My first real job

blogging-bonanza-bugWelcome to Dear Diary Saturday here at all things Monica Lee. I’m celebrating the countdown to launch on March 28 of Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982 with a month-long blogging bonanza, which means I’ll be blogging here every day this month about my book, about memoirs in general and about the launch. Each chapter in my new book begins with a word-for-word excerpt from my teenage diaries, so on Saturdays here I’ll be sharing blog posts from the Minnesota Transplant archive (my everyday blog) that used diary entries as inspiration.

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July 28, 1983

Dear Diary,

The reason I couldn’t go to golf today was because I worked at Ben Franklin’s for Crazy Daze. And I got a permanent part-time job there for this coming year — on Thursday nights and Saturdays. It will be nice to have some (a lot!) of money for a change. Anyway, I worked hard and am tired.

My first real job came up in conversation back in 2013 with my Adored stepson [who was in high school at the time, working a part-time job; now he’s an all-grown-up college graduate working a “real” 9-to-5 job]. I remembered undergoing a real job interview with the owner [who has now passed away earlier in 2017], and I was thrilled to be hired as a floor clerk at Ben Franklin on Wadena’s Main Street.

“What’s Ben Franklin?” my stepson asked.

“It’s like a five-and-dime.”

“What’s a five-and-dime?” he asked, still confused.

Alas, I’m part of the ancient generation now who uses arcane language to describe my nostalgic meanderings. Wikipedia’s definition doesn’t help me feel more hip: “Five-and-dime (also know as five-cent stores, dime stores and ten-cent stories) is a type of store that was popular in the early to mid-20th century.”

I’m so last century.

“Um, it’s like a Wal-Mart. Only smaller. Without an automotive department or electronics,” I grasped. “We had a sewing department and a huge toy department and every kind of candy you think of, like Tangy Taffy.”

“Tangy Taffy,” he scoffed, obviously unimpressed.

Back then, candy bars cost a quarter. So even the five-and-dime offered scant options for a nickel or a dime, though I remember Tangy Taffy costing less than chocolate bars.

The first day of work on a hot July day, I patrolled the store’s sidewalk sale, neatening product displays and scaring off shoplifters. I felt important when I clocked in with my time card. I felt rich when I did the multiplication of my hours times my wage; just a few days earlier I was paid $4 for five hours of babysitting (it’s true! I have diary documentation for my slave labor!). Minimum wage in 1983 was $3.85, which made the tedium walking the aisles of Ben Franklin worth every minute.

Unlike today’s 24/7 world, Ben Franklin was only open ’til 5 p.m., except on Thursday nights when all the town’s retail stores stayed open late, and it wasn’t open Sundays. I liked the job better when I was promoted to cashier, which was less boring, and then I capitalized on my experience a year or so later by landing a job as a cashier at Super Valu (a bustling grocery store, one of the only 24/7 retail offerings in Wadena).

Unlike so many other retailers populating Wadena’s downtown in the 1980s, Ben Franklin still exists, only now it’s Ben Franklin Crafts and it stays open ’til 8 most days (5 on Sundays). I was amused to find it has a Facebook page: “Come in with your favorite craft project from Pinterest or Etsy or your imagination and we’ll help you turn it into a finished project for you to enjoy!”

How modern.

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final-ecover-rgbTruth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982 will be available March 28 on Amazon.


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