First Real Job

Uncle Oliver was one of daddy’s older brothers. Daddy had five brothers and six sisters. I knew Uncle Oliver better than any of my uncles and aunts on Daddy’s side of the family. Daddy and Uncle Oliver married sisters so naturally this made me closer to him.

I always liked him a lot because he seemed to have a special interest in me. He was the most frugal person I’ve ever known. On the surface he was always quiet and easy going, but with a wit that was unusual.

He ran a country store in Shake Rag in the middle of what is today Peachtree City. In the late fall, winter, and early spring you would find a group of men who lived nearby sitting around a pot bellied heater telling yarns, laughing, and spitting tobacco juice on the heater just to hear it sizzle. The summer months usually found the same crowd seated outside on benches and nail kegs under a kudzu arbor telling the same stories, laughing and keeping as cool as possible.

Uncle Oliver was usually the ring leader. He always had humorous stories to tell, usually about someone in the community. I remember his telling one about the fellow who ran the grist mill trying to make a ferris wheel by tying old car seats to the water wheel. Everyone knew this was not so, but they all laughed and added a little to the story. This kind of discussion went on interrupted only by someone coming to the store to make a purchase.

When I was about eight I asked him about a job at the store. He said ok and that I could service the gasoline customers. This would be just a one day job and he would pay me a quarter. He gave me a pocket tire gauge and some clean rags and said he would like for me to give the customers the full service. This meant that I would check their tires and oil, pump the gasoline (this was a hand pump), clean their windshield and make the sale. For the most part, his customers were from the community. They usually pumped their own gasoline and never checked their tires unless one looked low and then they just used the free air hose to pump it up a little. They never checked the oil unless the car was smoking and as long as they could see out of the windshield everything was fine.

You can imagine their reaction when I met them at the pump, checking their tires and oil, cleaning their windows, pumping their gas, and figuring the price of the sale. Uncle Oliver would be standing in the door of the store watching it all while he and the customer exchanged smiling glances.

I worked pretty hard that day and by the end of the day I’d spent the quarter on candy and soft drinks, but I had fun. My first real job!

I believe Uncle Oliver had fun too.