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Girls on the Job

A money-hungry girl in the 1950’s had fewer and less well-paid choices than the boys of the time. As a little girl, I stumbled upon a fabulous money-making scheme. Workmen were resurfacing the blacktop in front of my house, so I cooked up a lemonade stand with a couple of the neighborhood kids. My helpful mom hopped in the car, hit the grocery store and came home with a carload of lemons and a ton of sugar.  We set up our stand in front of my house and charged 25 cents per cup.  Those hot, thirsty workmen LOVED the stuff and we sold out in no time. 


The more dependable choice was babysitting, which I began at age 13.  At first I charged 35 cents per hour, but eventually raised my rate to 50 cents. For that, I was to feed the kids, put them to bed, do any dishes from dinner and tidy up. One set of clients engaged me every Saturday night for years—from 6 pm till 3 am, to watch their son, daughter and twin girls.  After multiple drinks of water and trips to the bathroom, they’d finally settle down for the night. I’d work on homework or watch TV until I conked out, too. 

At the end of the job, I had earned $5. I felt like Paris Hilton! Suddenly I had money for necessities like Avon Cotton Candy lipstick and Cutex nail polish.

As I grew older, I thought I’d hit the big leagues when I became a curb hop at the local Frostop, earning 50 cents per hour and the chance for tips. I’d march to the car, wearing my work uniform:  black shorts, a striped top and an apron for the money. The customers would order Coneys, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers or Barbecues with chips on the side and Root Beer or Orange Drink. After the order was ready, I’d carry the tray out and begin the ordeal of attaching it to the side of the car, requiring the finesse of a brain surgeon. First, I’d ask the customer to roll the car window up a couple of cranks.  Then I’d sit the tray hooks on it, and carefully scoot the bottom rod till it stopped at the side of the car.  When done properly, it made a perfect triangle, but I had to spill a few trays before I got the hang of it. 

After a good shift, I’d have enough money to treat myself to a new blouse or a new charm for my bracelet.  Like other Old Schoolers, I was happy to have the extra money to spend any way I liked. 


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