Summer Jobs: Working Behind The Counter

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Throughout the summer, we've been sharing listener stories about the summer jobs that influenced them the most. Today, we hear about working the night shift at an Atlantic City Expressway gas station, and about working on Truitt's Rolling Store — basically, a convenience store on wheels — in rural Alabama.


We've been hearing about summer jobs that stuck with you, and today we've got two stories about working behind the counter. Both involve wheels.


In the early 1980s, Richard Klin(ph) of Stone Ridge, New York, often worked the night shift at a huge gas station on the Atlantic City Expressway. He writes this:

There was a strong "Twilight Zone" element to the 11-to-7 a.m. with my fellow crew members, who were ex-Marines and Vietnam vets, plus the customers from all around the country. Many of them had lost it all at one of the Atlantic City casinos, and desperate bartering was not uncommon: beer for gas, a spare tire.

I wore a bright-orange shirt and made a dime for each quart of oil I sold. He continues: A carload of Hare Krishnas came in; local TV celebrities; a priest; a famous ex-boxer, drunk and belligerent, who yelled for service and tossed a beer can out the car window; lots of tourists; state troopers; a jazz bassist; truckers. One night, I spilled transmission fluid, causing a car to catch fire.

NORRIS: But there were some unexpected perks.

SIEGEL: Yeah, Richard Klin writes: Occasionally, I accepted a beer from a sympathetic customer, which could have gotten me fired. Farmers in the early morning hours would, from time to time, give me some peaches. It was a whole lost world in a time of transition, the old rural South Jersey, which had always been disappearing, coming to a close - to which we might add it was also the land that self-service at gas stations had forgotten.

NORRIS: Our next story is also from another era - 1953, to be exact. Here's Robert Crow(ph) of Sandy Springs, Georgia, talking about his summer job as a 14-year-old gofer for Truitt's Rolling Store.

Mr. ROBERT CROW: Mr. Truitt was a World War I veteran. They were our next-door neighbors in the community of De Armanville, Alabama. De Armanville was not then - and still is not - even a wide place in the road.

The rolling store was a 1934 Ford flatbed truck, powered by the fabled Ford flathead V8 engine. The body - I am confident - Mr. Truitt probably built himself. It was about the size of probably a UPS delivery truck. It had shelves on either side. He sold a lot of canned goods.

It was designed so that he actually sat in the truck itself to drive. He could pull up to a stop, open the door, pull the counter down, and he was open for business.

He had things like apples, oranges, lemons, onions, potatoes. He had a chicken coup on the back, and some people would trade. They would bring a chicken or a couple of chickens. He would weigh them, you know, give them so much a pound, or sometimes they'd have a dozen eggs, that type of thing.

He also sold tobacco products. We had one lady that would get on, and she would always order two cans of snuff. She had one tooth in her head, and it was this brown thing that stuck up from her lower jaw. I vowed I would never touch snuff.

He did business in the black community, the white community. It was a good experience. I was paid the grand sum of $3 a day, five days a week, $15 a week -which in 1953 was a fine salary, a lot of money for a 14-year-old to have.

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NORRIS: That's Robert Crow of Sandy Springs, Georgia. He earned enough from working on the rolling store to go to the Boy Scout Jamboree in California, though in retrospect, he says, he got much more from the job. Mr. Truitt taught Crow a number of virtues, among them dependability, honesty and preventive vehicle maintenance.

SIEGEL: And we'll have more of your summer job stories next week.

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