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Boys on the Job

Did you long for extra money like I did as a kid?  My parents were generous, but let’s face it; there were limits. Money shelled out to buy a snazzy new Hula Hoop or a fancy Corot necklace wasn’t always a wise investment. So those of us who wanted to spend like Mr. Moneybags had to fill those bags.


Like most things in 1950’s America, job choices were gender-linked.  As usual, boys had the most lucrative choices. The first choice was lawn-mowing in the summertime and snow shoveling in the winter months.  A 1950’s Indiana boy usually earned $1 per lawn. The growing season was short, so he had to “make hay while the sun shines,” literally and figuratively. Before each new mow, the boy was expected to hose down the blades of his push mower, so as not to “infect” one yard with the weeds from another. 


Although not a reliable source of income, hardier types shoveled snow in the winter.  My husband says he’d set out with his trusty shovel and knock on doors, asking if he could shovel their driveway and walkway. When asked his fee, he’d say, “Whatever you want to pay me.” This had one of two results:  the guilt factor usually got him paid MORE than he would have asked; the stingy factor got him paid little or sometimes nothing.

A more steady, year-round choice for boys (and a few girls) was a paper route, but the job wasn’t an easy one. The aspiring entrepreneur found bundled newspapers, usually 50-100 depending on the size of the route, at the drop-off point. This happened while it was still dark for morning deliveries or after school for afternoon deliveries. The boy would sit on the curb and with hands black as coal, and fold each paper tightly, so he could toss it without it turning into an open parachute.

Next came delivery.  With the handle of the bulging canvas sack draped over one bike handlebar, he’d pedal along, tossing a paper at each house. And he’d better have good aim at that front door or complaints would rain on his head. 

Once each week, he’d collect—the toughest part of the job. When approaching the house, he’d often meet dogs who should have been called Cujo instead of Rover, or people who weren’t home and required multiple trips for payment. Some customers actually hid in their houses to avoid paying the weekly charge of 45 cents, 5 cents of which went to the paperboy, while he hoped for tips.    

These Old School types worked cheap and were happy for the chance.  Stay tuned for the next installment about “girl jobs.”   


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