When my father asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated from high school, I told him I thought I would like to be a musician but I really hadn't given much thought to it. Both Raymond and I had visited Chicago a number of times and I knew just enough about the city to think it would be a glamorous place to live. My father's brother, Hiram, had gone to Chicago after finishing high school and got a job as a wood finisher for telephone cabinets at the Western Electric Company plant on the west side of the city. With my dad's permission, I went to the big city. Uncle Hiram took me to the employment office and left me. I was interviewed by several people and given a job as an inspector of small parts for telephones, checking them for defects. I found a poorly furnished room near uncle Hiram's; I was cautious about spending too much money as my salary was just enough to live on and started getting up at five in the morning in order to eat breakfast and get the streetcar out to the plant in time for work. At noon, I bought a boxed lunch in the plant from a man who came around with a cart and in the evening ate at a restaurant near the place where I roomed. The evenings were long and lonesome. I had no friends, knew no one except my uncle and aunt and they were too busy with their rooming house to bother with me. Uncle Charley and Aunt Ruth were out of the city and besides they lived at least an hour away by elevated. The inspecting job required no intelligence at all and after two days it became so boring all I wanted to do was get out of there.
At the end of the first week I got my first paycheck. I couldn't believe it but it was about two thirds of what I had expected, not enough for me to live on even at the modest rate I was spending my money. The glamour of living in a big city was all gone and I had never been so lonesome in my life. I wrote my dad I was coming home. A week alone in Chicago was all I needed to make me realize how much I loved my family.
When I got back to Paulding, I had a job waiting for me acting as helper to the county surveyor, Sam Duckwall, who was a member of our church. The county surveyor's work consisted in laying out new roads, ditches, settling boundaries, etc., all over the county. A lot of our time was taken up traveling from place to place in Sam's Model T Ford which I soon learned to drive. We were usually gone all day, eating our noon meal at a farm house near where we were working, the farmer's wife making a place for us at the dinner table with the family. The meals were excellent and the farmer was always eager to talk about the new road or ditch that was to go in on or near his property. Once in a while there would be a couple of pretty daughters which made the situation more interesting for me tho I never had a chance to get acquainted.
The Ford was fitted up with a box at the rear for the surveying instruments, axes for cutting down trees which stood in the line of sight and driving the stakes which I had distributed along the line of the survey. Once, a really big oak tree stood directly in the line of sight so Mr. Duckwall hired a small negro boy to help me chop it down. I never felt quite right about chopping down big healthy trees simply because they happened to be in the wrong spot. Working as a survey's assistant was hard physical labor but it was outdoors and much better for my health than checking small telephone parts in a factory.
A month or two after I had left my job in Chicago, a letter came from the Western Electric Co. with the remainder of my week's wages. I had been too ignorant to know that it was the policy of most employers to hold part of the first paycheck.
Last modified on 14 June 2009 @ 10:09