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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How Donna Freedman struck a chord in me, again! Jobs as a child

Donna Freedman's post about jobs we had as a child caused me to reminisce. My "job" as a child was actually fun and a skill that translated to a creative outlet, stress reliever, money maker, and a pride in ownership of things homemade.

I started learning to sew when I was four years old. That makes 60 years I have been sewing! That's a long time. At first, I constructed clothing for my dolls entirely with a needle and thread. Around the age of ten I learned to sew on a treadle machine. There was no stopping me after that.

My cousin paid me $3 to make a velvet dress for her daughter when I was eleven years old. By the time I was 14, I was making clothing my family wore, including appliqued baby clothes and clothing for my mother. She wore the dresses to church. Yes, I was good!

There were perks other than money. I would sit after school and make clothing for myself and my sisters. At that time, I and my next younger sister had to take turns washing dishes each night. My sister was furious that she often had to dishes all week. Mama told her there was no way I was going to sew for hours and then do dishes when I was sewing for my sister. Of course, if I were making clothes for myself, I still did not have to do dishes.

Do you realize how hard it was for a teen girl to get out of taking her turn at the hot, steamy sink in an un-airconditioned kitchen in the 50s? Some things are better than money. Besides, I loved to sew and did not love to wash dishes.

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I got my first job. The neighbors had children who were little, over a year and close to three-year-old. They obviously had seen me baby wrangling with my three younger siblings. They hired me to watch their children while they gardened. Their garden was at another location. It was very scary and liberating to leave my family and go off with what seemed like strangers.

All afternoon for several days over the next few weeks I made sure the kids were happy and out of trouble. They gave me $3 and a huge brown grocery bag of vegetables, their surplus, I suppose. Then, I had to walk back to their house and take my little brother along to carry the last two bags. I felt like I was a contributor to the family. I felt like an adult. Each day I worked, there were vegetables and money to take home but never as many vegetables as that first day. Of course, there was the bit of money I had for my own that did not have to be shared.

As a teen I wanted to baby sit, but I lived between a large town and a tiny town. We were not actually in the country. But, the few neighbors had no children for me or anyone to watch. When I did go to college and found babysitting jobs, I was paid $1/hour.

That's not much of a work history! Well, I was working around the house, just unpaid child labor. Did anyone I know pay a child to clean or garden around their own home? Not in my world.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link!
    I used to make 75 cents to $1 an hour to babysit. Now I do it for pin money and make $10 to $12 an hour. Good grief.


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