Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
This article first appeared in the October 24, 2007 edition of The Somerville News.
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
Remember your first job? My first job was delivering newspapers – I used to pick them up at Abe’s office (Davis Square News Agency) on Highland Avenue where the new cupcake place is. I had the “Francesca” route – which included my own street.
Balancing the papers in the basket on the front of the bike took some getting used to, but I mastered it pretty quickly. I didn’t master getting the paper on people’s porches though. I also took out a couple of windows and dented a few screen door panels, which I had to pay for (remember, Mr. Larsen?).
On Sundays we had to fill these huge, old (and yes splintered), wood rolling wagons with the humongous Sunday papers. Pushing those monstrosities through the snow was especially grueling. If I was lucky I cleared about $16.00 a week for all that work, but I developed some pretty strong forearms. My paperboy career ended when I got caught dumping 20 papers down the tracks – I forgot to deliver the Foskett St. papers and I thought they were extras. Instead of pushing them back to Abe’s, I tried to make them disappear – one of the other paperboys ratted me out.
Then I got a job taking tickets at the Dodge’em Cars on Revere Beach – that was a great gig. A buck an hour and all the re-rides I wanted. Clement Hurley hired a bunch of us kids from the Bay State Ave corner. Because I was the smallest of the group, I used to have to crawl up onto the ceiling and fix the wire mesh that conducted the electricity that made the cars go.
My parents would have been shocked if they knew that. We caught the tail end of a wonderful, gone-by era – and I almost caught 10,000 or so volts.
One of my fondest memories was when Bob Sullivan hired me as stock boy at Woolworth’s in Davis Square. Soon after I was hired I graduated to the weekend luncheonette guy. I made hot dogs, grilled cheeses and frappes. Plus, I was one of the guys whose job it was to put those little slips of paper with different prices for banana splits into the balloons. You would burst a balloon and pay anywhere from 10 cents to 99 cents for your banana split. Yes, you can thank me for making them all 10 cents on the days I worked – and the best part of that job was eating my mistakes on the grille.
After that, my friend Dave Porzio got me a job working at Lyndell’s Bakery – another place where I got to eat my mistakes. I was a flour and sugar stocker, a floor scrapper and cleaner and a general bakery helper. My favorite job there was filling the jelly donuts until they almost exploded. That job lasted for about a year and a weight gain of nearly 10 pounds.
The great part about our first jobs was that we lived at home and our livelihood didn’t depend on our paychecks – we didn’t have car payments or insurance to worry about and air for our bike tires was free then. I wish I could go back to the days when my parents took care of everything for me, don’t you?
How many of you out there worked at Gorins or Parke Snow? Did anyone bus tables at The Venice? That was a great job – I think the busboys had to clean and feed the fish in the aquarium.
When I played in The Echoes Band at Johnny D’s, to supplement my income I worked on Johnny’s horse farm up in Sudbury – it was the closest to nature I had ever gotten up to that point in my life.
The scariest job I ever had was when I was a substitute teacher at the old Trade High School. The students were using three-foot lengths of pipe as blowguns. The ammunition they used were those little hard plastic twisty things that you put on spliced together wires. That gig lasted half a day.
The Dodge’em cars, Woolworth’s and delivering newspapers gave me a few bucks and a lot of memories. The best part was that I could quit whenever I wanted and sponge off my parents.