Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Labor Day - L_A_B_O_R - Jobs of Yesteryear...

RE Labor - I worked at Waunakee Canning Co canning corn in late summer of 1970 when I first moved to Madison. I had transferred down to UW-Madison, had been a student at Eau Claire for two years. A school bus picked us up around town and we went 30 min out of town to the Waunakee Canning Factory. My shift was 6 or 7 pm until 1 or 2am. Lunch 30 minutes at 10:30 or 11. My job was standing pulling de-husked corn off the conveyor belt and feeding it into a decerneling machine - zip, zip, zip. I was the relief person, going repeatedly down the row so each woman sequentially could get an 10 minute break. I got a break when I got to the end of our row of about 10 people. The workers in this part of production were all women. Mostly young "kids" and quite a few farm wives. Federal minimum wage, of course - maybe $1.60 hr.(Amazing!) When there was a mechanical problem somewhere production was shut down everyone went up on the roof to relax and enjoy the stars in the cool summer night. Our happy paid breaks lasted from about 20 min to an hour or more. While working on the line I mentally reviewed every life experience I'd had in my 20 years and remembered every dream I could. After 3 weeks, at the point of * mental numbness,* went to lunch then just walked off the job without notice. I couldn't handle * one more minute *. I started hitchhiking back to town and a county policeman picked me up on Highway 113. He said - What are you doing out here? He took me to the Madison city line where a city squad car met us and that cop drove me home to the coop where I lived. I went back a week later to pick up my check that was ordinarily passed out at the end of the shift on payday. So my little brush with labor/factory work was - an education. After that I got a job at Yee's Cafe, one of just two Asian restaurants in town, in the old Capitol Hotel on King St (now a site of a big state office building). It was a big improvement. Business was great and I made good money in tips. Federal/state pay rate for this kind of work was around $.75 an hour for tipped employee, we did get an included meal. ************* After 4 years of working various jobs and not being able to save money for school, the Pell Grants / loans started (in '74) and I was able to go back to school in Jan of '75 with matching grants. I went to school full time and worked 3 part time jobs. One job was school bus driver on the morning shift, did sign painting in the graphics dept of the Memorial Union in the late afternoons (maybe $3.50 an hour) and did life modeling in the Art Dept($7.00 an hour?) where I was also a student. Both were work study jobs. In the summers I got some pick up work waitressing. I went all 3 semesters each year for 5 years total. I took one summer off - in '78 I finished my BS in Art Ed and I went to Europe with my "rich" Jewish boyfriend. We were there for 9 weeks. We travelled around most of western Europe on Eurail passes, did some camping and stayed at penosionies. My backpack was 35 pounds with the sleeping bag. It was a glorious summer and long way from the canning job! I started grad school that fall I finished in two years with one MA and one MFA degree working the same 3+ jobs. Finally a "professional!" I got job teaching art in the fall at McFarland Middle and High School. Was paid the entry level rate (:-( ) because it was a semester long sub job, but I designed and taught the whole art curriculum 7th - 12 grades with 5 classes (100 students) a day... ********** The long and winding road of - W-O-R-K!

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