all in school. I had no one to play with, except my imaginary friend, Casper. Casper was boring so I ventured down the street to the gas station. Now, you have to remember this was in the mid 50s when things were much safer than they are now. Art and Dink would look after me while I was there watching them work. Maybe to them I was kind of like a little toy or stuffed animal being there to amuse them, except I was real. I don't really remember when I was permitted to go out to the pumps with them as they gassed up cars, checked oil and air in the tires, etc. But I DO remember before that permission time, when I was scolded and told to get back inside, where it was safe. I guess they saw the embarrassment on my face and later they'd come back inside the station and buy me a six ounce bottle of Coke and a handful of peanuts to put in it. They were all super nice to me.
After I became seasoned at the gas station, I'd say, maybe 6-years-old, they'd allow me to accompany them to the cars to assist them in their duties. Being a towering 3-foot-tall, all I could reach was the headlights, so they gave me a clean rag and some spray cleaner and off I went, rubbing and shining those headlights like a little trooper. Dink gave me a Gulf short patch and I felt like a million dollars. I rushed home and told my mom I had a job!! She found me a denim shirt and sewed the patch above the pocket. She then embroidered Steve above the other pocket. I was a working man! An old rag in my back pocket and a bunch of keys which had been discarded on a ring; I was something! The next day, mom packed me a lunch and I headed out the door for work. I got paid daily, too ... 25 cents a day! I remember going there some days all dressed up, ready to work only to discover Dink was off that day. Some of the guys weren't as friendly as Dink so they'd make me go home. All I had those afternoons was Casper.
A dozen or so years passed before I would actually work at that gas station. Shorty Fortin owned it then and Sam Kirchner, Bob Sisson and Kenny Reagan were the "jobbers". Max Monce and I worked at lot together along with Shorty's son, Jerry.
I remember a couple things from those days; one was gas was 28 cents a gallon and Dink Bussing was one heck of a nice guy.
Rest in peace, my friend!