Memoirs of a Teenager’s First Job

A dream of many teenagers is to get a job and make their own spending money. I was no different. I went to apply in an office of an advertising newspaper as a 16 year old. I filled out my first application and met with the owner of the business. She was an Editor and ran a successful weekly newspaper in our community. Way ahead of her day, she was strong, independent, and very kind.

I was hired at minimum wage of $1.25 and immediately put under the wing of an obsessive compulsive office manager. She was a “no nonsense” person. Her expectations were high and there would be many firsts. She’d show you something one time and expect top performance. In my mind, I knew she was really very kind and loving, but she didn’t know what to expect from me. I later learned she and her husband were trying to have children without any luck.  I often wonder what happened to her.

Getting to work was easy. It was a block from our house. Usually I’d work after school. The job included ripping tear sheets from the various advertisements and mailing them out to the customer. My hands would be black from the freshly printed ink. I’d address the envelops every week.

Then there were the ads to be taken over the phone. There were usually older women doing this, but when they were off on breaks, I was to do what they did. That was easier said than done. They were used to putting on the headsets and sitting there focused on typing the ads as they came in for the Classified Section of the newspaper.  My focus was not there; it was on trying to do the job without making mistakes.

First Blooms

First Blooms

Well first of all, my hairdo was constantly crushed by the earphones. I had to fill out all the blanks on the form of who was placing the ad, the location, items, phone numbers, billing arrangements, and length of time the ad was to appear. It seemed overwhelming and seemed to be one big headache. The worst ad came from a Floral Shop selling Chrysanthemums, Asters, Moss Roses, Amaryllis, Dahlia, and other flowers that I couldn’t spell. That is a lot of letters to type when someone is rattling off a series of words in your ear.

People were in a hurry. The assumed that you knew how to spell. They were used to people knowing their business well and being able to respond quickly.  We typed on several layers of carbon paper back then. What a mess! I hated taking the ads. Unlike today’s computers that allow you to type, backup, or correct easily, the process was archaic!

Then there was the adding machine and learn accounting as you go tasks laid out for me. I was to double check numbers, run off paper tapes, and be accurate. My mentor had no tolerance for making errors.

To say the least, I had many expectations to face and it wasn’t easy. The following summer I applied at an Artificial Flower Company in Chicago. There I would do statistical spreadsheets, order forms, and other projects just as trying! The carbon paper scenario followed me like a wild animal. Praise God for Carbonless paper, computers, and spellcheck!

Just think of the one step you need to put you on the escalator of success.   Is it learning to spell? LOL   Is it learning to take correction and do tasks you don’t like to do?   Is it knowing you aren’t the boss and need to be!

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