I was fourteen years old.
It was the summer of '63.
At that time, blue-collar parents,
expected their children to work on summer vacation.
There were two simple reasons for their expectations.
One...It kept their kids off the street,
and our of trouble,when they were at work.
and Two...It helped defray the costs of high school,
and in my case, college.
I remember getting on the bus,
and traveling down Cicero Avenue,
to the restaurant/cocktail lounge,
where my dad tended bar on day-shift.
The place was fancy, large,
and connected to a large hotel.
Chicago's Midway Airport was across the street,
At that time in history, it was busier than O'Hare International.
The restaurant had a large breakfast, and luncheon crowd.
Businessmen, secretaries, sports figures,
and all kinds of people "on their way up",
or already living the good life, frequented this place.
I was a clumsy, fat, acne-faced kid.
So rather than have me bus dishes,
and have customers offended by my disturbing looks,
I was shuffled into the kitchen.
The owner of the establishment, thought this was best.
I learned to wash dishes, peel potatoes,
set up rooms for parties, empty garbage cans,
clean toilets, carry heavy boxes of frozen-meats,
and vegetables into the freezers,and refrigerators.
I did any, and all of the menial jobs...
no one else wanted to do.
My rate of pay was one-dollar-an-hour.
I made forty-dollars for a forty-hour work week.
All overtime was paid at the rate of one-dollar-an-hour.
The only perk I had was the great meal I ate after work.
This allowed me to get fatter, and develop more zits.
The job sucked.
Kitchen work is hot-and-nasty.
Chefs, cooks, waitresses, salad girls, busboys, busgirls,
desert ladies, and finally, dishwashers, are pissed-off,
and fighting each other all the time.
I saw many a fist fight between cooks,
jockeying for position.
I especially enjoyed the cat-fights between...
good-looking waitresses. They would be pulling each others hair,
and rolling around in short skirts, on the dirty kitchen floor.
Wowie, zowie! This really got my teenage juices flowing,
(even if it was R rated). My acne got worse from the steam,
of the dishwashing machine.
I was soaking wet, and dirty from discarded food items...
all day long.
The worst was taking out the garbage,
and tossing all the rotten food into dumpsters.
These stinky, garbage receptacles were filthy with maggots.
It was the beautiful summertime...but I never felt the joy.
I was too tired to go out at night, like other kids.
I stayed at home, and read my books.
During the day, most of my friends were at the beach,
or playing in the park...
They were'nt too tired to go out in the evening.
I became a social misfit...a pariah.
I hated them for their freedom.
They hated me, for being a fat, geek!
One thing I never order when I go into a restaurant,
is hash browns.
I remember peeling the rotten, baking potatoes,
and chopping them up for hash browns.
The smell was horrible.
It shocked me that they would serve this to people.
I thank God, I spent only one summer in the kitchen.
One was enough for me.
The next summer was another torture.
I went to work in a factory.
Jobs like this, help blue-collar kids succeed in life.
At least the smart ones succeed.
Lord have mercy, on all the rest.