Root Beer Stand-My First Job

Front Page, Personal History

     It was Saturday, and I loved Saturdays because we usually always got to go to the movies. By we, I mean me and my sister Margie. She was two years older than I was, but she always thought she was my boss. I had news for her; she was only my boss when I wanted her to be. That meant when she had something I wanted or when I wanted to go somewhere with her, I let her think she was the boss of me.

     I must have been about eight years old when all this happened. Margie was about ten. We had chores we had to do in the morning before we could go to the movies. We had to help Mother clean the house, wash the dishes, and do whatever else she needed. Sometimes I would have to iron a bushel basket of clothes. I did most of the ironing because my mother said I was the best ironer she ever saw for my age. It was not easy either. There was no such thing as permanent press then.

     She washed all the laundry on a rub board in galvanized tubs in the back yard.  A rub board is a wooden frame with a metal rippled rub board attached to it. My mother had to scrub the clothes on this to get them clean. Her knuckles were always bleeding from scrubbing so hard. I have to say that my mother had the cleanest and whitest clothes in the whole neighborhood, maybe the cleanest in the world.

     Some things, like my daddy’s khakis, she would starch, and it was really hard to iron those. They were real hard to iron, but he always told me how good I ironed his clothes, so I took extra time on his things. Back then we ironed everything, the sheets, the pillow cases, handkerchiefs, tablecloths. You name it, and we ironed it, including all the doilies my mother crocheted. Our house was old, and we had only cold water in the house, but we had the cleanest house in the neighborhood. My mother was German and French, and she was the cleanest person I have ever known in my life, bar none.

     We also had an outhouse. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I hated that outhouse, but just like everything else, my mother kept it clean. She made my daddy put linoleum on the floor so she could mop and wax the floor. Daddy bought big sacks of lime to help keep it clean, and once a month he would move it to another spot and fill the old hole up with dirt. My mother was obsessed with cleanliness. She and Mammy, my granny who lived in Healdton, Oklahoma, were both like that until the day they died.

     Anyhow, on that Saturday, we were finally done with our chores, and she fixed us a sandwich for lunch. The movie started at one o’clock, so we had to hurry. We ate, and she washed our faces and our hands. She rubbed really hard when she washed our faces. She wanted us clean, too. When we were ready to go, she would always give us a dollar each. That was a lot back then, but she said we were kids and we needed to have some fun once in a while. Sometimes I felt bad for using that dollar on the movies because I knew we might need it for something important like bread or milk before the week was over.

     Off we went to see the show. It was about a mile to The Bison Theater. It was owned by Chris Caporal, a really nice man. When we got there, we got in line and waited for the ticket box to open.

    There was always a double feature, a cartoon, a newsreel, and previews of coming attractions. There was always what they called a continued serial. It would end with someone in big trouble. That was so everyone who went to the movies would go back the next week again to see what happened. I figured that out right away. I was only eight years old, but I was not a sucker. Sometimes it seemed like I was never really a kid. In fact, I was born knowing how to read. Some people might not believe that, but it is the truth.

       I knew right away when someone tried to put the Okie Doke on me. That means when they try to fool you in Oklahoma language. I was very proud to be from Oklahoma. I was always proud of my Indian heritage. Oklahoma means, land of the red man. When we used to watch westerns, I always rooted for the Indians. And, when we played cowboys and Indians, I wanted to be the Indian. Sometimes I was Roy Rogers, but he never killed not even one Indian. Roy was the King of the Cowboys. Everyone knew that. If anyone back then didn’t know that then they were pretty dumb. He liked Indians.

        When the movies were over, we left. Sometimes we would stay and watch it two times but not that Saturday. We were going for sodas. The Bison was on 23rd Street. It was a pretty busy street. There were a couple of beer joints on the way home, and we would always stop and poke our heads in the front door to see the people who were drunk. I always hoped my daddy was not in there. That day he wasn’t. We went into the drug store, climbed on a tall stool that spins at the soda bar, and ordered two chocolate sodas.

         I liked the spinning stools. It gave me something to do while I waited for my soda. The lady brought us our sodas, and we drank them real slow so they would last longer.

           Margie asked, “Which way do you want to walk home?”

           I said, “We always go down Fonshill Street. Let’s go down Jordan today.”

           She agreed. We finished our sodas and left. It was a good thing we decided to do that, or we would not have gotten our first job.

          We were almost to Jordan Street where we turned to go home when I saw this sign in the root beer stand window. It read: Help Wanted Immediately. Start Today. I said I was born knowing how to read.

            I told Margie, “Let’s see if they will hire us.”

            She said, “No, we will get in trouble with Mother.”

          I start telling her how much money we could make and that would help Mother out, so she finally agreed. Margie was a sucker if I talked fast enough to her.

            It was a curb-service root beer stand, so we went up to the window. I said to the lady, “We would sure like to have this job.”

            She asked, “How old are you?”

            I said, “I am ten, and my sister is twelve.” I just fibbed a little bit.

            She said, “No, you are not old enough.”

          Margie said, “We really want this job. We are good workers, and we need this job to help out at home.”  That really was the truth. It seems like we never had enough money. I really needed new shoes. The sole on my right foot was flopping. Daddy had glued it back on several times, but it just came off again. Maybe if we got this job, we could buy some new shoes. That would be great.

            The lady looked at us like she felt sorry for us. Then she said, “Well, you’re really young, but I will give you a try.”

            We were so happy! I ask her if I could use the phone to call Mother to tell her about the job and tell her that we would be home a little bit late. She said I could, so I dialed the number.  I was really scared of what she would say.

            The phone rang.  “Hello,” she said.

           Then I start talking as fast as I could, “Mother, we got a job at the root beer stand. We will be home in a little while.” Then before she could say another word, I hung up.

            Margie asked, “What did she say?”

            I said, “She said it would be okay.”

          So we started our new job. Margie would go to the cars and get their order. I worked inside. I filled the glasses with root beer. Then Margie would carry the tray out to the car and hook it on the side door. They would pay her, and sometimes they would give her a nickel or dime tip. I asked Margie to let me try her job so I could maybe get some tips, too.

           My first order was four root beers. I picked it up at the window and started to the car. I put the tray on the car door; the man paid me and gave me a nickel tip. I got really excited, and I was thinking, “Boy, are we gonna make some money! This is a great job!”

        Next thing I heard was a big crash! I hadn’t put the tray on the door right, and it fell off on the cement. Oh, my gosh, I was so embarrassed.  I was ready to cry when a taxi cab pulled up, and my mother got out of it. She looked at me and Margie both and said, “Get in this taxi cab right this minute.”

            She went to talk to the lady. I don’t know what she said, but I knew we were in big trouble. At that moment I was asking myself, “Why do I do these things? What is wrong with me?”

            I really told some whoppers that time, not just to Mother but to the lady who hired us. I had lied about how old we were. Mother never said a word all the way home. There was just stone dead silence in the car. I was thinking, “She is really going to kill me this time. I have pushed her over the line.”

            We got home, and she paid the taxi driver fifty cents. We ran for the house. Daddy was sitting at the kitchen table.  She came in and sat down at the table.

            “Whose idea was this?

            Margie said, “It was Ruthie’s idea, Mother.”

            I knew I could not tell any more lies. One thing about me, when I got caught, I would fess up. I never tried to blame anyone else. It was not Margie’s idea. I was ready to take my spanking because I knew I had it coming. I was wishing that I had not been born knowing how to read, then I could not have read that sign that help wanted sign.

            I look at her and I said, “It’s my fault, Mother. I will take the spanking. Margie just did what I said.”

            My mother told me to go in the bedroom and bend over the bed. I did, and she came in with Daddy’s belt. She gave me about five good whacks, but I could tell she was holding back. I think I scared her more than I made her mad. She was scared because she thought we were in danger working in a drive in root beer stand.

            When she finished, she said, “Get to bed and go to sleep.”

            She went out of the room, and Margie came in.  “I’m glad you got a spanking. You deserved it. This was all your fault.”

            I made a fist, and I grabbed her by her braids. I pulled her back on the bed, and I gave her a hard smack on her arm. Sometimes I just hated her. She was such a big sissy. I thought I might never go anywhere with her again. It would serve her right. It was just another day in the life of little Ruthie.

Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

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