Stan Gerding

Dear Grandson: On Working

In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding writes to his grandson about working grocery stores starting at age 12 and the shock of the Kennedy assassination.


Dear Grandson,

My brothers all had part-time jobs when they were in high school. When I was 12, my grandmother got me a job at the corner grocery store that she always shopped at. I went for the interview and the owner, Clem, told me I could start right then and there. He told me that if Lily, my grandmother, recommended me, then that was all he needed to hear. Hired.

Clem started me at 75¢ per hour. And if I worked 10 hours on Saturday he would pay me $10.00. Wow! I felt like I was going to be a millionaire!

The store was open Monday through Saturday from 8-6, Wednesday from 8-12, and of course closed on Sundays. All stores were closed on Sundays. Thursday was a big day because the store would get a truckload of supplies that needed stocking on the shelves. I would go in right after school with a few other guys and we would get the store well stocked.

In those years, soft drinks were sold in bottles that were returned for 2¢ and the company would reuse the empties. One of my jobs was to separate all the bottles and put them into cases and get them ready for pickup by the soft drink companies.

I would save most of the money I earned, but I would give my father a small portion for room and board. If I needed clothes, I would pay for them myself. I didn’t do many school activities because I worked most of the time. Clem would give me a lot of hours when he could.

Clem had a full-time clerk who did all the deliveries and a full-time butcher (meat cutter). In the summer, I worked almost every day. We saved all our boxes from the Thursday truck and we would use them to box orders that would go out for delivery. I enjoyed working and got a pretty good reputation as being a great worker and dependable.


Clem started me at 75¢ per hour. And if I worked 10 hours on Saturday he would pay me $10.00. Wow! I felt like I was going to be a millionaire!


When I turned 16 and got my license, I drove the delivery truck for Clem. I didn’t get a raise in my pay, so I asked my brother if he could help me get a job with Kroger’s who paid union wages. He worked for Kroger’s at one time and knew the manager at the store in Newport, right below my high school. I got an interview with the manager and he hired me on the spot at $1.92 per hour. Now I definitely knew I was on my way to my first million! (I guess I didn’t realize it would take me a LONG time to get there.)

It didn’t take long for me to get lots of hours at the store because the manager really liked me. I worked almost every day after school and was working about 36 hours a week during school months, and during the summer I was working full time. I would do all kinds of odd jobs. When the checkout lines would start backing up, he would call me on the loudspeaker to come up front to open register number 6, and I would and knock out the crowd because I was pretty quick on the register.

These were very turbulent times. Our country entered Vietnam by sending advisers that quickly escalated into more troops being sent in a conflict or police action situation. The evening news on TV was loaded with news about skirmishes and fighting in Vietnam and reports of American soldiers being killed or wounded. I missed a lot of those stories on TV because I was working a lot of hours.

I’ll never forget November 22, 1963, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I was in history class and the announcement came over the intercom that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. You could hear a pin drop. Everybody was silent, and silence became sadness very quickly. The whole class was stunned, and the teacher was dumbfounded.

More later, Grandson.




Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.


Stan Gerding

Stan Gerding is a retired veteran after 23 years in the Navy that included a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Corpsman, 1968-1969. He has since been the administrator of various healthcare organizations, a high school science teacher, an author, a singer, and is the father of Greg Gerding and grandfather to Jack.

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