I always wanted to be a lifeguard. I guess every teenager wants a summer job where you can be outside all day, especially on the beach. Mowing lawns, landscaping and construction were out of the question for girls in my day, plus that was a lot of hard, sweaty work… but being a lifeguard – that was the dream job.
Unfortunately, my father had to sit me down and give me the bad news. Yes, the man who always told me that I could do and be whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it sat me down and told me that I couldn’t be a lifeguard! What? Why? Okay, other than the fact that I don’t know how to swim and that there aren’t any places around that hire lifeguards. How often do lifeguards actually have to jump in the water to rescue someone anyway? Plus if someone was drowning, I could always scream for help. I tried to argue with my father but he finally convinced me that even if I were to talk my way into a job, that a lifeguard wearing swimmies on her arms probably wouldn’t instill a lot of confidence in people. I don’t even know why I bothered to argue with him anyway since he was the guy who had tried to teach me to swim from the day I could walk. I remember starting with the back float. He’d position me and as soon as he pulled his arms away from me – blub, blub, blub – Diane was on the bottom sucking pond water.
Driving aimlessly around one day just looking at different places around town that I could work, I pulled in to the Esso station in town for gas and realized….hey, this is outside! I cornered the owner and asked him to hire me to pump gas that summer. After he was done laughing and I was still standing there waiting for an answer, he must have realized the marketing potential of having the only girl gas jockey around. I also knew my way under the hood of a car after handing tools to my father for years. After agreeing to wear a mini skirt, I had the job and sure enough Peter got his free advertising when the local newspaper came around for pictures. I was trying to make out what the price of gas was back then and couldn’t but it was probably around 35 cents if I remember correctly. I do know that you couldn’t get any free stuff by filling up a Volkswagen Beetle because you usually had to spend $5.00 to get anything and unless you were running on fumes the tank didn’t take $5.
Keep in mind though that back in the 60’s the customer did not pump his own gas – that was my job in addition to hustling around to get your front and rear windows washed, offering to check the oil, tire pressure and washer fluid. Credit cards were hardly used so I also had to make change the old fashioned way – taking the sale amount and counting up to the amount of money the customer handed me. Oh, and for steady customers we handed out a free spice rack with the first $5 purchase and a free bottle of McCormick spice with every purchase after. So it wasn’t a bad summer job but then I was asked to stay on part time after school. That was fine until winter hit. As everyone knows how much fun it is pumping your own gas now, imagine doing this in a good old New England blizzard. Thus ended my gas jockey career.
I considered pumping gas again the following summer but then got a great opportunity – work outdoors, set my own schedule, no boss hovering over me…I got an ice cream truck route! Yes I did. I had my own little white truck – not the big fancy things that you see now but basically a pick up with a freezer on the back so I had to get out at each stop and get the ice cream bars from a little door in the back. No soft serve type cones, just the novelty bars – ice cream sandwiches, Italian ice, crunch bars, push ups, Nutty Buddy’s…
My father even installed a special outlet in the back of our house so I could plug my truck in each night and not have to drop it off every night at the place where I restocked my truck. Of course that did bring out the neighborhood kids at all hours, knocking on the back door but it was a small price to pay for the convenience (plus I think my father felt a little guilty for not being able to teach me how to swim). It was a great job! I mean who doesn’t love the ice cream lady? Well, other than a very few cranky parents but I was always careful to not come around at lunch or dinner time. The only scare I had was on my third stop the first day of my assigned route. Standing at the back door while the kids came running I saw this gigantic, slobbering beast galumphing at me from the back of a house. I yelled at the kids to stay back and was ready to bolt for the cab of the truck when one of the little kids told me not to worry – “that’s just Klondike, just wait for Mrs. Carlson to come”. Sure enough ol’ Klondike, who was the biggest Newfoundland I’ve ever met, stood with his massive front paws on the back door until Mrs. Carlson came running up with 25 cents. All the kids waited in line behind Klondike until he got his ice cream sandwich, then they each got theirs. Every day, Klondike got his ice cream sandwich then went back to the little pool behind his house. As I say, I loved that job and you cannot believe how much money there is in ice cream. The only downside to it was that damn non-song – my truck didn’t have any particular song, it just went da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da all day long and I’d hear it in my sleep.
I don’t know if my tastes have changed much over the years or if I just got my fill of the ice cream bars but now although I still love ice cream, I favor plain old ice cream. I love just about every flavor but my favorite ice cream treat, especially on these incredibly hot, humid days we’ve been having here in Massachusetts is this:
A good old fashioned root beer float – A&W root beer with Bryers French vanilla ice cream.