My First Job
In 1967, I rode my horse, Glory Be*, to a quaint little hamburger joint, “The Little Store” in Woodside, CA**. I tied my horse’s reins to the hitchrack and timidly went inside to apply for my very first job. I was so nervous! Mrs. Iris James, a petite sixty-ish woman, was the owner, and for some unfathomable reason, she hired me.
The minimum wage in 1967 was $1.30 an hour. I thought I was rich!*** I look back now and realize what a typical first-time teen worker I was. Pretty clueless, definitely a little lazy. My patient mentor-boss-mom always had one teenager on staff, along with two older women. Those three motherly ladies were such a positive influence. They had no idea how much they meant to me—but that’s a story for another day.
I remember one Sunday afternoon, the Hell’s Angels rolled into town. We heard a loud roar in the distance and looked out the window. There had to be fifty bikes heading our way. Mrs. James had dealt with them before and wasn’t about to do it again, so she locked the door and flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed.” We sat on the floor behind the counter and waited. Sure enough, they stopped at our place and lined up their big, shiny motorcycles along our front porch and parking area. We held our breath as they banged on the door. I was so scared! Luckily, with a helluva lot a cussing, they revved up their bikes and moved on.
I met my first boyfriend while working there. Greg had become a regular weekend customer and I realize now, that my co-workers were on pins and needles waiting for him to ask me out. He was a great guy and a wonderful first boyfriend.
When I retired from that job at the end of my senior year, I passed it on to my dear friend, Elaine, who was two years younger.
I’ve been in the restaurant business**** for over three decades now. Thousands of employees later, I wish I could tell Mrs. James what an impact she had on that young, goofy girl and that I’ve always tried to emulate her. Through the years, many of our teen employees have remained family friends after they grew up. They come to visit, we go to dinner, and some have teens of their own who have worked for us! I call that success!
* I didn’t name my horse; he came with it. I wanted to name him “Darcy” from
Pride and Prejudice, but he was comfortable with his name, so we kept it. He was a beautiful chestnut with a perfect white blaze down his face. Glory Be was loveable, playful, and very skittish. I think his first owner probably swore at him a lot; hence the name “Glory Be!” He and I had so many fun adventures!
** Woodside is a charming little town in the California Bay Area. When I was a kid, I boarded my horse at a stable there. When I got my job, I took over all of my horse expenses and started saving for a car. I felt so proud!
The “Little Store” opened in 1902 and today I just found out it has closed. We are nearly eleven months into the pandemic at the time of this writing, and as a restaurant owner, I know first hand how tough it is to stay in business when you’re not allowed to have inside dining for months on end.
*** So how much would that $1.30 equal these days? I checked it out on this inflation calculator, and it’s $10.07! And if Mrs. James had been paying me $10.07 way back then — that would equal $78.03 today.
**** Klondike Pizza.
We had lived for several years in Anchorage, Alaska when in the late ’80s, the US basically stopped drilling or exploring for its own oil. This decision destroyed many economies–both here in the states and in Canada. Our local banks were failing. Our jobs were gone because of the domino effect. My husband worked for a restaurant franchise corporation, and I was a graphic artist and advertising director.
Our house had a mortgage, but its value had gone down the drain. People were leaving the state in droves. It was time for a new plan—one with no snow! We loved living in Alaska, so we decided to bring a little bit with us—hence our Alaskan themed pizza restaurants.
In Alaska, I was an ice-hockey mom. In California, I became a soccer and golf mom. Way easier than ice hockey mom!