I promise this is the last one. Back in 1946 World War Two was in full blast. At the end of our street was a large Navel Base. One-way kids earned money was to carry luggage for the Sailors from the base to the Subway station about three streets away. The bigger guys could carry the luggage, but smaller kids would put it on a wagon or in the winter if there was snow on the ground use a sleigh. Since I was in the latter group, I can remember one winter, it was snowing hard, I brought my sleigh to the Navy base looking for a chance to earn some money.
A group of sailors (maybe 5 or 6) began putting their duffel bags on my sleigh and I was thinking there’s no way I can drag this heavy load three blocks. When they were done a sailor picked me up and put me on top of all the duffel bags and the sailors took turns hauling the sleigh to the Subway station. When we got there, they all took their luggage and began to tip me. When it was over I had about fifty or sixty cents a lot of money back then for a kid especially since all I did was provide the sleigh.
Another way a kid could earn money was to shine sailors’ shoes. I had a shoe box, brushes, shine rags, and polish. A good spit shine could bring ten cents and if you hustled you could make a dollar. The problem was the big guys controlled all the good spots (the active street corners) and if you tried to work a street corner, they would chase you away, hit you or threaten worse. There were two brothers called the PickleBrothers that controlled the busiest corners, and no one bucked them, they were mean. I usually worked the middle of my street but by the time a sailor got to me several others already offered to shine his shoes.
Every now and then I got a shine. Another way a kid could earn money was to collect newspapers, rags and metal for the salvage yard. The way that worked you rented a cart from the salvage yard (you had to leave a $2.00 deposit for the cart) a wooden box that was four feet long, three feet wide on two large wheels. The cart was heavy, hard to push.
I’d start on my street, knock on neighbors’ doors asking if they had any newspaper or rags. Most saved newspapers in support of the war effort. Sometimes I’d get some rags, it was rare but there were times I’d get some metal which was great as I made more money on metal. At the end of the day when I returned thecart to the salvage yard, I’d have four or five dollars fromwhat I collected a good days pay for a kid.
Another way to make money was to pick up empty soda bottles. Back then soda came in a glass bottle as aluminum cans were not invented yet. The soda bottle had a deposit value of a penny or two cents. One convenient store owner didn’t want to handle the empty bottles so he would tell you there’s no label on the bottle and refuse to accept it. You could tell be the shape of the bottle is was either Coke or Pepsi, but the store owner would stick with, “There’s no label on the bottle and refuse to pay”.
When I got older after school, I’d deliver groceries by bike for the local grocery store. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to put some of the money away for that rainy day as I spent it faster than I made it mostly on cheeseburgers and pizza. Back then you could get a large pepperoni pizza for a buck and I usually couldn’t wait for it to get cool enough, I’d take the first bite right out of the oven and burn my mouth. Looking back those were the good old days full of memories. So this is the last one and now you know how a kid earned money back in 1946.
© Robert A Evans