First Job

My first official job came at the tender age of 15. We were living in Pensacola, FL at the time. My mother had encouraged me to apply for a "bagger" position at the Jitney Jungle Supermarket which was within walking distance of our home. I tried to get her to understand if there were positions available at this supermarket, surely they would advertise them either at the market itself or in the classified ads in the newspaper. Of course, my reluctance to ask for a job had nothing to do with my stating the "facts". I was lacking in self-confidence as were a lot of kids that age. Regardless, she told me I needed to go there and start to make my way into the world (sigh). Somehow, I didn't think stock boy was going to look very well on any future job application. But, it was a start and something I wasn't able to recognize at the time.

The walk to the Jitney Jungle Supermarket usually only took me 15 minutes. On this day, it seemed to only take about two minutes. I walked into the supermarket and just looked around. Basically, I was looking for a friendly face to inquire about a job. I saw this elderly man (probably only in his late thirties or early forties, but still, I was only 15) who seemed to look my way and I walked over to him. His name was Mr. Brice. I will never forget that name for some odd reason. I told Mr. Brice I was there to inquire about employment as a stock boy. He asked if I had any experience (I'm thinking, I'm only 15...how much experience do you think I have?). I told him no, I had no experience in anything except throwing newspapers and I had grown out of that phase in my life. Mr. Brice said that the store manager wasn't in the store at the time. But, I should wait for him and talk to him. Mr. Brice also said they might need stock boys, but he wasn't sure. At this time I'm thinking this is a waste of time when Mr. Brice says, "But, we possibly will need stock boys sometime in the future and I'm sure Mr. Walker (store manager) would be willing to talk to you."

So, I stand out front waiting on Mr. Walker, store manager, Jitney Jungle, Pensacola, FL. And I waited and I waited. After about 45 minutes of waiting, a couple of the "experienced" stock boys came outside and asked what I was doing standing around outside. I told them Mr. Brice told me to wait out here for Mr. Walker. For some reason, they considered me a threat. They started telling me Mr. Walker only hires "experienced" stock boys who have at least three years experience. So, since I knew both were high school seniors, I asked if they had three years experience when they were hired. Yes, of course we do, they said. I asked them how long had they worked here and one said a year and the other said two years. I might add, neither were a threat for the Nobel Prize in Physics. I said, "Well, one of you must have started working as a stock boy about 12 and the other about 13 since I know you're both 17 years of age." Something I remember about being a teenager...you don't like being caught in a lie.

This didn't go over too well with them. Both came over closer to me and I was prepared to get the hell beat out of me for exposing their lie when Mr. Walker came up (I was told he always wore his overly large "store manager" tag where you couldn't miss it). He asked what was going on, I told him I was here to put in my application. I explained that Mr. Brice said I should talk to him about a stock boy position, one that I sure didn't want now. Mr. Walker told the two Rhodes Scholars to get back to work. As it turned out, Mr. Walker hired me on the spot. He said he had two openings, in fact. The two openings were due to the two intellectual giants being let go because "they are lazy", as I remember the store manager saying. Mr. Walker had no idea how relieved I was to hear this not only because I was hired for my first job. But, also because I wouldn't have to tolerate these two clowns who were trying to discourage me from applying for the job.

It just goes to show, mom always knows best. I didn't want to apply for a job that SURELY should have been advertised. I was supremely confident I was wasting my time. But, my mother pushed me into the world with me not wanting to go. I stayed at that job for the next three years, including a year after high school graduation. I joined the U.S. Navy after I left Jitney Jungle. I didn't come back to the store until three years after I had quit. Mr. Walker had suffered a heart attack about a year after I left and died shortly afterward. Mr. Brice, the one whom I owed so much to for showing that friendly smile when I desperately needed one, took over as store manger. As far as I know, he stayed there until he retired.

To Mr. Walker and Mr. Brice, wherever you may be, thanks to both of you men from a 15 year old boy 40+ years later, who still remembers how important a first chance and a smile can be.


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