The late sixties were good times to be a kid, especially if you were enterprising and could figure out a gig. In our family, we were paid a small weekly allowance for chores we regularly performed (for me, it was dusting furniture and emptying the dishwasher). I supplemented my income at home by shining dad’s shoes. He paid me a quarter per pair, so I guess dad was rolling in the dough. In 1974, the year of his death, he was rumored to be making forty grand a year – good money in those days. Anyway, I enjoyed brushing and polishing those wing-tip lace-up businessman shoes for my beloved dad. He had two pairs of black shoes and one in oxblood. Dad was a pretty dapper guy, all told, in his shiny shoes, groovy ties, and well made three-piece suits (he wore button down vests in the winter).
My other early starter job outside the home, though, was as a Dog Walker to Winston, an Irish terrier – a medium sized, short curly haired, happy looking dog – owned by a little old lady three blocks away. Winston was really cute and not too hard to manage. These were the days before people “picked up” after their dogs, so I didn’t have to scoop poop, which would have grossed me right out. I walked Winston after school for a few weeks, a few months, I don’t remember. And I don’t remember what I was paid, but the lady was nice, and I do remember Winston was a good looking dog who behaved himself. As a nervous person around some animals (dogs and horses – love ‘em but they scare me), that was a good thing.
I also recall that dog biscuit treats were one of the fringe benefits to working with this cute dog, Winston. On our walks, he’d get a biscuit, and I’d get one, too. Always immensely curious about the world, I wasn’t squeamish about trying a dog biscuit, and I kind of liked them. They weren’t as good for snacks as those hard, crunchy Bavarian pretzels that mom sometimes had around the house, but dog biscuits weren’t bad!!
Not that I’d eat them, nowadays. . . but the pubescent me was a secret dog biscuit eater. If the other kids knew, I’d have been tormented even more (they already called me “Egghead” and “Smelly Agnelli” – just because it rhymed, not because I’m smelly, I swear!).
So, I was an Interior Decorator’s Assistant, and a professional Dog Walker – all by the age of 12. What next??