Here’s Your Change

I was reading something somewhere for some reason that posed this question: What did you learn from your very first job?

My first job, of course, was for my father at Gloor’s Bakery in Columbus, Nebraska. My father was the owner and proprietor. Every one of his kids would answer the same way. Our first jobs were all working at the bakery.

I think I was about 14 years old when I began getting paid for working at the bakery. All of us worked for Dad in some respect from the time we could walk. But at age 14, I began having set hours, set job tasks, and received a paycheck. I can’t remember what I was paid, but I’m guessing it was probably minimum wage. Minimum wage in 1967 — the year I turned 14 — was $1.40. I checked. I also checked to see what that buck forty would mean in 2021 dollars. The answer is $11.08. I didn’t complain about my pay because, well, he was my dad. More important, I had virtually no expenses except for the occasional album or 45 record.

One of the first things I did when I became a working stiff was to walk down to First National Bank of Columbus and open a savings account. As I recall, we got paid once a week, on Saturday. The following Monday, I would walk downtown after school and deposit my check in my savings account. So then, in answer to that initial question about what I learned from my first job, one of the things I learned is my need to have money in savings. Money put away — even if it’s not a lot — is important to me to this day.

Another practical thing I learned as Mom trained me to accept money-for-donuts-and-bread was that bills ALWAYS FACE THE SAME DIRECTION. She was a stickler about that. Again, to this day, the bills in my billfold all face the same direction. They are, however, rarely handed to me in the same direction, even by bank tellers. It takes a bit of time and work to get the bills ready to tuck into my billfold slot.

Unlike today, people actually paid in cash nearly all the time. Oh, a large purchase such as a birthday cake might involve a check, but cash was king in those days. As a cashier, I learned how to make change. Yes kids. There was a time when your cash register didn’t tell you how much change the customer receives. If a purchase was $6.17 and the customer gave you a ten dollar bill, you quickly slid out three pennies, a nickel, three quarters and three dollars from the cash drawer. You then counted the money out into the customer’s hand. I never made a mistake. I still wouldn’t.

I learned how to safely handle dangerous equipment like the bread slicer. Not a single injury. I filled bismarcks the correct way: slowly pulling back on the donut as you fill it so that not all of the filling is at the end of the bismarck. Because, of course, I also learned that you take the first bite of the bismarck at the spot of the hole.

Don’t get me wrong. I also learned a lot of things like responsibility and hard work. My years working for my parents helped me be a better worker throughout my life.

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