Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis

What was your first job, and did you enjoy it?

A while back curiouswombat asked me about my first job. My very first job was babysitting. I did a lot of that. I was in demand. $1 an hour + pickup and delivery - you come get me and you bring me home. I was a good deal. But, then, we had had some of the best babysitters on the planet growing up so I had learned from the best.

But, my real W-2 first job was as a shop girl in a dress outlet. It was the Summer I was 16. The shop was located on the highway between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It was really more of a tourist road side stop. My parents' friends, the Thalheimer's owned it - more specifically Mrs. Thalheimer. My job was to do whatever she wanted me to do. The shop only sold loose cotton dresses - back then called house dresses. They were kind of an upgraded robe - meant to be worn to do the housework in.

My brother often says he was born on 3rd base meaning he was born a straight white male into a family with more than the average privileges. I was behind him between 2nd and 3rd. (I had the same privilege, just no penis.) And we had no internet so I knew squat, really, about the rest of the country and the people who lived there.

Most of the people who stopped to shop were the kinds of people I had never ever seen before. Most of them were on a vacation road trip just looking. They were often rude and my way of dealing with that was to be rude right back. I was not an ideal shop girl. So I actually did spend a lot of my time in the back room taking dresses out of boxes and steaming the wrinkles out and putting on price tags. This was long before the EPA and the odors of the textile inks are embedded in my memory... deeply.

I was in the shop waiting on customers one day when this guy came in with a girl/woman and two small girl children. They walked in - no car - from the woods. They were black with dirt. The three females never spoke. The man, who had no teeth, communicated that his women each needed a new dress for the summer. They were wearing muddy purple velvet dresses. I, incorrectly assumed he wanted choices. He did not. He was three dresses. Now. And here was his money. Dirty wrinkled 1's and change covered the probably $25 that the three dresses cost. He sent the woman and girls into the dressing room and they came out wearing their dresses. They walked out the door into the woods and left their velvet clothes in the dressing room.

The whole incident was a shocker to me. I'd never seen anything like that. Memories even now, some 50+ years later are vivid.

I really came to hate the job. And it was the first time in my school life ever that I was grateful and happy to go back to school in September.

BUT, that little gig taught me a whole lot. I realized that Summer that, in fact, I could actually work and make money. Real money. A check that I could put in my bank account. It wasn't much. It wasn't nearly enough but it was money. I could do it. I sure didn't want to make money that way so I needed to figure out how to make money a better way. But the idea that I could do it. I didn't have to get married. I really actually could earn my own money. That was a biggie.

And the realization that I needed a degree to get to a better job to make that money is what got me through college.
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