Just working

September 22, 2022 (The Autumn Equinox)

“When I was lil girl, I played piano, but not no more… I’s got nothin’.  I not finish my school, you know…  when the war start, no! — I was start workin’. I jus’ been workin’ all my life.”

Kate — a maid in the BOQ at England Air Force Base, Alexandria, Louisiana. She was a Philipino/Japanese woman who had married a GI.

(From my journal, May of 1972)

I often think of Kate and what she said to me about working. Although my life has been vastly different from hers, I sometimes feel that the same is true of me, that I “just been working all my life.”

Although my Social Security records show a large gap of more than a year after I got out of the Air Force, I have mostly always worked. And I have worked at a very large number of very diverse jobs.

So I decided to try to come up with a list — maybe some description — of most of the various work situations I’ve ended up in over the years.

Childhood

My parents always stressed working, and we kids always had our chores and a little allowance, and were expected to help out with house and yard work. I remember I really hated picking up pecans because of the dryness and how it made my hands feel.

When I was old enough to reach the counters and push a broom, fifth grade I suppose, I was working Wednesdays (paper day) and Saturdays at my daddy’s newspaper office, The Claxton Enterprise. I helped move the folded papers to the table for mailing, and I often rode with Daddy to the nearby post offices when we had to deliver them.

On Saturdays, I swept the back shop, collecting up all the big sheets of newsprint that had been trashed during the printing process. Occasionally, I washed the big windows up front and helped out in the office supply business. I also collected the lead slugs of type and helped with the process of melting them down into ingots for setting the next week’s paper on the Linotype. Plus I wrapped and delivered job printing around town — on foot. Later, I helped out with some of the news work, covered a few football games, and did whatever was needed.

Delivery jobs

During high school, I also had a couple of other jobs, though how long and what the schedule of those jobs was is a little blurry in my memory now! I worked Saturdays delivering dry cleaning for Smith’s Dry Cleaners, which was owned by Frank Smith, the Mayor of Claxton. It was an exciting job, as the old panel truck would occasionally lose brakes and I had to learn how to stop by switching off the engine and popping the clutch in second gear, then snatching up the emergency brake. I also worked delivering the Savannah Morning News, first in a car with the old guy, a cab driver, who had the contract, and then, when I was 15 I think, on an old Cushman Husky, which was also exciting to ride. The brakes on it tended to lock up, and I turned it sideways in the road once, which sent my flying thru the air and landing on my hands and knees on the pavement. Fun. The other interesting part of that job was that I occasionally had to ride with the old guy out to the county line to pick up whiskey for a customer.

Bookbinder — Georgia Southern College library

When I went to college, I worked in the bindery at the college library. I also worked on the college newspaper and the yearbook staff, and I helped the college sports publicist keep stats at basketball games.

Pilot — US Air Force

I was in the US Air Force for about four years, flying airplanes, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. It’s in my other blog, A War Journal. That chronicles my experiences related to the Air Force and a year in Vietnam.

After the Air Force, I took a few months off to recover my sanity and then I was back at the newspaper business.

Reporter — Tifton News Examiner

I helped my uncle, Dan Eden, publish a little newspaper in Tifton, Georgia, for part of a year, but things were a little difficult there, so he moved to Gray, Georgia. That really didn’t work out for me, so sometime in 1973 I moved to Orlando, Florida, where my brother, Stewart, lived.

Photo processor and greenhouse worker

I had two jobs there, though I’m not sure of the sequence or the duration of the two. I worked the 11-to-7 shift at a photo processing plant — Champaign Color — in the color-print darkroom, loading big cases filled with 35 mm negatives into a machine that made prints. I also worked for a commercial plant nursery watering and fertilizing greenhouses filled with ornamental plants all day.

Those were both short-term, very strange jobs.

I was on the road for a few months after that, ending up in Phoenix, Arizona. I worked as a graphic artist for a “shopper” — a newspaper that’s mostly ads and is given away. I mostly did ad layout, but I did a little darkroom work, which I had learned to do at my daddy’s newspaper.

Press operator – Medco Jewelry Company

I moved from there to Independence, Missouri, and got a job working in the in-house print shop at Medco Jewelry Company in Kansas City. I started out doing darkroom and graphics there, but learned to run a small offset press and worked into being one of the pressmen.

Press operator — Center Stake office, RLDS church

I had to ride a bus into downtown Kansas City every day for that job, so soon I moved to being the pressman at a church district office, doing all the printing for several churches, mostly Sunday bulletins. Later, I began to work for one of the churches in the district, doing all their printing. My first child was born during this time, and as our horizons expanded, I decided to go back to college.

Social Studies Teacher

I eventually got certified as a teacher in several states and started teaching in Crownpoint, New Mexico, where I taught Navajo children social studies. I only lasted a year there, and then I taught for two years in Jesup, Georgia, at Jesup Middle Grades.

Assembly-line worker — motor home plant

Things again went awry in my life, and I ended up in Eugene, Oregon. I worked for a time there as an assembly-line worker, building and installing dashboards for motor homes. A crazy job that I quit so I could hitchhike back to Georgia for my brother’s wedding. I also did day labor for an organic farm outside of Eugene, planting garlic and digging potatoes and whatever else needed doing. I got paid very little, but I could bring home large bags of vegetables for our family group. The guy who owned it also took me out mushroom hunting, and I learned how to identify chanterelles and Shitake.

Organizer/officer worker — Eugene Council for Human Rights

I got involved with an activist group, the Eugene Council for Human Rights in Latin America, and before long was working as an assistant in their office, doing graphic arts and lots of other things.

Typesetter/Print shop manager — The Siuslaw News

I moved from Eugene to Florence, Oregon, where I was a nanny of sorts for a first-grader while his mom went to college classes. Then I got a real job as a typesetter, doing classified ads for the newspaper in Florence. I worked into doing some graphics and then into the print shop. I did darkroom work, job layout and printing.  I eventually became the manager of the print shop, running the 11×17 AM press and the 17×22 Heidelberg press. The Heidelberg was a project! The boss bought it used and abused — all the rollers were stuck together from being shut down all inked up and left for a long time, so I had to pull everything out and replace them with new rollers. But it was a wonderful press once we got it working. I also did all the darkroom and plate work for the print shop operation.

Reporter/Editor — The Press-Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia

After my dad died in 1986, we moved to Jesup to be with my mom, and I got a job as a reporter with The Press-Sentinel, a weekly paper that my dad had worked for from 1973 through his retirement in about 1985. I did news and sports reporting, and I was sports editor and later news editor. I also did all the reporting for The Ludowici News, a small paper that the Press-Sentinel published in a nearby town.

Teacher — again — Jesup schools

After a few years in newspaper work, I went back to teaching. I taught at Jesup Junior High, Arthur Williams Middle School, and Wayne County High. Social studies, science and English at the middle schools, civics and advanced composition at the high school. After retiring from public school teaching in 2007, I taught GED and ESOL classes for a few years for the technical college.

Newspaper reporter — again — The Press-Sentinel

When a job at the paper opened up in about August of 2017, I moved back there on a part-time basis, sharing the week with another reporter. When things slowed down with the COVID-19 pandemic, I became the only reporter, working with the news editor to produce the paper each week. And that is where I am today, working three days a week plus event coverage as needed.

It’s been a wild ride.