Work and play: Both four-letter words but miles apart in meaning.
For teenagers, clothes, cars and the latest gadgets have always been top on their list of wants and needs.
When I was a teen my mother couldn't always afford what I thought I needed. Get a job she said, and so I did.
And I spent most of my first paychecks on clothing and the latest records. I just couldn't wait to hit "Music Land" record store for the latest "Beatles'" or "Supremes'" release. I saved, too, and learned about layaway. It taught me how very precious and hard-earned some of my extravagances were.
I babysat for the neighbors almost every Saturday night, but the first "real" job I had was as a car-hop at a root beer stand.
For two summers in the mid-1960s I worked at Sno-Cap root beer stand on Montreal and West Seventh streets in St. Paul. I enjoyed the job so much, that just the thought of root beer opens a flow of memories...
It was a small family-run restaurant with a few stools at an inside counter and a large parking lot outside. Well, I don't know how large that parking lot was, but it seemed miles across when you walked it all day.
Located just down the hill from Highland Park swimming pool, we would be deluged with cars full of wet little kids, sunburned and cranky from a day at the pool, ready to eat anything and down much root beer.
We didn't wear roller skates at Sno-Cap, but we did schlep trays of frosty mugs and hamburgers to customers' cars.
There was a certain skill involved in hanging those trays on car windows, catching the braces underneath...always on the driver's side.
And if you didn't hook those trays just right the whole thing smashed to the ground, spraying the waitress and car with sticky pop. (That I learned the hard way!)
In those days there was almost always a young man behind the wheel and those guys did not like sticky root beer splashed on the sides of their cars. No sir, they didn't.
That root beer stand is long gone, and we car hops have been replaced by drive-through windows at most restaurants.
As I was compiling the graduating seniors' bios this year, I noticed how many worked on their family farms. It's reassuring to know we're still "rural enough" to have family farms.
It seems like most businesses in River Falls have a need for teenager workers: Mr. Movies, the Copper Kettle, The West Wind Supper Club, Hove's Auto Body, Moody's, ShopKo, the golf courses, Lund's Hardware, most of the hair salons, restaurants, grocery stores, and nursing homes are helping kids save for their dreams and enjoy some extras parents can't or won't afford.
Some kids in this area de-tassel corn in the summer. That's a really sweaty, dirty, hot job. I admire their work ethic if they can make it through the season.
To be a boy and get a job at an auto place must be really cool. To be a girl and work in a hair salon should be great fun. Or the reverse, as the case may be.
The Journal used to employ many teens on Saturday mornings to "stuff" the Buyer's Guides with inserts. It was a fast-paced, covered-in-ink by the end of the day kind of job, and they worked hard for their paychecks.
From my observations their "toys" may be more sophisticated but teenage needs and wants remain the same -- enough money for some fun, a few gadgets, and cool, new clothes. Most are even socking a percentage away in a bank account, saving for their futures.
Good for them, to be willing to work to play.
Reach Pat Hunter at email@example.com or call 425-1561.