Escape from the den of iniquity

My very first real job was in the early 70’s. At age 16-17, I ran the concession counter at Grady’s Bowling Alley in the Fairfax Shopping Center on Concord Pike. I flipped burgers, grilled hot dogs, and dispensed the cherry cokes (with real cherry syrup). I worked 6-11 PM on some weeknights, and usually worked weekends.

On weeknights, it was the bowling leagues with their crazy shirts. There were all sorts of people: young and old, fat and skinny, men and women, all sorts of races and religions, and they always had a rip roaring time. Loud and raucous and definitely serious about their bowling, they kept me scurrying behind that counter for sure !

On weeknights the pool tables in the smoky back room were filled with quietly mysterious characters sporting long hair and black leather jackets.

Two of the unadvertised benefits of this job were that I learned how to bowl and learned how to shoot pool.

Minimum wage was about $2.75 back then. It was the best job I ever had.

I wonder how many jobs like this are out there today. It certainly wasn’t politically correct: the owner of the concession stand, Richie, asked me if I would wear hot pants (for those too young to remember hot pants, you’ll have to Google it). I didn’t give it a second thought and faster than you can say “disco queen”, there I was in my red hot pants, grilling my burgers with a smile.

I’m also sure that some well-meaning groups today might have an issue with a 16-year-old girl working in a place where there was a pool hall. Everyone knows that a pool hall is a disreputable place where unsavory characters congregate.

I learned some things in this job:

The customer is always right. If the grill closes at 11 PM and someone orders a hamburger at 10:55, the customer gets their burger. Even if you’ve just finished cleaning the grill.
Don’t judge people by first impressions. A grungy-looking dude with a constant scowl may be the most patient pool teacher. A fat, sweaty, and loud bowler may have a child with cancer at home.
Treat where you work like it was your own business. The owner appreciates it.. Be on time. Don’t whine.

So, I worked on school nights and weekends in a bowling alley/pool hall. I managed to escape this experience without falling into a den of iniquity. It wasn’t the easiest job in the world, but it wasn’t the worst, and to this day I appreciate the friends I made and the lessons I learned.

Do kids today have these kinds of jobs available to them, or are the parents too protective and the safety nannies too zealous to allow it?



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3 responses to “Escape from the den of iniquity

  1. Leo

    “Do kids today have these kinds of jobs available to them, or are the parents too protective and the safety nannies too zealous to allow it? ”

    I must confess I would be one of the protective parents who would be nervous about my daughter working there. Glad it worked out for you. But the main reason I think these jobs are not as available might have something to do with this thing called a minimum wage.

  2. JP

    Just because the envelope is smaller in one direction does not mean it’s not wider in a different direction. Kids still find the edge, that is what kids do. You can’t spare the child the chance to push the envelope, you can help the kid make good decisions when they do. You can be with them, but you can’t do that by being with them!
    My girls started a business of pet sitting, so no, it’s really different for them. Then they took on jobs like Walmart and clothing outlet stores, unfortunately they have nothing as colorful as you did. You and I grew up in a magical time, we just did not know it then. Thanks for writing about Grady’s, I saw it burn to the ground and it was a huge loss to my buds and I.

  3. Grady’s was a home away from home for alot of people. I miss it still. Different time, but dang I hold onto it in many ways. I don’t think that is a bad thing.

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