"It's my day to drive the Packard," I told myself as I put on dark blue slacks, well-shined black shoes, black socks, a white shirt, a dark blue necktie and a light blue jacket with two stripes on each sleeve.
The summer before going into the Army, I was employed as a bellhop at Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod, Mass. I lived in the boys dormitory next to the golf course but out of sight of the ocean.
I worked morning and evening one day and afternoon the next. In the mornings, my first duty was to drive the manager's shiny, black, four-door Packard sedan three miles to the post office. Outgoing mail was in a large fabric and leather bag. Incoming mail to the inn was put into that same bag. Driving that spectacular Packard back and forth set me up with pride for the rest of the day.
Many years later, I went to the National Packard Museum on Mahoning Avenue in Warren and asked to look at pictures of Packards. I learned that the car I drove 60 or so years ago was a 1948-50 model. "My" car, though, did not have the Goddess of Speed hood ornament option. The thrill of driving a Packard is still with me.
As a kid, I had a wide range of jobs to make pocket money. I mowed lawns, shoveled snow, delivered morning and evening newspapers, sold magazine subscriptions door-to-door, clipped the Thayer sisters' rose bushes across the street and scythed Mr. Chilson's tall grass behind his barn. I bagged potatoes for Mr. Hunter on the back of a Massey Harris tractor-drawn digger and was a helper on his truck that took vegetables into the Boston produce market in Charlestown before dawn. I did occasional baby-sitting. The summer of 1945, I worked at a camp in Vermont and remember ringing the camp's outdoor bell on VJ Day.
One fall, I had a walk-on role (hardly a job) as a uniformed soldier at the Academy of Music in a play called "Follow the Girls." Standing nervously with others on stage, I thought everyone was looking at me, when, of course, only my parents were.
I also worked at the Wallingford Inn, Vermont, and Wentworth-by-the-Sea, New Hampshire, but my best summer job was at the Lord Jeffrey Inn in my hometown of Amherst, Mass. Over several years, I was a dishwasher, bus boy, assistant salad chef (I learned how to make mayonnaise), short-order cook's assistant, waiter and bellhop.
Another time, I was dishwasher in the main kitchen of the Jeff. The kitchen was dominated by the expansive personality of Ed Tarsa, third chef. He was very capable, large and self-confidant. He knew that I was on the wrestling team at school and challenged me to put him on the floor with one of my holds. I refused; he being larger, I wasn't sure I could do it. He taunted me to the point that I had to agree. I stuck out my hand and used the cross wrist hip toss, also called reverse Russian arm throw.
Ed went to the floor, jumped up immediately, red faced and furious!
With that one move, I may have taken him off guard, but he was on the floor and I was standing. He grabbed a meat cleaver and chased me around the kitchen while the staff laughed uproariously. The head chef and the second chef got hold of Ed and all settled down to normal. Ed and I had new respect for each other after that.
Growing up in the world of work was informative, challenging and interesting for me. My jobs helped me during my formative years to become an adult who could assume adult responsibilities. Every person's situation is different, but parents might be well advised to encourage their children to have a variety of work experiences to draw from when they are in search of employment in the future.
I hope some day to have an opportunity to ride in a Packard again. That would be a nice closure to a circle of work years.
Thomas is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.