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Monday, 13 January 2020

What Was Your First Job?

I read somebody's blog and it got me thinking about earning my first money and what my first job was. I was ready to work (part time, of course, I was still a high school student) as soon as possible. I now hear from multiple sources about young people today (god, I sound about a hundred and twelve when I write that) who just aren't "hungry" for work, they don't show up, they don't let anyone know that they aren't going to show up, or they quit and move on to another job, with no loyalty to an employer. Maybe they don't work at all. But we always worked. My friends all had jobs. It's what you did. You went to school and you had a job and you then had money to buy clothes or albums, or illegal drinks at the local bar where nobody asked you how old you were.

I applied for my first job when I was fifteen and had an interview in The Red Grill which was the restaurant that was part of Woolco, a department store that doesn't exist anymore. I got the job and was all excited, and then they found out how old I was and said I couldn't apply until I was sixteen. At the time, there was no spot for your age on the application. I had applied to work in the Woolco menswear department. It's not that I had a deep desire to fold men's sweaters, I just knew a couple of other girls from my high school who also worked there and it seemed like as good a job as any.

This was not my Woolco, but it could have been. 
source

So, when I turned sixteen, I re-applied and got the job. I also got my driver's license so I could drive my parents' giant boat of an Oldsmobile to get back and forth to work. I lived out in the country and Woolco was part of a relatively small mall on the outskirts of the closest town, about 15 to 20 minutes away. I worked on the weekends and sometimes on week nights after school. There was a lot of folding, pricing, and low key selling of clothes to young men and older men looking for inexpensive pants, dress shirts, sweaters, and the like. It was usually fun because I got to work with one other girl,  a similar age to me. We had a "manager", which was a pretty fancy title for a man who sat in the back room and occasionally came out and asked us how much we thought we had sold. There was no cash register just for our department. Like any other department store (think Walmart), all purchases, regardless of what part of the store they came from, were made at the main cash registers at the front of the store. So we really had no idea how much we sold.

Woolco had something once a month called "Dollar Forty-Four Day" where a bunch of items were specially marked at $1.44. One of my jobs was using a sticker pricing gun and pricing boxes, it felt like hundreds, of men's briefs and stacking them in a display cube sort of thing. As well, I got to use the intercom and make announcements about the amazing deals which could be found in our menswear department for $1.44, and at the base of which pillar they could be found! The beginning of my "public speaking" career!

I have a terrible memory for dates and years and numbers, but I do remember thinking it was a big stinking deal when I started to earn $4.11 an hour! That was above minimum wage and I could watch my bank account grow by leaps and bounds when I updated my little bank book at the local credit union. Yup, the latest Supertramp album was mine!

We were expected to dress nicely for our illustrious job in Woolco menswear and I remember wearing skirts or dresses or dress pants, even heels. I don't even dress up that much for my job now! But hey, that was the eighties, and dressing up and poofing your hair was the norm.

I had that job for about two years and it did me no harm. I think it builds a great deal of character to have a job that you are responsible for. I also think everyone should have a horrible job when they are young so that they can appreciate a good job when they get older. That wasn't my only job growing up, but it was my first job. I have others I could write about, which I think were probably worse than that one. Do share, what was your first job?


68 comments:

  1. For about a year in high school I split a job with a friend (we each worked 2 weekends a month) at our town's hospital pharmacy. We helped the pharmacist fill orders for the floors, including big glass IV bottles, and then delivered them. We had to wear nurse's type white uniforms I remember. Then during the summer for the last year in high school and all through college I worked at a small amusement park. At first I worked on the games - there was a long boardwalk type area with lots of skill-based games like throwing a basketball through a hoop a certain number of times to win a stuffed animal toy, or knocking down rows of little fabric animals to win some other toy. Then I ended up working the ticket booth for all the carnival rides. Each summer, all summer in a little ticket booth in the middle of the ride area watching everyone out there having a good time. But it was a fun place to work and I have lots of good memories!

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    1. Ha! You were a "Carnie"! I worked at a pharmacy in university, but not back with the pharmacist. I would have liked that.

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  2. What an interesting read! You share some commonalities with my sister Judy, who went to work at the local five-and-dime store when she was a teen. As for me, I was not allowed by my parents to drive or to get a job except babysitting, so I did a lot of that, for 25 cents an hour, and saved the money I made to buy fabric to make skirts and other clothing for school. I married at 17 (wonder why!) and did not learn to drive until I was 24 and we were moving out to this land in remote country, at the time. At 31 I finally got my Social Security number and my first "real" job--as a rural route substitute mail carrier. I drove a standard shift 4WD Chevy pickup, traveling dirt roads and backcountry delivering mail whenever the regular carrier needed a day off. I made good money considering--about $100 a day in wages and vehicle reimbursement. The wear and tear on my truck was pretty intense, and I learned to break down in front of places where there were guys hanging out by garages! I loved the job, worked it for about 4 years before I got pregnant and gave it up when I was about 6 months along and it got too difficult to reach out the passenger side window over my belly :) By then I was working full time as a security guard anyway--and within 2 years I was a full-time college student working part-time at a greyhound race track. Life is full of amazing twists, isn't it? I ended up with a Masters degree Library Science degree and spent 20 years as a librarian before retiring. Of course, before the mail route, I was a tobacco grower and subsistence farmer...

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    1. I was a sewer, too. In fact, I sewed some of the clothes I wore for that job. I think it was less expensive to make clothes then.
      In university one summer, I ran children's programmes at a few libraries in the city where I was going to university. You had some pretty neat jobs - very diverse!!

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  3. I started a morning newspaper round when I was 14. Didn't get good higher results so no uni as a student, but as a cleaner! After about six months, got a bottom grade civil service clerical job...and escaped from that to art college after just over a year.

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    1. No newspaper route for me as I lived "in the middle of nowhere"!

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  4. I was an assistant counselor at the YMCA summer camp... I think I was 13. Then two summers as a Mother's helper. Then finally as a waitress at the Eagle Confectionery where I earned a whopping $1.25/ hour !! BTW I think there are still teenagers who work after school and on weekends. My 17 year old grand daughter is one and she shows up on time when scheduled!!

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    1. Camp counselor! Yes, I know there are teenagers who do show up at work (my own two children, at the time), but honestly, I've spoken to lots of people who run businesses and hire people. It is an unfortunate trend, but of course, not always the norm.

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    2. I'm sure your granddaughter is a great worker - not painting everyone with the same brush.

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  5. My first job was baby-sitting at age 11. The adults would probably be arrested now, but I was very responsible. I was a junior counselor at Girl Scout camp next at fifteen. No pay, but room and board. My first job with a W2 form was at the public library in the neighborhood. It was 1967 and I got minimum wage of $1.10.

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    1. Another camp counselor! I'm sorry, don't know what a W2 form is, but it sounds official.

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    2. It's a form your work place sends you that shows what they paid you and what taxes were paid by them into the U.S. government in your name.

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  6. Oh, your post brought back memories. Woolco! We did most of our shopping in Woolco. (Or Eatons, if Woolco didn't have what we needed). The Red Grill -- haven't thought of that place in years! It was a treat for us to eat there (yowza). And Dollar Forty-four Days!

    But you know how I could tell your entry into the workforce was about a decade later than mine? You made DOUBLE per hour what I did at my first job, LOL. The minimum wage in the early 70s was only about $2 per hour. I got my first job when I was 15, working as the local dentist's part time dental assistant after school and on Saturdays. And yes, my mother had to give written permission for them to hire me because I was under 16.

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    1. Oh hey now, I didn't start at $4.11. I worked my way up! ;) Wow, how could you be a dental assistant at age 15?? That's a job I would never want - more power to you!

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    2. The dentist trained me on the job. I did everything the full-time dental assistant did but because I wasn't certified, I could not work directly on patients -- i.e. I could not clean teeth. That's it! It was a demanding job but a good one.

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  7. My first summer job was working for Mr. Christie packaging cookies. I had varied duties but the one I remember best was taking a whole stack of cookies and feeding them into a tube so they fell on the belt to be iced and topped with a second cookie. Ladies on either side of the belt would package them. My biggest fear was having the stack "collapse" and you had to start over again. This was in 1964 and I'm sure everything is automated now. I made $65 a week and thought I was rich. I started at 7:00 am and finished at 3:00 pm so could still have time for fun. It taught me that this was a summer job, not a career choice. I worked there two summers. I went on to work in publishing for 10 years, the Bay, in various positions for 21 years and in the Toronto Public Library system for 11 years. It was easy to find work in the mid-sixties. I finished my secretarial course on a Friday, had an interview the next Monday and started work on Wednesday typing manuscripts. Those were the days!

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    1. I am loving reading all of these comments. Did you get to take home the damaged cookies? You are the third library worker now. I think I would have liked to work in publishing, but I've never experienced it, so maybe I have no clue.

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    2. No, we couldn't take things home but they had a store where you could buy less than perfect items very cheaply. One line I was on was packaging ice cream cones. At first I couldn't keep up and the person training me used to just smash the "extra" cones I couldn't package fast enough. It didn't take long, though, to get the knack of it. Publishing was fun. I became Director of Permissions and Acquisitions which is just a fancy way of saying I wrote letters to ask permission to use material we did not have the copyright for. I met my husband there. He worked in the art department. We've been married 43 years. I'm still in touch with several colleagues and we meet for lunch regularly. Good memories.

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  8. I agree with you. Several crappy jobs made me appreciate a good job when I found one.

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    1. Same thing with having a bad boss - makes you really like the good ones!

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  9. My first job was mucking stalls, no pay but got to ride at the end of the day. I also did babysitting all through school, which I hated & then one summer got brave enough to apply to work at Dairy Queen, which I did for a 1 1/2 years. I agree, working teaches you so much about yourself & others. The lousy jobs teach you education is the way out & what you really do want to do. ... Mary-Lou =^..^=

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    1. Dairy Queen - now that might be a dangerous job for me, ha ha!

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  10. You are so right, Jenn, in saying that "many long years ago" we teenagers couldn't wait to get our first part time job and earn some money. My first job was when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I did filing (sooo boring) in the law office where my mom worked. I can't remember what I got paid. I did babysitting, too, but stopped that as soon as I could get a "real" job. At 15, I worked one summer de-tasseling corn. What a hard, hard job that was. When I turned 16, I was hired as a salesperson in a small department store after school and Saturdays. I made the huge sum of 60¢ an hour. (This was in 1959.) The good/bad thing was we got a discount on clothes and most of my paycheck went toward such purchases! Next a distant friend of the family offered me a job in a freckle cream factory (yes, the cream was rubbed into freckles on your skin and supposedly lightened them) with a pay raise to $1.00 an hour. I was thrilled to be making so much money.

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    1. My sister worked in the corn, too - a hot job! Do you think the freckle cream worked?

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    2. I didn't have any freckles myself to try it on and today I'm afraid to think just what was in the ingredients (that was a company secret!) that made freckles disappear . . . if the cream actually did what it was supposed to do. :o/

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  11. My first job, besides babysitting once in a while, was working in tobacco. "Handing" was my job. I picked up three leaves of tobacco at the time and handed them to the "stringer". She attached the tobacco leaves to a tobacco stick with string, alternating the groups of three leaves from side to side on the stick. It was fun. The job paid fifty cents an hour. My sister worked too. At the end of tobacco season we took our money and went shopping.

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    1. I remember kids going to work in the tobacco, and because the harvest would go into the beginning of September, they would miss the first week of school. I used to be envious.

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  12. I had to reach waaaaay back to remember my first job that wasn't babysitting. I wasn't allowed to work while in school, so I had to wait until summer break. I worked in a seasonal burger-type joint, doing cleaning up and prepping work. When the 'chef' missed two days in a row (due, we heard, to one heck of a hangover), I was put at the grill. Apparently, I was born to be a burger slinger, because I was so fast that they fired the cook and gave me a raise of 25 cents an hour. I don't remember what I made, but it was basically pocket money and I was thrilled to have the job.

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  13. Mine was a summer job in a bakery in Montreal in 1970. No idea was I was paid.
    If we were short in our cash we had to put in the difference.
    I did babysit before that.
    I loved making my own clothes back them, it was much cheaper than now.

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    1. Sewing was cheaper - I wish I had kept some of the clothes I made. I don't have a single piece.

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  14. I also had jobs from the time I was 14 - and before that babysitting. It was the thing we all did - we went to school and got part time jobs. I think it raised a responsible generation of people.

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    1. Lots of people have been mentioning babysitting. I was the youngest in the family, the youngest cousin... believe it or not, I never babysat. The first diaper I changed was my own daughter's!

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  15. Besides babysitting, my first paying job was in the theatre downtown when I was fifteen. I got my first credit account then too at Kays Jewelers, and bought myself a little pink radio on payments. What nice memories. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

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    1. Isn't that funny how you remember your first special purchase - a little pink radio!

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    1. You wouldn't have been allowed to serve alcohol at that age?? Or maybe rules were a little relaxed.

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    2. I was 6'3" tall and I had attitude. The legal age was 21 in those days.

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  17. We did volunteer work in high school... one was at an orphanage helping with the babies (loved that one!) and one was at a hospital helping with patients. I think the young volunteers were called candy stripers then. But I think my first paying job was working as a cashier at my friend's family's drug store. And it was in the summer, not after school. Worked as a telephone solicitor once - handed that one over to a friend - extremely boring. Best job I ever had before graduating from college was an assistant in a research lab. I made slides from tissue samples...

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  18. My first job was babysitting, when I was only 11 years old. I used to watch 3 children in an apartment building around the corner from my building....the apartment was disgusting, crawling with roaches....but I made cash. My first 'real' job was when I was 14 and worked as a dishwasher in a resort in the mountains for the season....one year as a dishwasher and the next season I was back as a server and made GREAT money and all cash!!! When I went back to the city in the fall, I got a job as a server in an ice cream parlor/cafe type of place, and I've been in the food industry ever since!

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  19. I didn't work during high school, except for babysitting a few times, but the summer before college I wanted some money to take a trip with friends. I got a job in a whiskey bond where we sealed and labelled the whiskey bottles on a production line. Woe betide if you fell behind! The bottles would pile up. I only survived for about 6 weeks but I had enough money for the trip.

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    1. You made me think of the I Love Lucy episode of the chocolates piling up on the assembly line!

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  20. Other than babysitting, my first real job was in the "domestics" department at KMart. (My aunt was the boss!) I still have a thing for new linens that was probably fostered by that job. Then I went to work in a hospital kitchen. I didnt last long there as the smells made me sick!

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    1. I still feel compelled to fold things and put the back neatly.

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  21. I remember Woolco but I haven't thought of it in years! Well, like lots, my first job was babysitting but my first job other than that was being a waitress at a little breakfast/lunch restaurant up north called The Pancake House. I had to wear a drindl outfit. Very Sound of Music! My cousin worked there (briefly) -- she was only 13. She got fired because she went to spray Raid in the flour when she saw bugs in it. I'm hoping the flour got thrown out too!

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    1. Oh my gosh - a dirndl! I remember a friend of mine worked for the Ponderosa steak house and had to wear the worst uniform.

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  22. The way back machine....I remember babysitting. In my day we were expected to do the supper dishes for the date night parents, and put the kiddies to bed. For a quarter an hour, in the fifties. I was a camp counselor at sixteen. Our supervisors were eighteen. I don't recall anyone supervising them, but that's not possible.

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  23. Woolco! Oh my gosh, what memories. I'm feeling very nostalgic after this post and I'm now strolling down memory street...

    I had an assortment of first jobs. But the first time I earned my own money was when I was in 5th or 6th grade. My neighbour paid me to go to his house after school while he was at work and take his dog for a walk. I cared more about the dog walking than the money. I was one happy kid!

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    1. That's a nice first job - probably made the dog very happy too.

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  24. Oh-what a fun post. My first job was in the Blue Swan Mill sewing lingerie. lol I was a fast worker and accurate and all the 'old ladies' (probably 40ish) hated me because we were paid by the piece. The supervisor moved me to another job because the older women all threw such fits and were just plain mean to me. There I was paid by the hour-not the piece and made about 1/3 of what I was making before. lol xo Diana

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    1. Piece work must have been a very stressful form of work! And Diana, you being the young "whipper snapper" showing them up... oh my!

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  25. This was quite an interesting post topic and certainly brings back some long ago memories. As best as I can recall, my first job was at a woolworth store near where we lived and my mother had to drive me there and pick me up as I didn't have a driver's license yet. I worked in what was a hardware department, which was nothing like a real hardware store. I cut keys and shades (when people used them). I left that job to work in the deli and produce departments of a nearby grocery store because the pay was better and by then I could drive myself. I was able to purchase a used car with my own earnings and it was exciting.

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    1. Woolco, Woolworths... good old department stores. I worked in a deli one summer between years in university. It was quite the experience - maybe I'll write about that one day! Wow- you made enough to purchase a used car. That's impressive.

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  26. Woolco and the Red Grill! That was my mom's favorite restaurant at the store in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. When we drove to the city to shop (probably twice a year), mom would send us kids to McDonalds and enjoy a meal in peace at the Red Grill.
    My first part-time job was at the skating rink as a cashier for public skating and hockey tournaments. Besides, I babysat - a lot - for those important purchases. Like the Bay City Roller album and those pants. :p

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  27. Oh my gosh I remember Woolco...and Woolworths. My first job (besides babysitting) was delivering newspapers, The Montreal Gazette. That was thankless, but I had two routes and had plenty of spending money in high school. I've had some doozies...I worked at Dunkin Donuts decorating donuts, midnight to 6am shift, I had a job picking strawberries for ONE DOLLAR per crate...omg...talk about slave labour lol...and I did a stint as a chambermaid at a seedy hotel where the top floor was reserved for a pimp and his hookers!!

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    1. Picking strawberries must have been tough! Did you ever get free donuts?

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    2. Oh my gosh yes lol...SO MANY DONUTS...I couldn't eat a donut for years lol! I couldn't even walk into a donut shop because I got sick from the smell!

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  28. Working in a fish plant. Ugh. But we worked hard and got paid well. We would work 7 days a week sometimes 12-16 hour days from June to when school started in September. It didn't take me long to realize this was not going to be my career path. But it taught me the value of a good days work. We still had energy to go out to party on Saturday nights!

    Lisa D.
    Spring Peeper Farm

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  29. I did babysitting for years...but my first real job was at Dominion Food Stores as a cashier...Loved my starched white uniform...nametag...and of course white runners!! Almost looked like a Nurse!! In those days, you actually had to punch in the price of each item...no scanning!!And you had to do change!!! Worked there for about 3 years...after school on Thursday and Friday evenings...and Saturdays...closed on Sunday!! We got cash, in a brown envelope every Saturday after work...I was rich!!! Ahhhh...the good old days!! That would have been from 1965-68... Great idea for a post!!

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    1. Dominion! I had a few jobs where I punched in the price, too. No scanning then, that is true.

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  30. My very first job was selling newspaper subscriptions door-to-door. It was pretty grim.

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  31. I worked on my parents ranch in high school. I got a percentage from the colts I broke when they were sold. My first paycheck job was a as a Sawyer for the Forest Service in college. I loved my job with the Forest Service. I was the only girl on our crew and I worked super hard to keep up with them. I have no idea what I earned. I just wanted their respect and I'm proud to say I earned it. I worked there three years, before I started teaching. To this day I still miss it.

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