I wonder how many kids get summer jobs these days. Truth be known, with school starting back before the dog days, it is probably hard for today’s teens to find a part-time job for the few weeks they have off.
Back in the day just about everybody I knew worked during summer vacation. I always envied my friends who were lifeguards or filled in at clothing stores and such. Summer work for me meant the cotton mill. “You live with Bibb,” wasn’t just a slogan in our home. It was a fact of life. I’m glad I worked in the mill, though. If I hadn’t, I couldn’t continue to gripe and moan about it, late into my 60s. And you all know what word really goes with moan.
I was an over-hauler during the summer months of the late 1960s. I worked under Ardell Payne Jr., who was as fine a man as ever breathed lint into his lungs. Morris Fincher was my foreman. Morris Fincher was much a man.
Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t have any idea what an over-hauler did. Nor did I, the first day I reported for work at the Osprey Mill loading dock. I found out rather quickly, though. Over-haulers did whatever we were told to do. It could be riding around on the back of a flatbed truck from mill to mill to mill — with an occasional stop at the Line Walk — or it could be spending all day demolishing twister frames or roughing up a rack in the kitty room with sandpaper for painting, or any number of random maintenance operations that might come up in a textile operation.
I know one thing. We spent more time working than we spent in the Dope House, and I was tired when I got home from work every day.
But it was a grand experience, and I worked with a great crew. Danny Jefferies worked with us. He was a youngster, like me — but a couple of years older. He worshipped his older brother, Junior, and would talk non-stop about his brother’s machine shop. According to Danny, Junior could lift an entire Ford engine in his arms. I believe he could, too. Danny eventually became a partner in that machine shop. Cancer killed him a long, long time ago — way before his time.
Danna Hayes worked with us, too. He was really smart and wound up being a college professor. And you thought all lintheads were kind of dumb, like me. Not so.
Frederick “Speedy” Wyatt was a permanent member of the crew. He was the first graduate of R. L. Cousins High School I ever met in person, and one of the coolest people I had ever known as well. I enjoyed the summers I worked with Speedy, but will never forgive him for convincing me to spend a hard-earned dollar to see “2001 — A Space Odyssey” at the Strand Theater.
There was also a father-son team on our crew. Big John and Little John Burdette. Unlike the rest of us, including Frederick Wyatt, they were lifers, and had the temperament to prove it.
There were times, as I said, that I envied my friends who painted and picked up trash for the Board of Education, or did other, much easier tasks, but my time with Bibb didn’t hurt me any.
Of course, graduating from college and starting my professional career as an educator didn’t put an end to summer jobs for me. Back then, most teachers worked summers. For seven glorious years I worked at Bert Adams Scout Reservation where my job title, for the most part, was King of the Jamison Waterfront. It was the best gig I ever had — so good, in fact, that I named my first born in honor of Camp Jamison and my daughter may be the only pharmacist in the world named after a Boy Scout camp and a Confederate general — spelling of her name notwithstanding.
One summer I worked at Sears. Another summer I worked at Hercules. I worked at Pizza Hut for a brief period of time, until I was asked by an incredulous customer, “Didn’t you used to be Coach Huckaby?” I quit that job soon after and got a much more rewarding position — digging ditches. I ain’t making this up.
One summer I spent helping build the “new” addition to Robert Reid Stadium in Conyers. It was hard work, too, but it was out in the fresh air, and I got a good tan.
Several summers, after I married my lovely wife, Lisa, I ran various pools for DeKalb County as well as private entities. I also taught driver’s ed in summer school and delivered furniture for Sam Ramsey off and on between all of those endeavors.
But I never had a paper route.
Sigh. I’m pretty sure that not many kids — and no teachers — have summer jobs anymore. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I know that I am the product of every experience I ever had and if being a Bibb Creature for seven years helped make me who I am, I say good for being a Bibb Creature.
And I really would like to ride around on that big truck with Danny, Danna, Speedy and the Burnettes one more time.
I wouldn’t want to have to go inside the Line Walk, though. It was 110 degrees inside that Line Walk — and that was before global warming!