Yesterday's Magazette

14 – My First Job

Memories Of My First Job

By Ann Favreau

I was seventeen when I took my first job at Neisner Brothers, a “five cent to one dollar” general merchandise store in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was a familiar place. My mother had taken my sister Dorothy and me there countless times from the time we were small children. 

Aunt Mary, my mother’s sister, was the floorwalker and always saved bargains for her. She treated Dorothy and me to ice cream at the soda fountain that lined the right side of the store.

The upper floor in the back of Neisners’s housed a beauty salon. I had my first permanent wave there seated in a huge metal machine that seemed to be relocated from the set of a Frankenstein movie. Below the salon was the underwear section where the aroma of permanent waving solution competed with the Evening in Paris sprays demonstrated in the perfume department. 

Aunt Mary convinced my mother to let me work on the Saturdays of the holiday season, since they desperately needed an extra person at the candy counter. It was difficult to view my aunt as the boss. However, she was  thorough with her training. I learned how to run the manual register, make change, and always leave a large bill on the top of the change drawer while counting out the change and then place it under the lift out compartment.  After the initial instructions, my aunt declared that I was ready to begin.

Nervously I stepped behind the candy counter. The other woman with whom I would share the space showed me how to scoop out the candy, weigh it, and then place it in the white candy bags. The smell of chocolate was overwhelming. Although she told me I could sample whatever I wanted, I felt it would be stealing if I sneaked a piece. After a half hour, the desire for candy was completely gone. It was a busy day and I soon became comfortable with filling the orders of kids and grownups, until the incident.

A well-groomed lady stepped forward and ordered two pounds of bridge mix. I filled the bag and she handed me a ten dollar bill. As my aunt had taught me, I placed the bill on top of the drawer while I made change and then put the bill in the lower compartment. As I counted out the change into the woman’s hand, she said, “My dear, I gave you twenty.”  

“You gave me a ten dollar bill, “ I replied.

Then she shouted, “You’re wrong, it was a twenty!”

As I was about to protest, my aunt appeared to determine the cause of this woman’s raised voice. The customer ranted that I had shortchanged her. I stood there in trepidation worrying about the outcome. I knew that all my aunt had to do was open the register and view the last bill that was placed in the drawer. However, she took the woman’s name and number and said she would call her at the end of the day when the sales slip could be rectified with the money in the drawer. As the woman stomped away, my aunt reassured me that this customer was obviously trying to take advantage of my youth. She lifted the drawer and there was the ten dollar bill.  

I kept the job through the holiday season but developed a bad cold. The candy counter was in the direct path of the ever opening front door. My mother would not let me return to work. My fondness for Aunt Mary increased with the knowledge that she had faith in me not only as her niece, but as an employee of “her” store, where she had stature and a position of authority.   

*Ann Favreau  is a retired educator. She is currently the Director of the Suncoast Writers’ Guild of Englewood, FL.  Her prose and poetry has been published in many magazines and anthologies.  Her recent book Window Eyes highlights her global adventures in which she describes herself as a traveler who marvels at the awesome and finds wonder in the ordinary.  It is available from favray@comcast.net and will soon be available on Amazon.com.

Vol. 38 No. 2 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette

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