Posted by: patwogan | November 22, 2008

A Working Girl

After my parent’s divorce, my Mom, my brother, and I moved into Independence.  Mom got a job and I went to a new school.  I was thirteen years old and in the ninth grade.  I had graduated from Peebler and taken the test given all rural school graduates.  I did well enough on the test to be declared the Salutatorian, missing Valdictorian by 3/5 of a percentage point, of Montgomery County. 

The divorce hit me hard, as it was something I had thought would never happen in MY family.  I loved each of my parents equally, but became very angry with my father as I knew the divorce was his fault.  I started Junior High in a very confused state about life, etc.  For that reason,  MY FAULT COMPLETELY, I did not do well academically.  I found new friends, some good for me and some not so good, and we would leave school for the lunch hour and go to town to mess around. 

One day we saw a sign in the local Woolworth store that they wanted help for the coming Christmas season.  We came back after school and filled out an application.  I was two months away from being fourteen years old, but lied and said I was sixteen, the minimum age they would accept as workers.  My girl friend also lied about her age, but apparently she wasn’t as believable as I was as she did not get called for an interview.

I was hired for the Christmas season to work after school and on Saturdays.  I don’t think I told my Mom that I had lied to get the job, but since we really could use the money, I think she was happy for me.  So began my working career.  At first, I was put to work at the candy counter.  I was told that I could eat any candy I wanted.  Can you imagine what a wonderful job that was!  I guess I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It didn’t take very long for me to get my fill of candy.  Especially after I saw the bugs in the basement where the boxes of candy were kept.  If you remember the old candy counters at Woolworth, it was bulk candy and we weighed out the amount the customer wanted, put it in a bag and collected the money for it.  Of course, there was a “grown-up” working with me and she trained me how to use the scale, count back the change and the protocol for selling.  I was an enthusiastic seller, so much so that I was soon put on special sales projects.  I worked through the Christmas holidays, and was kept on through the inventory time.  After that most of the temporary help was laid off.  I, however was kept on to work from nine to nine on Saturdays with one half hour off for lunch and one half hour off for supper. 

I did so many different things while I was on special projects, including being stationed across from the cemetery on Memorial Day to sell fresh flowers.  If I remember correctly, one adult was stationed there with me.

I also was given special projects on dollar day.  I learned a lot about the psychology of selling at that time.  Grey cotton work socks sold every day for twenty cents a pair.  We put them in packages of four and sold them for one dollar.  They sold like crazy.  I have remembered that for always, but still bite on sales like that at times.

I made minimum wage which at the time was forty cents an hour.  I was paid in cash and got my pay envelope on Saturday night at the end of each week, with one week pay held back.  I looked forward to payday every week and felt quite rich. 

After I had worked for several months, I became the change girl.  There was a register at each counter, and whenever the clerk needed change, it was my job to take the larger bills to the office and bring back the change. 

In the summer I was put on full time.  I worked nine to five Monday through Friday and nine to nine on Saturday.  I was given a “department” to be responsible for.  My first summer it was the jewelry department which meant I had to learn how to engrave names, etc. on identification bracelets.  We used a vibrating engraver and I must admit I did pretty well at it.  I also was a good salesperson who was able to convince people they really needed jewelry.  

When I think about it, I didn’t work on commission, but I loved selling.  I was interested in people and had many repeat customers. 

In my next post I will tell what I did with all the money I made.



  1. I am looking forward to the next installment!

  2. So retail really is in my blood.

  3. Did they ever find out your real age?
    I would think working the candy counter would be quite a dream for any kid!

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