Lettuce, Bananas, and Convertibles

The summer of 1969 found me still working at the Dairy Queen and proud that my duties had expanded to include not just the drive-up window but calling in the produce order and running the register at the counter during the rush. Burgers were 45¢, fries were 25¢ and a burger basket could be had for 60¢. Drinks were 10¢, 15¢, or 25¢ and really rich folks could have one of those chicken baskets for $1.25. I had my first little work family complete with the sharing of thoughts, dreams and gossip – dynamics that I had no idea existed in higher level jobs held by “older” people.

I desperately needed a car. My dear friend Carrie Minnis Townley was always glad to give me a ride. When Carrie was not available I would call Nancy Hilger Mermilliod and then brace myself. Nancy commanded a blue ’56 Chevy with three on the column and no detectable muffler. She careened down the highway slamming gears and punctuating her opinion of other drivers with colorful terms she learned from her four older brothers. Some went to Six Flags and paid for that level of excitement – I had Nancy. As much fun as all of that was – I wanted a car. I appealed to my father using my “one full year” of work history as collateral for his cosign on a loan. He came around and we purchased a 1960 Ford Sunliner convertible, red with a white top and black and red vinyl interior. The purchase price was $350 which was financed for 12 months at the Riverside State Bank on Belknap. My payment was $31 per month.

My enjoyment of traveling to work increased significantly as did the importance of how many hours were mine when the schedule was posted each week. My status changed from one who needed a ride to one who could provide a ride which made me feel important. I had a car to drive, a payment to make, and I knew how to order lettuce and bananas from Gordon’s Produce.

My senior year started and money earned from my job kept gas in my car and afforded me drinks from the machines in the halls at school, field trips with the journalism department, pizza after the football games, and a few new outfits to look good for my first boyfriend, an Air Force guy who, by the way, did not have a car.

Working a job had become a central part of my life. I learned that there is satisfaction in earning things in life and that showing up on time for as many shifts as possible made it possible to buy more fun stuff and even save a little. I also started to realize that this first job could not be my last job. My prospects were few. I had no money for college and I had done so poorly in typing class that my typing teacher at Haltom High School promised to pass me in Typing I if I would agree not to take Typing II. Nevertheless, graduation loomed on the horizon and I needed to look past the Dairy Queen and start thinking about a “real job.”

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