The Working Life . . .


Last month I resigned from my position of Yoga Instructor. After 6.5 years of teaching plus a countless number of Down Dogs, Up Dogs, Triangles and standing on my head, I find myself reflecting on my employment history over the years.

The Hobe Sound Yogi


My first job was babysitter for my young cousin.  To be successful as a babysitter I had to show up on time and sit in the living room reading a book or watching TV.  Every so often I would tip toe into the nursery and check the sleeping baby. Within a few hours my Aunt and Uncle would return. They paid me and my Uncle Donny would drive me home, just around the corner and a block away from my home.

The Babysitter, age 10 or 11?

continued babysitting through middle school and high school to earn money. The most challenging babysitting job I ever held was for four small brothers and their Newfoundland dog. No sleeping children at this job. I arrived twice weekly after school. Their mom gave basic instructions as the little towhead darlings looked on. The minute she was in her car and down the driveway, each of the four brothers took off in four different directions! One to the back yard and into the muddy creek, another to the basement playroom, the third to the TV and the fourth to the kitchen where he opened a jar of large green olives and promptly stuffed one olive directly up his nose.

I looked after this wild bunch for many years. Then I was offered a job as a mothers helper i.e.,  house cleaner. After my first Saturday helping the mother I returned home and my mom asked me about the job. I told her after stripping and making the beds the mother had me on hands and knees scrubbing her kitchen floor.  Mom pointed out that although I was a big help at our own home, that I never was asked to scrub floors. She suggested I let that job go and and find a position more in line with the title, helper

My mom was smart to give me that advise so I moved onto  a different Mothers Helper position. I worked for a very interesting, if somewhat eccentric woman, who was an artist. I would arrive at her home on the same day and time each week and spend fully two hours washing a weeks worth of dishes for her. I kept this job until the day she bought an automatic dishwasher.

At age 13 I decided I wanted a real job.  One Saturday morning, I walked from home in Little Silver to the town of Red Bank (approx 1 mile) and entered the local Professional Pharmacy.  I searched out the Pharmacist and expressed my interest is working there. He asked me my age and then promptly told me I was too young. “No, beat it, kid!” was what I remember him saying.

The Pharmacy Worker, 1970 with our dog, Buttsy
At that time, I was a freshman at Red Bank, high school. Once a week or more, after school (a five minute walk from school to the Pharmacy) I returned to Professional Pharmacy and asked the Pharmacist  about a job. I generally received the same answer each time until one day, Richard said to me, “O.k., kid, just to get you to stop bugging me, I will give you a job. Be here 8 am Saturday morning and you can dust the shelves . . . ” That Saturday was the start of many years working for Richard Yura and Vincenzo Biancomono the two pharmacists who operated the Red Bank Professional Pharmacy.  I worked for them all through high school and when I returned home from college, I would pop in to see if they needed me and so spent many summers driving the pharmacy Chevy Nova as Delivery Boy.

Working in Red Bank was fun. I became friends with the guys who managed one of the two record stores in town. They both loved music but they also loved the race track and horses. Bob told me that when Monmouth Park opened for the summer season he would help me and one of my best friends, Jan, get summer jobs as Hot Walkers on the backstretch.  Jan and I were both horse crazy, so we eagerly agreed to apply. 

The hot walker job was super interesting. To get it, we were at the backstretch gates at 5 am on they day the horses and trainers arrived at Monmouth Park. As the trainers came through the gates they would choose potential employees. Being young girls was an advantage for us as the trainers knew were were not alcoholics or anything other than sincere about working with horses. I got super lucky as I was hired by Mr. Larry Jennings, a blue chip trainer of a Preakness winner.  He had a large barn and that is where I learned the ropes of handling Thoroughbred race horses. All I had to do was arrive on time, 5 am, 7 days a week for the entire racing season.  After all the horses were walked and cared for Bob would collect me and Jan and escort us to our cars.  The backstretch was not a place for young girls to hang out. Bob promised our moms he would look out for us to avoid any problems. All kinds of stuff does happen on a racetrack back stretch.  Jan and I had a great summer and no problems. We even managed to avoid injury by horse!

The Hot Walker, 1974

Mr. Jennings had a son a little older than me. We did not date, but we were friends and so one day he invited me to an important race with his dad to be part of the group preparing the horse and jockey for competition. This was a memorable day, although I cannot say if the horse, won or even placed. It did round out my racetrack experience. 

I was not into betting, but in the morning while walking a horse around the shed row, there was a lesser trainer (Claiming Trainer) with just a few horses in stalls on the side opposite of Mr. Jennings barn. Occasionally, he would offer a tip on a race. I would get Bob, to place a bet exactly as this trainer suggested and more often than not, it would be a winner!

The best part of hot walking was that after walking horses each morning, by 9 am Jan and I were on the beach catching a few zzz’s. Then we would head home, clean up and by 1 pm I was back at the pharmacy.

My Friend, Jan, 1974
You may wonder what I did with all this money coming in? I saved it and when a little car became available for sale on Rumson Road near our house, I was able to pay $500 cash. It was an English Ford, a Cortina GT. No matter that it as a stick shift or that I did not have a drivers license. I bought that little car and it sat in our back yard until the day I turned 17 and secured my drivers license.

My First Car.  The Cortina GT, an English Ford

To be continued . . .


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