Monday, June 11, 2018

The Young Man's Working Life

A couple of the bloggers I regularly read recently posted on the jobs they've worked over their lives which prompts this post.

From the time I was about 10 or 11 years old through the spring of my senior year in high school (1969) I worked at the family store in the Noroton Heights section of Darien, CT, owned by my uncle and my dad.  Founded by my grandfather Louis in 1923, my Uncle Bill, ten years older than my Dad, took over running Stoler's in 1933, after Louis' sudden death via heart attack.  That year my then 13-year old father took on the job of delivering newspapers across Darien in the mornings before he went to school.

My first work experience was going in with my father early on Sunday mornings to help him and the crew assemble and deliver the New York papers.  It was a thrill for a young boy to get up at 4am on Sunday and go with his dad to the store.  The Sunday papers were the largest editions of the week with many inserts and sections that were delivered to newsdealers separately and then assembled for delivery and to sale at the store.  In particular, the New York Times was a bear to put together, and we had hundreds to assemble as Stoler's at that time had the home delivery rights for the New York papers for the entire town of Darien.

On days when the weather wasn't bad we sat outside with the various sections/inserts piled in front of us on the sidewalk in front of the store and then laboriously put them together.  It was always dark when we started but light by the time we finished. Once assembled we loaded them into vans and cars for the drivers to take them on their delivery routes.  Sometimes I rode with the drivers to help them make the deliveries.  Other times I stayed at the store with my dad.  Around 8 and 9am my uncle would come in and my dad and I would go home.

Within a year or two I was working occasional Saturdays and every summer at the store.  I often worked checkout (we had two or three registers at the front of the store). The store itself was a forerunner of a Walmart type store, though much smaller of course, though much larger than a neighborhood newstand or a 7-11 type store of later years.  Stoler's sold newspapers, magazines, records, greeting cards (a huge section of the store run by my dad), cigarettes (big sellers in those years), toys, small household goods, a limited amount of clothing, school supplies, and paperback books.

I also worked stocking shelves and in the office and remember being paid $1/hour (in cash!).   Basically, whatever my dad and uncle needed me to do, I did.  One job, at the end of the day, was to take a locked bag or bags, filled with cash and receipts to the drop box at the bank next door to our store.  Looking back on it the office was quite chaotic and disorganized and it's hard to figure out how the place actually ran! 

We always had a radio on in the office and warehouse if it was World Series time,  I remember listening when Mickey Mantle hit a tenth inning home run off Cardinals reliever Barney Schultz to give the Yankees a victory in Game Three of the 1964 series (I just double checked and the game was on a Saturday, so I would have been working).  Thankfully, the Cards came back and beat the Yanks in the series.

I always liked working at the store, but my dad would often remind me that he did not want me to end up working there when I was older.  It was his life, but it was not the one he wanted for his children.

I knew my father worked hard but only as I grew older did I truly register the extent of this workload.  From the time he graduated high school in 1939 until about 1970, with the exception of his wartime service, he worked 6 1/2 days a week with a couple of weeks vacation.  Monday though Saturday it was from 7am to between 6 and 7pm. Every other Sunday he went in at 4am to prepare papers for delivery and then went home around 8 or 9am when his brother came in.  The weeks his brother came in early, dad would come in at 8 or 9am and stay until closing up around 1230 or 1pm.  The only times I can remember our entire family having dinner together was an occasional Saturday evening and regularly on Sunday.  I don't know how he did it.

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