Dangerous work means big coin

Do you remember your first summer job? I do. It was just after I graduated from high school. All my pals had jobs. I figured I ought to get one too, that way I'd have some spending money.

I landed a position as "houseman" at the big hotel downtown in the ol' hometown.

The houseman worked in the hotel's housekeeping department. In the old days legions of maids marched from the housekeeping department every morning to clean the rooms, put fresh linens on the beds and fresh towels in the bathrooms.

It was the houseman's job to run carts piled high with linens and towels from the laundry department to the maids.

We also had to clean the hotel's public bathrooms, something I always tried to dodge. Alas, to no avail.

One day I was sent to help with the bathrooms with veteran houseman Mr. Jefferson dragging me along, literally.

"Come on, boy," he said holding my shirtsleeve, not looking back.

"H'ain't nothin' to be a-feared of in the men's room."

"Stick your hands in there, boy," he said to me as we stood before the room's facilities. "I been doing it for 40 years, it h'ain't killed me yet."

I ended up buying a pair of rubber gloves.

For all this work I was paid the princely sum of $1.10 per hour.

But we would get extra pay if we volunteered to go take care of those things in the rooms that the maids wouldn't touch; specifically if someone had an upset stomach and didn't make it to the bathroom.

Here in the future they'd probably call in a biohazard team.

But when we cleaned the stuff up we just used a bucket of soapy water, a brush and some old towels. Plus we got $5 added to our paychecks.

That was big coin back then, that summer I was fresh out of high school.

Grant McGee is a long-time broadcaster and former truck driver who rides bicycles and likes to talk about his many adventures on the road of life. Contact him at:


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