Working in Freeport
Working In Freeport:
My Father believed in work and more work. I remember when I was going into my first year in high school I asked my Father if I could play football . He said I sure could ( I could not believe what I was hearing!). Then, he asked how I was going to work after school and practice football. My heart sank because this meant I could not play football. But,guess what ? The coach let me suit up and play one play at one of the games even though I never practiced! You ask if I ever played high school football-I can truthfully say “yes”!
My first job was shining shoes on the streets in downtown Freeport- 5 cents for a really great shine! I was about 7 or 8 at this time. I still have my shoe-shine box and still use it . I built it myself out of an apple box. Fruit boxes back then were built of wood that was useful for many projects—birdhouses, sling shots, model boats, etc. later I added another business enterprise- delivering The Freeport Facts, the precursor to The Brazosport Facts. I would stand out on the street in downtown Freeport and sell the papers. I would sell a paper and shine your shoes. Later I expanded my paper business by walking down the residential streets hollering “Freeport Facts”. People would come out of their houses to buy my papers. Every day after school, I would walk to town and wait at the Fact`s printing machine as the papers came off the press. I would pay for my papers on the spot. I think I paid 3 cents a paper and sold them for 5 cents. When I got home at night my hands would be totally black from the printing ink.
When I was 11 or 12, I started delivering newspapers from my bicycle. I would throw them into the yards and driveways like it is done today, except an automobile is normally used today. Over a period of years I delivered the Houston Chronicle, Houston Post, and Houston Press. I remember delivering the Chronicle and Post on the same day. I delivered the Post in the morning before school and the Chronicle after school. I don’t remember exactly how the Press fit in. I also know there was a distributor for the papers and I think he just dropped a bundle of papers each day at my house. I would roll each paper by hand, run a piece of string through my lips to get it wet, and then sling it around the paper. The momentum of the string would usually give two or three wraps around the paper. I would then slide my hand down the paper to tangle the string. We did not use rubber bands or plastics covers like today.
The part I didn’t like was collecting payment from my customers each month. I learned a lot about people then. Most of my customers were just wonderful people, but some were always trying to cheat me. Daddy was pretty demanding about me working, but he couldn’t stand grown men cheating me. He helped me collect from the crooks and we always got paid . He even caught one running out the back door one time trying to avoid paying. Needless to say, Daddy collected!
In addition to delivering papers, at about 12 years old I started mowing lawns. I used a heavy cast iron reel-type mower with Timken bearings. No motor- you pushed it. It first belonged to my Grandfather, then my Father, and then me. I still have it. Back then, people didn’t get their lawns mowed until the grass was pretty high! To mow with a push mower in tall grass, you had to back up about ten feet and get a running start. You could cut about a two foot length with each run. I used a shovel to edge
( yes you can! ). For an average yard like on W. 8th, I charged $3 and $5 for a larger yard like those on W. Broad. I saved my money and finally bought a reel mower with a gasoline engine for $138. What a change in my work life—it was nearly fun after using a push mower! I will never forget what I paid for it! That was a lot of money! A pair of Levi jeans cost $3.65, as I recall, in comparison. Many handymen during those days converted their hand-push mowers to power mowers by installing electric motors with a long cord, but my gas-powered engine worked much better.
Starting to work at a young age taught me how to work to please my customers and how to control spending my money. I still remember on Saturdays having to decide spending a nickel to go to a movie or buy a tube of BB`s for my BB gun. I could not do both if I wanted to save money for such things as school clothes.