A Buck and a Quarter and a WHOLE Lot of Fun!

There came a point in every Duquesne young person’s life when it was time to find an opportunity to earn money during the summer. Although 16 was the normal hiring age, we had the advantage of being able to get work permits that let us get a job at 15 years of age. (There were a lot of places that would hire even younger workers and pay them “underthe table” as well.) With places like Kennywood within walking distance, it normally wasn’t difficult to find employment during the summer. In addition to Kennywood, there were countless other opportunities for employment in the area.

My parents, as well as the majority of Duquesne parents, encouraged their kids to find work each summer. Their purpose was multifaceted since employment meant:

• A source for spending money for summer activities for their teenager

They didn’t have to give their teenager spending money

• It built a sense of responsibility within their teenager

• AND it got us out of their hair for at least 8 hours a day!!

During the time I was a working teenager, the minimum wage was $1.25 per hour. To receive a pay envelope at the end of the work week was pure heaven. I can still remember the thrill of feeling the weight and thickness of the cash heavy, white pay envelope as it was handed to me. Remember how exciting it was to open up that pay envelope and count the cash? That “Buck and a Quarter” per hour meant the world to us.

It was around 1965 when I began working full time during summer vacations. Since it was just my dad, brother and I, we never took any vacations away from home during the summers. For my brother Steve and myself, it was pure and simply a time to earn some money and have some fun. There was always urging from Dad to save some of our earnings, but I would have none of that. I simply wanted to spend the money on “all things Jim,’’ and I did!

Admission to Kennywood was non-existent, so I was free to spend my cash on tickets, games and such. I did have to pay for admission to the swimming pool, but that was under $2.00, and well worth it. We would also frequent the Blue Dell Pool on Route 30 in North Versailles. The price was less, there were fewer people and we always had a great time. I’d always save bit of my money for the movies, but again, that was never a huge expense.

My two favorite places to shop were at Kadar’s in Duquesne Village Shopping Center and at Standard Sportswear in Eastland. They always had some really “cool” clothes that were totally in style. I remember the first outfit I ever bought consisted of a pair of “baggies,” which were wide leg pants with huge cuffs in the strangest colors and patterns you could think of. Mine were navy and dark pink plaid. I bought a navy long sleeve knit shirt to match them and felt “TOTALLY RAD” as we used to say. Today, I would call it tackey.

Perhaps the largest part of my pay would go to my beloved NRM (National Record Mart,) both in McKeesport and in Eastland. I purchased my very first 45 rpm record in 1962 at NRM and it was titled Telstar, by the Tornados. The NRM in McKeesport was located by the railroad tracks. I remember that there was a candy store near it, and I think it was a called Fanny Farmer. I also remember a store called “Book Sale” that had thousands of really cheap books. The walls were filled with paperback with the covers torn off. Eventually, National Record Mart moved to a location that was right on 5th Avenue, closer to Cox’s if I recall.

Each week, I would pick-up the KQV Top 20 list from NRM and decide what records I was going to buy. I rarely bought albums but rather kept buying 45’s. In fact, I still have my entire collection of over 500 45’s. They’re not in the best condition, however whenever if I am feeling really nostalgic, I’ll pop one on my turntable for old time’s sake. In addition to buying Top 20 45’s, I used to love shifting through the “Irregular Bin” of 45’s at Woolworth’s or Murphy’s. They were the ones that would either be stamped with an “NR” on the label, but more often would have a small hole burned through the label. I was able to acquire some real gems by taking time and checking out those 45 RPM treasures.

Certainly, my summer jobs and what they paid provided a steady source of enjoyment for me as well as every teenager in Duquesne who landed one. In addition to the financial rewards, the hopes of my parents were realized as well. I believe that those jobs helped to form the foundation of my personal work ethic. My dad made sure I understood that accepting a summer job meant that I was responsible for working my scheduled hours, for showing up on time and for working as hard as I could to earn my pay.

I carried those values into my adult life, and still feel that demonstrating a strong work principle is of paramount importance for any profession. As I progressed in my career, the values that I acquired from my early work experience, as well as from the examples set by thousands of hard working Hunkys in Duquesne, allowed me to succeed beyond my own expectations. Thank you Dad and thank you Duquesne.

I have to confess that one of the reasons I wrote this post about “employment,” was to use it as a vehicle to tell you about another BLOG that I am now writing. Actually, about a year ago, I decided that I needed to release my frustrations and began to write a blog about the aggravations, exasperations and disillusionment that I’ve suffered while trying to find “gainful employment.”

Once, when I was a proud member of the group known as “Baby Boomers,” the world was my oyster. A baby boomer is defined as a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Unfortunately, according to the realities of the world as it is in 2012, “Baby Boomers” looking for employment are now classified as “Aged Jobseekers.” WOW! When did that happen???

I have republished the first two posts from my 2nd blog and would like to invite you to check them out. The blog is appropriately titled – “I HAD A BIRTHDAY, NOT A LOBOTOMY!” I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, suggestions and experiences. If nothing else, this will be a great place for all of us to commiserate with each other. So take a moment and click the links below to visit my new blog.

 # 1  I Had a Birthday – Not a Lobotomy! – An Introduction


#2 –  Judging the Cover

See you there!





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9 Responses to A Buck and a Quarter and a WHOLE Lot of Fun!

  1. Charles says:

    Fantastic memories. I was in Verona then an met, fell in love then married a hunky-girl whose Coy grand parents lived in the Duquesne area.

  2. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Jim, in 1969 I worked on the Ghost Ship. We were paid $15.80 per day. The hours were from opening to closing. If you lasted the entire year without calling off there was a $300. bonus after Labor Day, if you turned in your three Kennywood shirts. I paid my first semester at CCAC with that bonus. Hindsight being 20/20, I would do it all over again and I’d pay them for the honor.

  3. Bob Dougherty Class of '50 St. Joe's; Class of '54 DHS says:

    Jim, Your blog “A Buck and a Quarter and a Whole lot of fun” reminded me of the George Gershwin song, “Summertime and the Livin is Easy”. I suppose, however, that depends on one’s perspective and personal experience. I certailnly would not say that Livin was Easy in the Summertime during the early ’50s. I enjoyed reading of others’ Kennywood Park work experiences. I worked in Kennywood’s Kiddieland during the summers of ’52, ’53 and ’54. During those years, Kennywood was open from 11:00AM to Midnight. but Kiddieland closed at 11:00PM. Lifting all those toddlers and not so little kids into and out of the rides was not very “easy” on the back. We were paid $7.00/day during our first year of employment and if we returned to work at Kennywood in subsequent summers our daily wage was increased by a whopping 10% to $7.70 – whoo hoo! During the first part of the season, we worked 5 days/week when the schools held their picnics at the park. Once the “school season” was over, the number of days/week we worked was reduced to 3 and occasionally 4. I have a lot of memories of my Kennywood/Kiddieland days. Part of fhe caption beside my picture in the 1954 Echo yearbook (yes, I still have my yearbook) reads, “Lost his heart in Kennywood” – I still remember the girl; does anyone ever forget their “first love”? When not working during the summer, we spent most of our time at the swimming pools. – the large pool at Kennywood, of course, but also the pools at South Park along Corrigan Drive, The Blue Dell in Murraysville, Mineral Beach in Ritcheyville and also the pool in the High School building where the boys swam in the buff – or just “hanging around’ trying to stay out of trouble Once the summer was over did not mean we stopped working. As I look through my 1954 Echo, it’s amazing how many of my classmates are identified by the place(s) they worked during the school year – gasoline stations, drug stores, Murphy’s 5 &10, clothing stores, Isaly’s, delivering newspapers and grocery stores to name just a few. Looking back, I guess working during the summertime and enjoying the days when we were not working the “Livin was Easy” compared to the school year when In addition to going to school, participating in school activities and working was not quite as easy. Bob Dougherty, SJS ’50, DHS ’54 .

  4. Jerry Rimsky ( DHS'62, HNS'58) says:

    Try $0.67/Hr at KP, same period. An ex Bowl-O-Gold attendant.
    $4.00 for a half-day of work ( 6 hours, that is )
    Hi Tom.

  5. Frank Mullen says:

    I also worked during the early 60s at Kennywood, in the cafeteria, for two summers in the employee cafeteria, and for two summers as Salad Boy in the front dining room. Ann Seaman, who was a neighbor on Miller Avenue, was my boss, whom I adored. She was strict and warm at the same time. I went from 65c per hour to 85c per hour, there, additionally earning myself the privilege of getting to know nearly every person in the park, esp. the ticket-booth ladies and the ride operators. Then, I believe it was 1962 or ’63, or later, that I worked in National Tube, as a common laborer (sweeping the mill floors and cleaning under the scale pits,) earning the minimum of $2.75/79 (?) per hr. I hated that job; it was the dirtiest, hottest, and worst job I ever had; yet, oddly enough, I came to appreciate its place in my life because ANY JOB, afterward, was easy compared to the experience in that hellhole. Work such as those early jobs made me appreciate even more seriously how hard our fathers worked in those mills, how glad I was to attend college, and how convinced I was that work was worth the effort. For example, working a few years later as a Cardiopulmonary Therapist, at McKeesport Hospital, which involved regular contact with bodily fluids and wastes, but included the joy of helping people suffer less, was a wonderful responsibility, one I miss, to this day. Hard work, all along, paid off. Frank

  6. LARRY mCcONNELL says:

    I worked at Kennywood the summers of ’61, ’62 and 63. I worked at the food stands and we were paid .75 cents an hour. When I turned 18 they made me a manager and I got a staggering 10 cent raise. I know we didn’t get minimum wage because it was seasonal employment. Even at that, we sure had fun! School picnics, Nationality Days and Fall Fantasy were the best. I would be glad to hear from anybody working there at that time.

  7. Fran Z. says:

    Just a FYI Blue Dell was in North Huntingdon, not N. Versailles. It

  8. Tom Lane says:

    They did not pay minimum wage at Kennywood. Seems like it was about .50 an hour in 1960. As I recall the paycheck was $36 for two weeks. but that was alot of money then for a kid. In 63 I worked in the mill and on July 4th, I got double time and a half, which came out to something like $18 per hour. Maybe someone out there can remember what the hourly was in the mill at that time. Look forward to checking out your other blog. tom

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