At age 16, I started a job that I would continue for some sixteen more years, with a little military break in between. All throughout high school, I worked for this local establishment that had few employees outside of family. It really tore into my social time with school friends. While they would cruise the streets of Brazil, I'd be out in front of the business, either raking leaves or sweeping the walks as they sped past honking, yelling and laughing. All in all it was a decent job, albeit vacuuming, cleaning windows on the second floor while hanging outside with one arm wiping windows and the other holding on to a nimble, wobbling wrought iron railing for dear life. This was before OSHA, mind you. I also cut grass and swept a parking lot about the size of the state of Rhode Island, with a broom! I cleaned wallpaper, dusted, cleaned light bulbs, straightened out numerous throw rugs, which thousands of people tripped over. All this was being continuously observed by a red haired lady I couldn't help but like. Gladys was a chain smoker, constantly with a cigarette in one hand and an ashtray in the other. What ashes she dropped, I'd follow behind and scoop up. As I was washing second story windows, she would be in a rocking chair, puffin' and a-rockin'. Once in a while she'd get up and point to a spot I had missed on the outside while leaving another smudge for me on the inside. And newspapers, no paper towels, newspapers were what I used to wipe the glass dry with. She said newspapers left the windows shinier. Something about the chemicals in the ink, she said. I always suspected it was because she'd already paid for the newspapers and paper towels would have to be purchased new.
Gladys liked to talk, too ... and listen. She was best at talking, though I must admit. She was a kind, sometimes humorous woman. She would back me up one minute, and then back me in a corner the next. She would confide in me, although she probably confided in a lot of people. Gladys would tell me about her day at the beauty shop or the prior nights Kee-Wanna meeting. I probably misspelled that, but it was the female version of the Kiwanis Club. She would ask questions about the kids at school if she knew their parents, trying to find out the dope (different era, different meaning) on them or their parents.
My work schedule was immediately after school, and not five minutes after school, immediately! After all, the place was the length of a football field away from the back doors of the school. I usually left around 9, when Gladys and her husband would retire for the night in their apartment upstairs over the business. On the nights they were "open for business," I'd be expected to be there until the visitors left and then clean up after them, arranging chairs, straightening throw rugs and vacuuming. Often times it was after ten or eleven o'clock when I'd leave. On week nights, I'd usually head for home after a couple of laps through town to see if anyone else was working as late as I was. Weekends were different. I'd prearrange a meeting with friends or they'd be waiting on me because I had a car and most of them didn't. We'd cruise around and around, back and forth from Tom's Parkmore to the Tastee Freeze. Gasoline was about 34 cents a gallon. A dollar's worth would take us anywhere we wanted to go and even back sometimes. Once in a while, we'd head out to the bowling alley to see what was going on. The bowling alley was mostly older men on leagues, though. I never got into that until much later, like two years.
I'd be remiss if I failed to mention all of the automobiles I had while in high school. My first car was a 1959 Pontiac Catalina I bought one time. I remember purchasing two "chrome reverse" wheels. I put both chrome wheels on the drivers' side so when I'd cruise through Tom's it would look like I had them all the way around. I was ingenious that way. Poor man's ways, we called 'em. Anyway, it worked! If anyone noticed the passenger side wheels, they never mentioned it. After the "log wagon" came "Black Bart," then "Black Bart Continued," then the red Mercury, then another "Black Bart," the third. One time, long after graduation we tried counting the cars I had. I believe there were about 25 in all during high school. Of course back then, $50 would purchase a reasonable old car at Frodermans' Chevrolet and Oldsmobile's back lot, located where CVS is now. I'd usually drive them until they stopped, smack dab in the middle of the street. I'd take the plates off and go buy another ride. In those days, insurance was not required, so we could do that. One time a muffler fell off between the two Brazil schools, where I attended various high school classes. Another time the gas tank fell off, and then a drive shaft dropped (which can really bring you to a sudden STOP!).
All in all, life has been good to me, especially these past six years. Six years ago Saturday, June 16, I connected with the best model yet, a 1950 model called a McDonald, a real beauty. I married her, and we've been running fine ever since, albeit a couple of rough roads. A little tune-up and we were on the road again. The mileage is incredible.