Dad had a newspaper route, like his brother Gordy, like my brothers Ed and John and like my husband Todd. My son never had one but that’s probably because he reads his news on line. There’s something to be said about being out in the fresh air and meeting people face to face — not to mention the physical activity. We need to hold on to these simple traditions.
My first job, like many women I know, was babysitting. I made .50 cents an hour and started when I was about 13. The truth is, it didn’t seem like work. I loved taking care of babies and children. I played dolls past the age of most and only quit because my brother Ed tape recorded me playing Barbies with my friends. That was the end of it.
I couldn’t wait to get my workers permit when I was 16 and got a job at Columbia Hospital making 1.90 and hour. My neighbor, Meg Diaz, worked there too. I remember how proper she looked in her yellow uniform and white apron as she carefully carried her trays with a spine straight back. She got to go to the patients’ rooms. I was confined to the dish-room with it’s big, metal, hot steamy washer and spray hoses. I sprayed the dishes and sometimes other employees.
Dad’s brother had over 100 customers on his paper route which spanned from Pierce to Weil. When Uncle Gordy enlisted in the army air corps, the Journal Sentinel split the route and Dad got half of it, from Bremen and Weil – Fratney and Pierce became another route. –Debbie
The thing I remember was what a big deal it was if you got Sunday. That was twenty-eight cents, and just eighteen cents if you didn’t. I had a changer and I’d click out the two pennies change — it was also a big deal if I got to keep the extra two cents when I collected at the end of the week. I’d go up to pay my bill which was paid in a little garage-like building in the alley behind my friend Bob Frey’s house. Later, they moved it to Holton St. just south of the railroad tracks. That was the beer route. It was a long one because it included all the downtown breweries. The beer trains would come through and one of our favorite things to do, Bobby and me, was to line up pennies on the track so the trains could squish them. We’d end up with a bunch of flattened pennies. So that was kind of fun.
What did you do with them, Dad?
“Oh, I don’t know. Threw ’em away probably.”
I found one of those in the attic once, Dad. It was a skinny, smooth oval disc bearing no resemblance to a penny except for its color. You told me what happened to it and I kept it in my jewelry box.
“Well, that penny sure wasn’t worth anything. The one thing I remember about collecting was going up to the house and saying, ‘Collect for the paper!’
There was one lady who’d say, Kouier Pulski?’
And I’d say, ‘No lady, Journal.’ That was the Polish paper. I think Kouier meant paper and Pulski meant Polish.
Your Grandpa would help me like he did Gordy on Sundays. He’d bring the car. You know I have a curved spine, and I’m wondering if carrying the paper on my shoulder did that. I have to look sometime to see if that’s the paper carrying shoulder. So anyhow…”
How man years did you have the route?
“Oh, I don’t know, two maybe, because then I got a job with Thomas Steven’s Van Alyea. I got that job through school as an architect’s apprentice. It was because of my Riverside drafting class. The call came into the principal and they sent it to the drafting and art instructors and they both recommended me. So they called me in and asked if I was interested and I said, ‘Sure.’ It was two hours after school so I had to let my paper route go. That was when I was a sophomore.
Then I also got a job on Saturdays at the florist shop called Koch and Neumann’s and that was a great job because they paid 35 cents an hour. The drafting job was 25 cents.
I made 2.80 a week and when we’d go in to get paid, he’d round up and give me 3.00. That was good of Mr. Neumann.
I kept that job on Saturdays until my Dad mentioned it to his bosses and they said, “Well have him come out and he can cut our grass and wash the cars. I’ll pay him .75 an hour.” I got the job and made as much on Saturday as I did all week plus his wife would feed me. She’d make a sandwich.
So that’s why I quit the paper route and got into architectural work with Van Alyea. I worked there for over a year. One of my jobs was to fill the containers behind the radiators. They were there to bring moisture into the air. I had started in the Fall. By now it was Spring and Mr. Van Alyea heard me and said,
“Bill, Bill!. What are you doing?!”
“Filling the containers.”
“You don’t do it in Spring. You only do it in the wintertime!”
I actually got to do some drafting too. He was kind of a tough guy to deal with and wouldn’t budge off that .25 an hour. It was over a year and I told my Dad I thought I should get a raise. Dad said to go ahead and ask but before I did to be sure I lined up another job.
He said, “That’s my advice to you. If you have to quit a job, never quit one until you have another one lined up first.”
So, I went and interviewed at another architectural firm called Hugo Haeuser. He offered to pay me .35 cents an hour. I told him my circumstances and I knew I had a job if I wanted it. Then I went back in to talk to Van Alyea and said, “You know I’ve been working here over a year and I was wondering about a raise.”
“Well, how much have I been paying you?”
“25 cents an hour.”
“No, I cant give you a raise.”
“Well, then I have to give my notice to leave.”
“Okay, then leave.”
“Well, you owe me some money.”
“I don’t remember now what it was…a couple dollars.” He reached in his pocket, pulled out some change and slammed it on the table and said,
“There! Take that! That’s all your worth.”
So I went to work at Haeuser and it probably saved my life. Freshman year, I went out for football and almost got killed. In those days you didn’t have an offensive and defensive team — you played both. If you were in you were in. In offense, I was center. I only weighed 110 lbs. and was shorter than the girls in my graduating class at Fratney. But I could snap the ball well. For defense, I was linebacker. Joe Scafidi, who was fullback on the other team came charging down the field and I tackled him. He dragged me about 10 yards but I got him down. Well, Joe Scafidi became all-city and I thought — Wow, I tackled the all-star player!
Anyhow, once I started for Haeuser I was a sophomore so I couldn’t go out for football anymore.
So then, during the summer of my sophomore year I worked for my Dad at Cleaver Brooks. They made equipment to freeze and dehydrate food. Dad got me the job. I would drive the pickup truck and work in the factory. My buddies locked me in the freezer and turned the lights out. They were some guys. I bought a suit with the money I earned there. A zoot suit. A pinstriped, blue suit. These were the zoot suit days, with the wide lapels, the waist came way up and they had tight legs. One of the guys went with me to pick it out. This was the first suit I bought on my own. My Mom wasn’t too pleased. It was too zooty.
Then I got pneumonia, probably from the freezer. I was out for many weeks and that was when I finally grew. I was taller when I went back. There was so much homework to do, Dad was worried I would make myself sick again. He called my teachers and talked them into a workload that was more realistic for me. Dad was a great defender of mine. He was great.
I had missed almost the whole grading period. You’d have to take your report card around to all your teachers. Everyone gave me an incomplete but when I got to my mechanical drawing teacher, he gave me an A. He said I was way ahead of everyone else.
My sophomore year was when I really started to get interested in architecture. I had taken math, science and mechanical drawing because Gordy had taken them. Dad noticed I was good at the subjects and said, “You know Bill, you outta think about becoming an architect.” That’s where it started. He directed me. As an estimator, he was always working with contractors and architects. My Dad was so smart, Debbie. He was just wonderful.
When I finished my sophomore year, I went to a summer camp. We went to Mission House College for a Missionary Conference for the youth at Grace Reformed Church. That’s where Lakeland College is know. I met a lot of nice people. On Friday night they had a consecration service. It was very inspiring — to get you to accept Jesus — that’s what it was really but I don’t think we ever said those things. At the end of the service, we all had candles. They sent us out by ourselves and told us to pray. We weren’t supposed to talk to anyone until midnight but to seek what God wanted us to be.
So I got out to the highway and I walked down to the corner where a church was. I set my candle down on the steps of the church and, would you believe it, it lit up the whole church. That little candle! I said, “Lord, you gotta guide me.” I had been thinking about becoming a minister up to that point because Mom and Dad had both really encouraged my Faith. I had been very excited about Sunday school and daily vacation Bible school. Those were all meaningful experiences to me.
The church we went to growing up, Grace Reformed Church, traditionally had Christmas Service on Christmas Night, not Christmas Eve. They always had a Christmas Pageant called ‘The Shepard Lad’s Gift’ . The manger scene was set up in front of the church with Joseph, Mary and the baby. They rigged a wire across the top of the church with a pulley on it and that was for the star. The shepherds came and left their sheep as gifts. The wise men, following the star, brought their gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then everyone stepped back and my part was to come and kneel down and say, “Little Babe, Little Jesus, I’ve come with empty hands but my heart is FULL of love. Take my heart, my soul, my life, dear Lord, for I am Thine for ever and ever.” That was my line. I was five and that’s just where I was.
So, in front of that church, with that little candle making big light, I felt called to become an architect.