There are a lot of jobs that no longer exist in today’s more efficient times; some of them are easily forgotten, except by those of us who were lucky enough to hold the jobs, or dreamed of doing so.
For instance, when I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a paper carrier. It seemed like every boy who owned a bicycle back then had a paper route – everyone that is but me. I liked the look of those saddlebags draped over the back fenders of a bike with newspapers sticking up out of them. They seemed like the perfect accessories to me. I never did get that bike route as a boy, and since a bike might not hold me anymore I guess I never will. You don’t see those little boys delivering papers anymore, probably because most newspapers are delivered by cars or trucks now.
A job my wife says she misses is the carhops that used to be at every drive-in restaurant when she was a kid. She held that job herself at the old Garst Drive In on West Broadway before we were married. (Kids today knew it as Eddies Drive In before it disappeared). I see that far away look in her eyes whenever anyone mentions Garst now, and I know she is thinking about her own days as a carhop. To tell the truth, I miss them too, but maybe not for the same reason she does.
Another job that has all but disappeared is the gas station attendant. Washing your own windshield was unheard of before the self service stations came along. The men and boys, who would bounce out the station door when you ran over the bell hose, would not only pump your gas, and wash the windshield back then-they would also check your oil and water. I often wonder how many engines those attendants saved for people who could never remember to do that for themselves. Some women like my wife, who found it hard to adjust to pumping their own gas, have husbands like me to make sure their tanks are always full, and the oil and water are checked often. I guess you could say the convenience stores have made it inconvenient for us men.
The job loss I take most personally however is the school crossing guards – not the grown up ones we see today. I’m talking about those boys and girls who were chosen from the upper classes of grade school for the job. I can remember wanting that job from the time I started the first grade at Washington School. I pictured myself wearing that gleaming white belt as I held back traffic, just like the boy in the safety poster that hung in the school hall. It was something a kid could work toward as he made his way through school. A kid had to keep up his grades and have good attendance to get the job and although neither of those things were my strong suit in school, I did manage to do well enough one year to be able to wear the coveted white belt for a little while. One of the best things about the job was it allowed you to be released from class early enough to don the white belt and take your station on the corner. It was a good feeling to walk out of the classroom while everyone else was still sweating over a problem. I don’t know when or why they did away with that job, but I’m sure there are a lot of people my age, who are glad it was around when we were kids.
There are a great many jobs which are no longer around for one reason or another, but I’ll bet I’m not the only one who is having hard time thinking about them as extinct.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.