Saturday, January 7, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Challenge

Elsie Metz's 1912 travel journal 
As someone who enjoys researching my family's history, I often wish some of my ancestors had left journals or diaries behind so that I could take a peak into their lives. (The journal pictured on the left is from a very distance cousin.) I used to keep a diary as a young girl, but I destroyed it before I went to college. I regret that now, as it would be fun to look back on my thoughts and feelings from back then. While I have taken the time to journal many of our trips over the past several years and I have a personal blog located here, I haven't really dedicated any time to writing the back story of my life. It seems like a pretty overwhelming endeavor, so it is easy to put it off.

When I saw a blog post from Family Search offering questions to help you write your story one week at a time, I decided to check it out. Here is a link to the article: Define Your Dash: Start Writing Your Personal History with the #52Stories Project. The article refers to a poem by Linda Ellis entitled "The Dash", which talks about the dash on a tombstone. The date before the dash is when a person was born, and the date after the dash is when the person died. But what happened during the "dash" is what is important and what the person's life was all about. You can read the whole poem here.

Writing one short story at a time each week for 52 weeks seems pretty manageable, and the article actually offers up 144 questions as options to get your creative juices flowing. It is my goal to complete this project, though I admit it may be difficult in February as I will once again be taking part in the Family History Writing Challenge. There I will be committing to writing about an ancestor every day for the entire month. It may be hard to do both of these, but I am certainly going to try.

The Family Search questions do not need to be answered in any order, nor do you need to write your stories in chronological order. For Week 1 I have selected the following question:
How did you earn your very first official paycheck as a teenager or young adult? How did that first job influence the career choices you have made since?

King's Food Host
Okay, they snuck two questions in on me with this one. Like most teenage girls, I began baby-sitting as soon as I could. As the youngest of four children, I always wanted a new baby in our family but that wasn't to be. My sister is 11 years older than me, so about the time she got too old/busy to baby-sit, I was ready to step into her shoes in our neighborhood.

The going rate was 50 cents/hour regardless of whether I watched the two children across from us or the six down the street! (Though there was a doctor in the next block paid $1 per hour for his one child. That was a coveted sitting job.) I bring up the babysitting only to illustrate how important it was to me to get a better paying job as soon as I could. Our family was not wealthy by any means, and I had to pay for my own make-up, entertainment and many of my clothes. So as soon as I turned 16 during my sophomore year in high school, I applied at the local King's Food Host restaurant. A restaurant chain located in 17 states, King's offered sit down dining where orders were called in from a phone built into the wall at each table. While waiting for their orders, guests could choose to listen to music from the individual jukeboxes located in the booths.

I was paid the current minimum wage of $1.60/hour as a waitress, and we were not allowed to accept tips. If a customer insisted on leaving a tip (and some did), it was to be placed in a jar and periodically the restaurant owner would have a small party for the staff. A number of my classmates worked there as well, and I remember the owner being quite reasonable about making sure our schedules were clear on nights when school activities were scheduled. One guy was in the marching band, another gal was a flag twirler and I was a Hooverette (a member of the precision marching drill team), so all of us needed to be off for football and basketball games. What a nightmare that must have presented for scheduling shifts.

My memories about working there include the fact that I had no car, so I walked the 1.2 miles there and back when I had to work. The scary part (looking back on it) is that I used to cut through the woods to get there as it was faster. I'm fairly certain I never did that at night - I think my dad would come and pick me up or I would catch a ride with a co-worker. I also remember a very unfortunate incident at work. There were two corner booths where the seats wrapped the corner and larger groups could sit together. There was limited table space, so I had the tray of beverages balanced on top of the napkin dispenser. When I set removed one of the drinks to set it on the table, the tray tipped, dumping a cup of coffee onto the lap of the unfortunate man sitting there. As I stared in mortification, he simply said, "Normally I would complain about the coffee not being hot enough, but not today." He was so gracious about it. The restaurant paid to clean his slacks and everyone was happy. Today I would have been sued over it no doubt.

By my junior year in high school I had moved on to a job at Josephs Jewelers, a high end jewelry store at the mall near my school. (Josephs will no doubt appear in another one of my 52 Stories.) But I never forgot how hard it was to wait tables, and I think everyone should do that job at least once in their lives to appreciate the service they take for granted when they go out to eat. That first job certainly influenced my decision to go to college and get a degree so that I would have other career opportunities to pursue down the road.

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