Mowing lawns and raking leaves were my first jobs during the summer and fall of my eighth grade year. I'd use Dad's push mower, pulling it down the sidewalks to the job, or sometimes the people would own their own mower that I'd use. I also had a job delivering special delivery letters.
When the letter was sent, in addition to the regular stamp, a special delivery stamp was also bought. The stamp had a picture of a boy on a motorcycle. I'd go to the post office and get the letter then walk to deliver it. Sometimes it was a long walk! I was paid by check twice a month. I think the stamp cost seven cents, and I was paid six for each letter I delivered.
One lady whose lawn I mowed--sometimes I'd go over there and they'd all be in the backyard with their clothes off. They had a tall hedge for privacy. I guess they were nudists. When that happened, I'd just go home.
She had an old bicycle, though, with wooden wheels that had the tires shellacked to the wood. Then you'd pump air into the tires, about forty or fifty pounds. I bought the bike for two dollars, took it home, took it all apart, and cleaned and painted it--a bright yellow so people could see me. It had big longhorn style handlebars that really stuck out. The lady's balance got too bad to ride, so I guess that's why she gave it to me so cheap. Two dollars was a lot of money back in those days, though, especially for a kid!
Now I could ride the bike to deliver special delivery. It was really heavy but much faster than walking. I used that bike to deliver letters on into high school. I'd even be in class and deliver letters. I'd check between classes, and if a letter came in I'd tell the teacher. She'd let me go, and when I got back, she'd fill me in on what I'd missed. Some of the roads were good, and some were just dirt roads. Much of the area around Oceanside in those days was just fields and scrub. Now it's all built up and full of people.
|Rosicrucian Fellowship, Oceanside|
I'd knock on the main door and a lady would answer. Sometimes she was asleep and I'd have to come in and wake her. She'd sign for the letters, and I'd take off--maybe back to school. I liked going there because sometimes there'd be a batch of letters I could deliver all at once, and I'd still get paid for every single letter I delivered.
Later on in high school, I'd saved up more money. I wanted to buy a motorcycle for my special delivery job, but Dad didn't want me to own one. He said they were too dangerous. Maybe that was because my older brother Leon was killed in an auto accident when he was about twelve.
Once he went fishing up in Bishop for a couple of weeks, though. He went up there a lot and left the rest of the family to run the auto court. He even met the actor Joel McCrea up there and taught him how to fly fish. McCrea had all the equipment--vest and hip boots and pole--but he didn't know how to cast or where in the stream, much less which flies to use. My dad taught him! I remember my dad said McCrea said, "I'm Joel McCrea, the actor. Seen any of my movies?" Your grandpa said, "No, I don't go to picture shows much."
So Dad was in Bishop and I found out one of my teachers had a Harley for sale because he'd just bought an Indian. I couldn't buy it because the teacher was afraid I'd get in a wreck and not have the permission of my family. Mom went down and signed for the Harley so I could have the bike. I took it home and did the same thing with it that I'd done with the bicycle--took it all apart, cleaned it, and painted it. I painted the Harley black and yellow but a brighter yellow so it could be seen better. I also bought a leather helmet to wear.
My dad came home from fishing, and the motorcycle was all together and being used for my job. I was making more money with it, so he let me keep it. My mom probably had a talk with him, too. She didn't say much, but Dad usually listened when she did--well, sometimes, anyway.
One time I came home and parked the bike. Dad came over and looked at the speedometer. It had a trip switch that would show what was the fastest you'd gone. Then you'd hit the trigger and it'd go back to zero for the next time. The needle showed 110 mph. Dad hit the trigger but didn't say anything.
I worked that special delivery job all the way through high school. It was a good job. I got to get out on my own. It was almost like working for myself because all I had to do was pick up the letters and then deliver them. For everything in between, I was my own boss. Out there on the road, there was a lot of freedom.
It's easy to forget how special it is just to be able to move, to travel, until you get old like me. I'm glad I did what I did when I had the chance. I'm glad you've got your bicycle now and are riding it all over. You should ride it back to Iowa. It's not that far, and even if it is, that's not a bad thing. It's a good thing, like getting a special delivery letter.
Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved