HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
JOBS I HAD IN MY YOUTH
I count myself fortunate to have grown up in a family that put a premium on working. From a very early age, I was taught the meaning of work and of being responsible. The first job I had that I have any real memory of was when my parents owned a small poultry farm a few miles east of DeFuniak Springs, Florida. At that time I was in the first and second grades. My responsibilities included helping my mother gather eggs each evening. My father worked 60 miles from home at Wainwright Shipyard in Panama City and his only time to help out with the chicken-raising enterprise was on the weekends.
As I grew older, I had work to do in the family vegetable garden, as well as mowing the grass and keeping the yard around the house looking nice. I was not paid for doing any of this as it was viewed as a part of my responsibility as a member of the family. When I would ask my daddy about paying me for the work, his response was, “Son, I pay you three times a day—every time you sit down to the table to eat.” I never remember receiving an allowance, but I did not feel abused or mistreated. On Saturday afternoons I would get the 11 cents necessary to get into the Ritz Theater and see a double feature, a serial, a cartoon, and a highlight reel of world news. I would get an extra nickel or dime for a coke or a candy bar. As a child I never went hungry or without adequate clothes. At Christmas I always got things I really wanted.
My first paying job was delivering the Pensacola News-Journal on both a morning and afternoon route which I worked on my bicycle. I do not remember how much I made a week doing this but I think it was around $6.00. That was a lot of money to an 11-year-old boy in 1949, and I opened a savings account at the Cawthon State Bank in DeFuniak and made regular deposits to it.
When I was 13 I began working as a general flunky in Lightfoot’s Drug Store. I worked after school hours, on Saturdays, and on Sunday afternoons. When Mr. Lightfoot hired me I was too timid to ask what I would be paid. After I had worked a week, he paid me $5.00. As I recall he increased it by a dollar the next week and it remained at $6.00 or maybe $7.00 for the rest of the time I worked there. At Christmas he gave me a wrist watch, something I had never owned. Later I worked at King’s Rexall Drug Store for about the same pay but the job did not involve Sunday work. Stocking the shelves, sweeping the floors, washing dishes behind the soda fountain, jerking sodas, delivering prescriptions on a bicycle, and even selling merchandise were character-building activities that taught a young person responsibility.
Following our move to Florence, AL and during my last two years of high school at Mars Hill Bible School I did not have a part-time job, but focused all of my attention on my school work and extra curricular activities, especially interscholastic debate and participation in drama and choral activities. The summer between my junior and senior years of high school when I was 16 years old I worked as a counselor at a summer camp in Mendham, NJ, about 40 miles outside of New York City. I was paid $100.00 for the summer’s (two months) work but it was worth a year of high school or even early college training! In fact, all of the other counselors other than my best friend who also worked there that summer were college students. During the last half of my senior year in high school and continuing through the first quarter of my freshman year at Freed-Hardeman College I preached every Sunday for a rural church near Florence. Near the end of my high school senior year and the following summer I also had a part-time job at a shoe store in Florence.
In the summer following my freshman year of college, after my parents had moved back to DeFuniak Spring, Florida, I worked in a poultry processing plant. My main job was going out with the chicken-catching crew very early in the morning while it was still dark, catching a flatbed truck load of fryers, and having them back at the plant by the time processing operations started. Fourteen chickens went into a coop and the experienced catchers could fill a coop on a single trip from the chicken house to the truck. The first few days I could only catch seven chickens per trip, but I was determined to get as good as the “professionals.” Within a short time I also was catching 14 chickens per trip, and occasionally, to prove it could be done, I would catch 21! There is an art to knowing how to catch that many fryers and hold them by one leg between all the fingers of your hands but I won’t attempt to explain that process.
That same summer (1956) I also preached for the church in Florala, AL, some 25 miles northwest of DeFuniak Springs, going there Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights to preach and teach. I do not recall how much I made at the poultry plant for a five day work week; neither do I remember how much I was paid by the church in Florala. My memory is that each place paid $25-$30 per week. But what tremendous experience I was gaining, especially in preaching. Then, too, there is nothing so character building as catching chickens, stacking full chicken coops several feet high on a flatbed truck, removing manure from chicken houses by means of a shovel and a wheelbarrow, and unloading railroad boxcars of 50 pound sacks of chicken feed—to say nothing of what such does to build a strong body. And even after seeing all that goes on in a poultry processing plant (I also was a “pinch hitter” at several of the stations along the processing “assembly line”), I still like fried chicken!
June 26: Wingate Church of Christ, Nashville, TN
July 3: Dalraida Church of Christ, Montgomery, AL
June 25, 2013