This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
First jobs can be exciting, as we get a taste of independence and feel the thrill of being rewarded for our efforts. They also build our confidence and teach us important lessons about responsibility and managing money.
Hannibal Jaworski, known for years as "Doctor Joe" in Waco, grew up in Guadalupe County in the early 1900s. For a while in his youth, he worked every Saturday at a local grocery store:
"I would get up early and ride this little donkey approximately four miles to Geronimo, Texas. I'd go to work and work all day doing everything I could, that I was told to do: sweeping, sacking potatoes, sacking other things, cleaning up, carrying things out for people. And in the—late in the evening when the last gin was baled at the cotton gin there, the only cotton gin in Geronimo, they would blow the whistle, and it was our sign for us to close up because that was the last bale and generally we knew that we wouldn't see any more customers. So we closed the doors, and I had to sweep up, clean up everything, stack up everything I could. And I got my two quarters, and I rode home on this little burro, holding the two quarters in my hand because I was so scared I would lose it if I put it in my pocket. (interviewer laughs) I'd get home around ten, ten thirty, eleven o'clock. Everybody was sound asleep. Of course, the doors were open. I would slip in bed, be sure that my quarters were still there. And that was my biggest business adventure."
Louie Mayberry of Goliad remembers that one of his first workplaces was the International-Great Northern Railroad station in San Antonio, during WWI:
"The main train they had was the Sunshine Special, and I would hear the redcaps call those names, ‘All aboard for New Braunfels, San Marcos, Austin, Taylor, Rockdale, Llano, Valley Junction.' He could name all the way into St. Louis, I believe. And I shined shoes there, and I finally bought a red cap so I could make a few dimes helping the people with their luggage. I was just an eleven-year-old boy. (laughs)"
Wilma Buntin of Waco explains how she was able to pursue a passion while attending Houston Junior College in the 1920s:
"I loved horses. They had a horseback riding program. Every free minute I'd be down looking over the fence watching the people going out on their horseback rides. The teacher who taught it was very very—human person. She realized I couldn't afford to pay for horseback riding lessons, so one day she called me in and said, ‘Wilma, would you like to take horseback riding?' I said, ‘I would, but, Branch, I just can't afford it.' She said, ‘Oh yes, you can.' She said, ‘I need somebody'—and I know she made the job for me—‘to wash out the cans that the horses' food is put into. Then I need someone I can trust to know the horses, give them just exactly the amount that they need because if fed too much they get foundered.' And foundering means their feet swell up, they have fever, and all that, and many times if they're foundered too badly you've lost a good horse."
No matter what those first jobs are, they help us to discover talents, develop skills, and recognize what we can offer the workplace at large.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
Search our collection of full transcripts available electronically.