June 18th reading
- Here's my reading from June 18. Have a nice weekend, everybody.Don Welsher
Life Is Just a Bowl of Berries
I got my first real job when I was 13 years old in the summer of 1950. Mr. Roland Felten was a member of our church and had a large fruit and vegetable farm in Cherry Hill Township -- then known as Delaware Township . I got Dad to ask Mr. Felten if he could use a 13-year-old strawberry picker, and he said yes. So a few days later I found myself on my bicycle riding out of Haddonfield on Kresson Road . At one point, I peddled over a large construction site that was soon to become the New Jersey Turnpike. The Felten farm was on Marlkress Road , which runs between Kresson Road and Route 70, then better known as the Marlton Pike. It was about a five-mile ride from home each way.
My first day of picking was my best ever. For the first hour or so, I ate almost as many berries as I picked, but then I settled down to serious business. The berries were in their prime and by 3:00 p.m. I had picked 64 quarts at 10 cents a quart. But strawberry picking is a hands and knees proposition and by then, I ached all over. I had had enough. What's more, I had $6.40 in my pocket, which was as much as I'd ever had at one time.
That first day I went to eat my lunch beneath some trees with the other pickers. There were a couple dozen of them and they were all black. They had been brought out from Camden , NJ on a rickety old farm labor bus. I was the only white person there, and the only kid. This was new to me, and I was pretty uncomfortable. Perhaps it showed. One of the pickers, a wizened old man, invited me to sit with him, and we shared some lunch-time conversation, and as I recall, I think we exchanged part of our lunches. He was a proud man, and he made a point of telling me this wasn’t his real job. “I am a mattress maker,” he said. At the time, I took that at face value. Looking back, I expect this may have meant that he was a rag picker, someone who collected old rags and other junk, and I expect he used the old rags to make his mattresses. In any event, he was a gentle man and his friendly overture went a long way to make me comfortable in a strange situation.
The strawberry season was short, and the 10-mile round-trip bicycle ride got longer and hotter every day. And soon, the picking became sparse, and the picking price fell to six cents a quart. I never again came close to the 64 quarts I picked on that first day. Around the Fourth of July, raspberries came in and I picked them for awhile. This was a lot easier because I could pick them standing up. When the berries were good I could do 40 pints in a day.
That was the first summer job that let me put some significant spending money in my pocket. It was also the summer I learned that having a job and having to do it every day was a lot harder than talking about it. But more important, that summer, that first day at lunch, I learned something about kindness, and about life, and I grew up a little.
Years later, driving around the Ellisburg Circle I would sometimes see a rickety old farm labor bus pull into McGroarty's liquor store at the end of the day. I would watch the pickers scrambling out of the bus to spend part of their day’s earnings on a bottle, which they would drink on the ride home to Camden . It would always trigger thoughts of that first day on my first job, and I would wonder if the old mattress maker was still riding the bus.
-- Don Welsher, June 18, 2008
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And here is my reading.....JOBS & CHORES (Learning Lifes Lessons)Barnes & NoblesJune 18, 2008
Elaine ProcidaIm not sure what made P.J. so quick to learn the lessons he would need to get what he wanted in life. But, from the stories that were told to me by my mother and then, later, by the things I observed myself it almost seems that he was born that way.When P.J. had still not mastered fully the ability to walk and talk, he learned his first lesson. He would find his mothers handbag (pocket book) and bring it to her saying something like peek pok and she knew this meant he wanted her to open it and give him a penny to buy some candy or maybe a toy. So the first lesson he learned was always know where the pennies are.A few years later he was old enough to walk down the street by himself and go into a little grocery store. He would tell the owner (who knew him) what he wanted and say: my mother will pay you. At first his mother thought that was cute but when he was bringing home too many things on credit, she told the store keeper no more credit. So his second lesson was dont become too greedy or you might lose everything.His third lesson involved his sister (me). He started a little business of bringing his wagon and me to the shopping market to wait for people who might want us to carry their groceries home in our wagon. He was successful at this and I suspected the people were giving him bigger tips because they thought I was cute. So I suggested to him that maybe he should start to pay me. He said: I really wish I could but I need the money more than you do. So his 3rd lesson was to always have loyal employees.His next venture, which I dont remember too much of, was when he was a pre-teen and he was helping in a grocery store. I dont think he stayed there very long so maybe he learned there to get out if the pay is too cheap.While still in high school in South Philadelphia, P.J. found a job in an advertising agency in center city, followed by a job with Sun Oil Company. By the time he was in his early 20s he had a full time office job, a part time job pumping gas in a service station in Collingswood, he was going to college at night and was in the marine reserve all at the same time. His lesson at this time had to be you can get along with very little sleep and be all you can be.Shortly after getting married he found his lifetime work and rose to become V.P. of International Operations for the parent company and President of their International Division. The lesson he tried to teach everyone else was success comes only with hard work Finally, two years ago, he retired ready to relax and enjoy the fruit of his labor. Ha, no such thing . After moving to Chicago he obtained a position, as a teacher in a school of international studies and after only one year became the director of the school. The one lesson I dont think he will ever learn is how to stop working.