Posted tagged ‘Woolworth’s’

“Always be smarter than the people who hire you.”

July 14, 2017

The windows and doors are all closed. The day is dark, damp and chilly. When I took Gracie out earlier and waited until she was done, I got cold. I was thinking sweatshirt weather. It may rain.

The first summer I ever worked was just after high school. With college in the fall, I had no choice but to get a job. I worked at Woolworth’s in Hyannis, a huge store on Main Street. I had no specific job title but moved from the cash register to counter after counter except for the lunch counter. I spent the most time in the corner where the small animals were housed. My job was to clean the hamster and mouse cages, feed the fish and refill the inventory. It sounds like a gross job, but I was by myself and seldom bothered by the manager which made it ideal. I learned to separate the mother and the babies from other hamsters because if the mother got nervous she’d eat her babies. They were ugly babies. Most of them lived but I never took credit for raising the inventory. Once I worked the souvenir counter which was filled with the tackiest souvenirs, most made in China. A guy once came and bought something then tried to scam me with dollar bills. He kept a running commentary of the amount of money between us hoping I’d get distracted or confused so he could trade a few dollars for a 20. It didn’t happen. He took off quickly when I called for the manager. My favorite part of that job was the lunch counter where I ate most days. The hot dogs in the grilled rolls were my favorites.

Every other summer I worked in the Hyannis post office. It was good money in those days. My job was to sort piles of mail into smaller piles of mail for specific destinations. I started working the primary board where all the mail started. I had a rubber thumb to help me sort the mail. The stool was angled toward the board. The slots in the board were open in the back but had some rope across so the mail wouldn’t fall on the floor. Sorters would come and take the mail back to their boards for further sorting. The mail for sorting came in two foot trays. The worst was a tray of postcards. I swear there were thousands of them on a single tray. I did have some fun as any postcard which had a message but wasn’t addressed I’d sent to a friend or a neighbor. Postcards with postage due also got sent. The worst thing about those post cards was when they were cancelled. Because they were so thin, a pile would go through the machine at the same time and only the first postcard would be cancelled. I was a quick sorter so the foreman would bring me the postcards. I told him they’d better be cancelled. Many weren’t so I just tossed them on the floor. They piled around my stool. The foreman would come, say nothing, pick up the postcards and put them through the cancelling machine again. The last summer I worked there, going into my senior year in college, I was offered a full time job. I didn’t take it.

I spent the next summer in Ghana.

“Don’t allow your life to become just a dead ritual. Let there be moments, unexplainable.”

April 24, 2017

The house was cold when I woke up. I needed my sweatshirt so I had to dump poor Maddie off. She had slept on it last night. Gracie and I went to get the papers. It was warmer outside than the house. I wanted to cheer. It’s a sign of spring.

When I was a kid, my dog was named Duke. He was a boxer, a fawn boxer. In those days there was no leash law. Duke was a wanderer. Some mornings he’d follow us to school. My father would see him, call him and then go crazy when Duke ignored him so my father would hop in the car and go get him. Duke used to visit my aunt and get Sam to go play with him. Sam was his son. My favorite Duke story is when he followed my grandmother uptown. She wasn’t a dog lover. To try and get away, my grandmother went into Woolworth’s. Duke followed. Once inside, he lifted his leg on the comic book carousel. My grandmother was asked if he were her dog. She said no which was technically true. She left quickly. Duke, not her dog, followed right behind her.

I am not a lover of daily rituals yet I have a few. I take Gracie into the yard first. I start my coffee. While it is perking, I feed the cat, fill the water bowl and, after she comes inside, I give Gracie her treats. I drink a cup of coffee with each of the two papers. I thoroughly read each paper though I admit I only read baseball news on the sports pages and articles which catch my attention in the business section. I check my e-mail then hope for divine inspiration when I open WordPress. I have been writing Coffee for 12 years. Divine inspiration is all I have left after all this time.

The rest of the day is open. When I worked, I went to the dump on Sundays. Now I usually go on Thursdays, a quiet day at the dump, but any day will do. If I have any errands, I make a list and do them all in one day in geographic order hopping from village to village. Sometimes I get that favorite sandwich of mine at Buckies in Dennisport. I consider it a reward for doing all those errands.

When I get home, I put on my comfy clothes. The rest of the afternoon is for reading, maybe napping, doing chores like the laundry and if something is going on, watching the news on MSNBC. I check Facebook.

Dinner is whatever I have on hand which is sometimes as simple as an egg sandwich or cheese and crackers.

I go to bed, actually on the couch, whenever I’m tired. I seldom go early. Gracie sprawls at one end. I try to get comfortable around her.

That’s it. That is sort of my day every day.

 

“Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is as potent as caffeine, no matter your age.”

December 11, 2015

The middle of December shouldn’t be this warm. Yesterday set a new record high and today is already in the 50’s. I have yet to see my breath this winter. Santa will probably arrive wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermudas.

Yesterday was my most industrious day. The to do was completed. All the presents got wrapped and were put in boxes ready to mail. They’ll go out tomorrow. Gracie and I went to the dump, to Agway and finally to a grocery store so I could buy dinner. Last night I was totally exhausted from all the up and down the stairs and the hauling of boxes and presents.

My mother didn’t drive when I was a kid so I can’t imagine how she got all her shopping done. I don’t remember her ever being missing on a day when my dad was home to drive her. Maybe my mother did mail order shopping as our reference book for Christmas presents was the Sears catalog. My brother and I would look through the toy section time and time again and we’d circle what we wanted. The gifts probably arrived when we were in school. I know she hid them everywhere: the attic, the ironing board closet, the next door neighbor’s and the trunk of my dad’s car. We’d sometimes come across them but not because we looked.

I always did my shopping up town at Woolworth’s, Grant’s or the drug stores. The biggest drug store, the Middlesex Drug, sat on one side of the square. It had a soda fountain which had stools and a marble counter. They made the coke the old way by putting in the syrup then the fizzy water as we used to call it. In the middle of the store was always a display at Christmas. It was filled with perfumes and powders in festive boxes. I always checked them all out, but they were too expensive. I usually only had only a dollar or two, too poor for the drug store but rich enough for Woolworth’s.

Giving presents to all my family was really a big thing to me. I spent so much time walking up and down the aisles looking for something special for each of them. My sisters sometimes got baby bottles for their dolls. I remember the nipples were always pink. My brother was happy with his balsam plane. My mother made a big deal over the perfume I’d bought despite how inexpensive it was. My dad welcomed new handkerchiefs. He always carried one with him. I remember him pulling one out and blowing his nose with a great deal of noise.

I’d wrap my own presents and put them under the tree right in front. I was so proud of them.

“I can’t tell you how many hot dogs I’ve eaten in my life.”

May 19, 2015

The day is dark, chilly and damp. Rain is expected. I’m guessing just as Gracie and I leave for the dump the skies will open and the rain will fall in sheets. I noticed the red spawn has been at the potted flowers again and there is soil all over the deck railing. This morning the spawn ran from the feeder as soon as I picked up the hose. It is wary now from too many showers. I’m thinking a slingshot.

When I was a kid, I seemed to be busy all of the time. I’d have school until 2 then rush home to play for the rest of the afternoon. My mother would call us inside close to supper time. I’d do my homework, have supper, watch some TV then get ready for bed. The day was spent in a flash. The whole week passed by almost before I’d noticed. Each Saturday and Sunday had a bit of a routine but those two days never seemed long enough.

During the summers when I was in high school, I sometimes whined and complained about having nothing to do. That drove my mother crazy. We didn’t have summer jobs back then so there was little to do all day long. What had delighted the kid me didn’t seem interesting any more. I didn’t ride my bike or walk to the pool or go to the playground. I just sighed a lot.

The summer after high school was when I got my first job: forty hours a week at Woolworth’s. It was the easiest job, and I jumped around doing all sorts of stuff to keep from getting bored. The only place I didn’t work was the food counter. I loved Woolworth’s food counter. It was straight and long with red vinyl stools moved in a circle for east seating. The women were all old, at least to me, and wore uniforms. Most had huge handkerchiefs as decorations atop their pockets. They kept pencils behind their ears. The wall had all the menu items listed including the flavors of ice cream. The dessert dishes had fluted tops. They were used for sundaes like my favorite of all, hot fudge. Real dishes were used for the sandwiches. They were whitish with a red ring around the inside rim. The hot dogs were wonderful cooked on the grill. The French fries were crisp and hot. Sometimes I’d have a grilled cheese sandwich, perfectly brown and gooey.

My mother and sister used to go to their Woolworth’s for a patty melt. The counter there was huge but divided almost into little islands each with its older lady taking orders. I went with them a few times, but it was sometimes a hot dog for me and other times a club sandwich. Colored toothpicks were in each section of the club sandwich to hold it together. The toothpicks were wooden. The sandwich was always delicious. I miss Woolworth counters.

“A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke.”

May 2, 2014

The sun is breaking through the clouds. Today will be spring.

This shoulder season is my least favorite time of year. Of late, I have been tired and bored. The cold and the rain have made exploring less inviting. Afternoon naps while away the time but make me no less lazy. A few errands force me out of the house, and even though I complain, I am grateful for the change. Today is one of those days.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have decks or porches or patios. We just had backyards, unfenced expanses of grass dotted with clothes lines close to each house. The little kids mostly stayed in those yards. My sisters sat on the back-steps right outside the door and played with their dolls. My mother could hear and see them, but she never really worried. They wouldn’t stray and the whole neighborhood kept an eye. We older kids would never be caught playing in the backyard during the daylight. We had the freedom of bikes. My mother would do her parental duty and ask where we were going. We seldom had an answer as we seldom had a destination. “Just around,” was our usual reply, and that was exactly where we went. We never had any money, not even the wealth of a dime or a quarter. Sometimes we made lunch, mostly a sandwich and some Oreos, and we’d stop somewhere to eat at no given time just when we got hungry. If something caught our eyes, we’d investigate. We’d stop, use the kickstand on our bikes and walk to see what was around. Sometimes we’d ride uptown, walk our bikes on the sidewalk and look at store windows. My favorite window was at the fish market. A tank took up most of the window and lobsters took up most of the tank. We’d stop at the Woolworth’s window and Kennedy’s Cheese and Butter Store where barrels sat out front and the window had chunks of cheese which was foreign to us. My mother never bought cheese in chunks. We’d usually end our uptown tour there and head down the street pass the fire station, the town hall, our school and church and the convent. By then it was late afternoon, and during this time of year it was getting cooler as the sun set. We’d get home, maneuver our bikes down the stairs into the cellar and go up stairs to watch a bit of TV until my mother had dinner ready. I remember lots of westerns and hot dogs, beans and brown bread.

“There is no easy way to train an apprentice. My two tools are example and nagging.”

April 13, 2014

The morning is cloudy, but I don’t mind because the sun will appear later. It is chilly but not cold. I love saying that. I think of it as the difference between winter and spring.

The kid down the street rides a four-wheeler. He went from a tricycle to a bike with training wheels. I have no idea how extra wheels train a kid to balance on a two-wheeler. It is one of the mysteries of life. I didn’t have training wheels when I was a kid. I had my mother. She held on to the back of the bike as it wobbled, and I pedaled for all I was worth hoping to stay upright and moving. I remember my mother rode my bike first to show me how easy it is to ride. I was amazed. My mother could cook and clean but I never really thought too much beyond those. That she could ride a bike was a revelation. We were on the side street in front of my house. I was afraid she’d let go, but she didn’t for the longest time. When she finally did, I just kept on moving. I was a bike rider.

Okay, next I’m talking feminine undergarments. If you want to leave now, please do. Just hop on down to the next paragraph. Remember you were warned. I never had training wheels on my bike, but I had a training bra, the purpose of which flummoxes me even now. What was I training them to do? No tricks ever came to mind. Later, when I was much older and out of training, I did think of tassels but that’s a whole different conversation and profession. How long we had to train was arbitrary. Each mother made that decision. I didn’t train for too long. I must have been a quick learner.

My first job was at a Woolworth’s, the summer after high school, and I had to be trained. It was ridiculous. I was shown how to work the cash register and had to prove I could make change. The right way to stock shelves was explained and demonstrated. I was glad for that because I probably would have put the articles upside down or backwards on the shelves except for that in-depth training. I really hated that job, but I lasted the whole summer.

I had to student teach my senior year in college. Nobody called it training though that’s exactly what it was. There I was standing at the front of the room facing an entire class of kids who knew I was inexperienced and suspected I was scared. They were right. My lead teacher watched for a few weeks, gave me pointers and then she let go just as my mother had. I had no trouble staying upright, but I still needed to pedal for all I was worth.

“To lose the approbation of my dog is a thing too horrible to contemplate.”

September 10, 2013

The weatherman said sunny and warm today, mid 70’s. Right now, though, it is damp, dark and chilly with a strong breeze. Later Gracie and I have to go to the dump, but that’s it for chores. At the vets yesterday, I found out Gracie has gingivitis. We knew she had gum issues but it hadn’t gotten to gingivitis before this. Now she is on antibiotics which only cost me $110.00. The other choice was surgery to cut away then cauterize the gums. Before my eyes flashed a bill well over a $1000 so I went with the lesser of two financial evils. The vet said Gracie is in good health and has plenty of energy. She got her ears cleaned and her nails cut as well. Despite being a crazy dog, she abides getting those done quite calmly. I think it always surprises the toe cutter.

When I was a kid, our dog was a boxer named Duke. The only shot he ever got was his rabies shot every couple of years. There were no well dog visits back then or heart worm treatments or Advantix against fleas. My father would douse him with flea powder periodically or give him a bath. He ate horse meat, a component of dog food back then. There were no natural or healthy foods for dogs. Leash laws didn’t exist back then either. Duke was a roamer, and he knew his way all over town. You might have heard this before, but it’s a great story worth retelling. Duke was uptown and found my grandmother. He followed her right into Woolworth’s and while inside he lifted his leg on the comic books. The manager wanted to know whose dog it was. My grandmother said not a word as Duke really wasn’t her dog, but when she left the store almost immediately, Duke followed, a dead giveaway, but my grandmother never looked back. She wasn’t an animal lover, and I can only imagine the embarrassment she felt. To the rest of us, it was just a funny dog story. Duke lived to be fifteen. He was a great dog, stubborn as they come but protective and loving.

I can’t imagine being without a dog. Gracie is always happy to see me. That boxer stub of a tail goes so fast back and forth it reminds me of helicopter rotors, and I half expect her back-end to go air-borne. Sometimes she puts her head on my arm, looks at me and gives me her please eyes, the look which says a treat would be nice. I seldom refuse. She and I are in constant battle for alpha dog. I always win, but she is never happy about it. She sits then talks back to me. There is no mistaking her tone, and it always makes me glad dogs don’t talk.

“There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.”

July 11, 2013

Last night I re-entered the world. I went to my first Wednesday play of the season. We always have dinner at a friend’s house first so I bought a few appies then drove, a new adventure for me, to Harwich, had dinner then went on to Chatham. Wouldn’t you know it but this play had three acts so I sat far too long. By the time I got home, at close to 11, I was exhausted and the house was stifling. I closed windows and put the air on. Gracie was panting, a barometer of sorts about the heat and humidity. It was close to 12 before it was cool enough to go to bed. I slept until 9:30 and am still tired. That first foray into the world has exhausted me.

We have a breeze and we have rain, not a lot of rain but rain nonetheless. The breeze is enough that the chimes hanging from the trees are making a sweet sound. I have all the windows and doors opened. Gracie loves it as she can come and go as she pleases. Even if I could muster the energy, l’d go nowhere today as the roads must be clogged with tourists looking for something to do. This is the summer of the tourist. Cars are everywhere. I’m guessing people have a bit more money to spend, and the cape is a great spot not too far away and one with all sorts of accommodations and restaurants and then there’s the ocean, the beautiful ocean which surrounds the cape.

I didn’t get my first job until the summer just after I’d graduated from high school. Back then none of us worked summers. Until I moved to the cape, I lived in a town which didn’t offer a lot of jobs for a teenager even if you wanted one. Parents never pushed. We just had to live on the paltry allowance they gave us. We managed.

The summer after high school I worked in Woolworth’s in down-town Hyannis which was a huge store. It had front and back entrances and a long counter for food. I remember the menu slots on the wall and the plastic menus with pictures of the food. I usually took my break at that counter. Working there was an okay job as I worked all sorts of places in the store and wasn’t bored. I worked the jewelry counter, the register, the pet corner and the souvenir section. The only problem was it didn’t pay a lot, but I could understand why as it didn’t take a whole of expertise or talent to work there. The pet section kept me the busiest as I had to change cages and feed the animals every day. There were fish, birds, hamsters and Guinea pigs. Little kids used to come to see the animals and watch the fish. The register was an okay spot to work. I could make change which made me a valuable employee. The souvenirs were mostly from China and included shells, fake driftwood, small boats and t-shorts. People bought a lot of souvenirs. I worked there until Labor Day which gave me a few weeks off before I had to go to college. All in all, it wasn’t a bad first job.