Friday, April 23, 2010

My Illustrious Career...Part One

When I was a kid growing up, my dad had his own business as
the owner of an Italian restaurant. Originally, my dad had
brought us all from Chicago to California in the early 60's,
along with HIS dad, and they opened the business together.

I was fortunate that I was able to get a job as a busboy in the
restaurant at the early age of 12, something that is not easily
done these days because of child labor laws.

I worked every Sunday night for six hours, making the sum of
60 cents per hour. At the end of the night, I would usually get
tips of about 50 cents from each of the two or three waitresses
that worked there, so I was making around five bucks for my

It was pretty cool, because most kids my age did not have any
money, and even if they got an allowance, I doubt that in 1969
many kids were clearing 20 bucks a month.

So I had my first job...and being a busboy, even in a pretty
small joint, was hard work. On my feet all night, carrying big
tubs of dirty dishes around, sweating, and getting pretty dirty.
I will not soon forget the night of New Year's Eve 1969-1970.

We were very busy, as I recall there must have been some kind of
party going on, and let me tell you, I was hopping! My dad would
always tell me after that night, that if I never worked another
day the rest of my life, on THAT day, I worked.

As time progressed, I was 'promoted' to dishwasher...and this
had its ups and downs. I was still on my feet all day, but at
least I could remain in one spot without have to run around. It
was not difficult work, when the tubs of dirty dishes arrived,
one only had to rinse them off with a high-pressure kitchen
sprayer, load them into baskets, and dump them into a series of
huge sinks with soap and VERY hot water, then transfer them to
several more rinsing sinks.

The biggest drawback to the job was the fact that it was very
HOT and HUMID back there. The water in the sinks was kept
hot by huge gas burners lit underneath them, it was like working
over a gigantic gas stove all night. And with the humidity
produced by the steaming water, I would be sweating buckets.

Fortunately, the back area also had the entrance to my favorite
place in the joint...the walk-in freezer. If I felt myself
getting overheated, I only had to open the huge door, and I
would find myself in an arctic heaven of delicious cold air. As
many times as I went back and forth between the hellish oven of
the dishwashing area and the walk-in, I am surprised I never got

A few more years went by, and by the time I was fifteen, I had
become a cook. Since I know everyone is just dying to hear the
details of a life lived more than 40 years ago, I will continue
this in the very near future...

Till then...Peace be with you.


  1. I find it interesting. I wanted to get a job when I was that young, but no family business and as you said labor laws. That dish washing job sounds pretty bad though. I hate being in that kind of heat.

  2. Well I know I want to hear about it...I was a busboy in high school...loved those tips..I am hoping you got a raise to offset the lost tips when you became dishwasher??

  3. I would let you make me some lasagna, if you feel inclined and then I could do the dishes.

  4. Great story Joe!
    Glad to see I wasn't the only one working. Can't wait to hear more...

  5. Yes Sir,

    a lot of us started very young working to get by, I think jobs like these even though hard on a young man taught us more than we realize.

    Great Post
    Looking forward to more Joe

  6. Wow, you were really precocious! Working at 12 and! I do feel for you, having worked in a kitchen myself during hot humid July days, behind tubs of boiling water! Let's hear about the other jobs soon, okay?!?:D

  7. There will be more coming, but there were a LOT of jobs over the years, so it may take some time...

  8. It was difficult but I know it instilled a lot of work ethic and all that good stuff in you at an early age. Something most of our kids are missing out on. Looking forward to reading more.

  9. The best thing you go is ammo to use with your kids. "I started working when I was 12!" That's good stuff!

  10. I wanna hear more! I really wanted to work in a restaurant when I was a teenager (I love food - go figure!) and the 'rents wouldn't let me so I was stuck with babysitting as my sole source of income. Of course, that turned out to be awesome preparation for my current career but I still think maybe I want to go to cooking school and become a chef when my kids get older. Looking forward to the next installment!