Kids had to think 'depositive' to generate sweet cash
When you think about it, being a kid is about as good a job as most of us are likely to get. There's not much of a salary, but the fringe benefits are terrific.
Of course, I didn't realize it at the time, but I had a sweet deal. Everything I needed was free, and I was also able to wheedle and whine whatever else I wanted something else from my folks.
My brothers, sister and I had the standard kid benefits package - free food, warm beds to sleep in and a wardrobe of nice, clean clothes to wear.
On top of that we got free medical, dental and vision coverage, vacations, and swell gifts on our birthdays, Christmas and sometimes on just-for-the-heck-of-it occasions.
As the eldest, I also had seniority. In case of family downsizing, I would have been the last kid laid off.
It's no wonder that so many people in their 20s and 30s are trying to move back in with their parents. They finally realized what a sweet deal they had.
A few of my friends at school got allowances, but I wasn't too envious. I don't recall having to go through very many days when I didn't have a nickel or dime to buy ice cream, candy or other necessities of life.
(These days, the only things you can get for 5 or 10 cents are a nickel or a dime.)
Quite a few trips to one of a half-dozen or so candy stores within a two-block radius of my home were financed by ecology. To tell the truth (for a change), I wasn't all that concerned about the environment.
Discarded soda bottles found on the curb, near benches and occasionally on neighbors' porches were redeemable for two cents apiece.
Sometimes, I would splurge on six or eight cents worth of penny candy. Other times, I would find five bottles, cash them in for a Lotta-Cola or red cream soda and then get a two-cent head start on my next candy store trip by returning the bottle for a deposit.
Other than finding lost change on the street or discovering a rare dime in the coin return of a payphone in one of our town's three public telephone booths, I cannot recall any voluntary outside sources of income.
Occasionally, though, our folks would "hire us out" to do one-time jobs that occasionally became long-term sources of supplemental income.
My brothers, Phil and Dave, and I felt like members of a chain gang in a grade B movie about Southern convicts when we were signed up for a landscaping job. It was the backyard of the mother of one of the friends of our mother.
I don't think the grass had been cut since the days after the flood waters receded and Noah's ark landed.
We were stunned when we walked through the entryway and surveyed the jungle that covered the backyard.
One of my brothers went into the high grass and weeds to see if he could find where the yard ended, and we were in the midst of organizing a search party when he staggered back to civilization.
We were issued sickles to get the vegetation low enough that it could be mowed. It was pretty neat to swing a sharp, curved tool, but it sort of lost its novelty after the first hour or two.
All three of us kids were slightly dazed after we completed the job, so I don't have any idea of how much we were paid. I think the lady who hired us came out ahead on the deal since she was able to sell all the grass and hay we harvested to a local dairy farmer as feed for his cows.
I don't want to give you the wrong impression, though. Our parents did set us up with an easy source of summer income when they got us the job of cutting the grass of the poor lady who also served as our babysitter.
Her name was Grace, but it really should have been Patience for all that my brothers and I put her through.
Anyway, her lawn was an easy assignment since the yard of her row home was smaller than our family's kitchen. It also had a large pine tree growing in it, so it took us longer to push the power a half block to her yard than it did to cut the grass.
This chore led to a year-round job for Phil and me as "laundry couriers." Grace did the washing and ironing for someone who lived in an apartment building about three blocks from Grace's row home.
Phil and I would go do the apartment building, take the rickety elevator to the third floor and pick up a laundry basket filled with dirty clothes to take it to Grace. The next day, we would repeat the trip in reverse by taking the cleaned, pressed clothes back.
My brother and I each got 25 cents for our efforts, and I don't think the customer paid more than two dollars for the service so Grace did not exactly get rich on the profits.
Come to think about it, Grace might have been better off financially looking for empty soda bottles that she could return for a deposit.
Then again, she might have run into my brothers and me in her search for bottles. I don't know what our parents paid her for babysitting us, but putting up with the Koz kids in her free time might have not been worth whatever she could earn with bottle deposits.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)