News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

September 14, 2010

MS. TAKES: First jobs were glory days in the workplace

TERRE HAUTE — All last week, one of the morning television programs featured the principals discussing their first jobs. One had been a paper boy, another bagged groceries and, most glamorous, one had taught dancing and exercise.

I’m pretty much a captive audience as I pedal away on the exercise bicycle at the Family Sports Center. I was amused at the former paper boy trying to relive his glory days flinging newspapers. One went into the bushes, another fractured a window. The dancing was more fun, especially when the dancer graduated to a paid position in a chorus line.

No chorus lines in Yorkville! I did take dancing lessons. Miss Aucutt never actually told Mom that it was a waste of money, but it was. I felt like a stork on roller skates and dreaded the annual dance recital when my friend, Nanette, starred as a look-alike Shirley Temple.

So, I  begged to be allowed to take clarinet lessons so I could play in the band. Dad decreed that I would be allowed to take clarinet lessons when I learned to read music. Accordingly, I was enrolled for piano lessons with Miss Knudsen. Ed and I enrolled at the same time.

I would painstakingly pick my way through the weekly assignment and usually managed to earn my star in a couple of weeks. Ed asked Miss K to play his piece, “So I can hear what it is supposed to sound like.” Ed played by ear and earned his star at the next lesson. To the end of his life he owned a piano and still played anything he heard.

I certainly learned to read music, but never achieved the level of expertise to let me have clarinet lessons. I won’t even attempt to recall how long it took me to memorize “Moonlight Sonata.”

Yorkville didn’t offer a lot of opportunity in music or dancing even if I had qualified. I tried to remember my first job. It wasn’t baby sitting like so many of my friends. Not much call for sitters either and besides, I never really understood babies. I loved my own, of course, but waited impatiently for a time when we could sit down together and talk.

No, my first job was stripping the outer layer of dirt from green onions! A Greek family moved to Yorkville and bought farm land north of town whereon they grew all sorts of produce to sell in their grocery stores in Joliet.

Ed, being male, got to cut asparagus for fun and profit, but females were not allowed in the fields. Instead we sat in the barn where baskets of green onions were dumped. My friends and I stripped and bunched for a penny a bunch. I made enough to buy a rather smashing blouse for school.

I asked my Best Friend about his first job. He said he was a caddie at the Forest Hills golf course in Rockford and once got a whole dollar as a tip. WOW!

Liz Ciancone is a retired

Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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