Wednesday, January 28, 2015

lawn mowing, Water Safety Aide, Chatham dishwasher, caretaking at Mongaup Pond Campsite, Livingston Manor, NY

updated 6 July 2016

I have always enjoyed working. I did not have the career I suspect I would have enjoyed the most. I did not become all I might have become. Some tasks were especially difficult and others were very foul, indeed. But, in general, work was a source of great satisfaction--even joy--for me.

Perhaps because I started out mowing lawns with my father's Clemson, I have had a life-long interest in ornamental landscaping and gardening. Of course, I sometimes got "help," as in the video above, where neighbor Hank Katz volunteered his assistance. Thanks, Hank!

When I started out with American Red Cross swimming lessons, I couldn't even manage to pick up the instructor's whistle in 3 feet of water. With a good deal of "encouragement" on the part of my parents and Water Safety Instructors, however, I soon discovered I was in my element. I worked my way through the program and then got valuable experience teaching swimming as a volunteer Water Safety Aide.

Jeff Diver, Water Safety Aide, hangs out the flag; Ed Duncanson,
Water Safety Instructor, takes a dive to close out this clip

Though I never made a career of it, I discovered
that I loved teaching and, perhaps most important,
I was really good at it!
My first substantial paid job was as a dishwasher at the Port Fortune Restaurant, the pride and joy of Mrs. Chester Hackett in Chatham, MA. Though I was 400 miles away from home, I was quite comfortable being out on my own in the world. Three cheers for independence!

Mrs. Hackett's hiring letter

I boarded with Mrs. Edith C. Deering at the corner of Main and Water Street. She introduced me to the daily Christian Science Monitor and I became a fan of the paper. I remember being impressed with the Christian Science emphasis on the importance of reading, learning and curiosity about the world.

Mrs. Deering offers me a room

On my time off, I biked from Chatham to Sagamore and back more than once, enjoying the odor of pine and the sound of the sea breeze in the trees. Starting out as early as 5:30AM, so as not to miss work later, the route as I recorded it was, "Old Queen Anne Rd. to Great Western Rd., Great Western to Route 134, Route 134 to Setucket Rd., Setucket Rd. to Route 6A (not following signs), Route 6A to Sagamore." Long stretches of Great Western were undeveloped. The scrub forest seemed to go on for miles. There remained at least one working mixed small farm along the route, where I was surprised to see dairy cows. Cranberry farms were plentiful, but a cow? Wow!

(L-R)My shadow en route, welcome to Barnstable,
church on the way, Sagamore entrance to canal (background)

Rear of Deering residence, my room, view from my room
Were it not for the kind support of Miss Bassett, the Cook, I would probably not have survived the kitchen politics of Port Fortune that first summer. The pecking order was firmly in place and I was at the bottom of it. Mrs. Hackett was fair but strict; the waitresses to varying degrees demanding and critical. One of the friendlier waitresses was from Missouri, which she taught me was pronounced "Missoura" by everyone there.

Port Fortune restaurant with lodge behind it
from postcard in Diver collection:
Charles W. Cartwright, Chatham, MA date unknown
Looks nice & tidy up there in the mid-century summer sun, doesn't it? Many years later, my folks moved to Harwich MA and sent me an off-season view:

One of my greatest joys during those diswashing shifts was feeding "Charlie," a wild catbird Mrs. Hackett had trained to eat raisins from her hand. We kept the raisin supply well stocked by the back door.

Chatham beach below the Coast Guard lighthouse
and the Port Fortune Restaurant as it was in 1965

I reprised my job as dishwasher for a second summer in 1965, and as a "two year boy" was accorded a great deal more respect by the natives, though I still had to carry that awful ID stamped "MINOR" in big red letters all over its face. I had an assistant dishwasher who impressed me with his ability to speed read with total recall books whose pages were turned at the rate of about one every second. I could read the same material--eventually--and remember almost nothing. Oddly, I don't recall whether he was any good at washing dishes.


Mongaup Pond Campsite
Percy (P.O.) Krom, Caretaker, taught me how to drive a stick shift on the Dodge Powerwagon at Mongaup Pond, where I was the first Assistant Caretaker of the campsite in 1966.

I found the first night alone in the Caretaker's cabin scary. Was that a bear scratching around the back door? Nope. Turned out it was porcupines chewing the glue in the cardboard boxes left by the construction crew.

Opening day ribbon,
Mongaup Pond Campsite 1966:
Diver collection

When I first saw Mongaup, it was undeveloped. Father took us in on a logging road. It was a hair-raising trip. Our sedan had little clearance and getting stuck in the ruts was part of the experience. There was no view at the shoreline as the shrubbery grew to the waters' edge. But once beyond that, the water was clear, though cold. The bottom was beautiful sand.

Thanks to Father's trout fishing buddy, Sid Bascom, District Superintendent, NYS Department of Conservation, this pristine lake was opened to the public as a campsite. The logging road was widened and improved.

I enjoyed dealing with the public in my first uniformed position that summer. Campers were a varied and interesting bunch. They were also messy. This was where I learned how to empty a trash can into a garbage truck without getting the "juice" all over me. Of course, on my first attempt, it was all over me! Cleaning latrines was also an aquired skill, though "P.O." tackled the women's stalls himself, claiming they were too stinky for me.

Two views of Mongaup in 1966.
The valuable experience I had there served me well the very next summer.
On-the-job training teaches lessons that cannot be learned anywhere else.
Thanks, Sid and P.O.!
updated 1 March 2015

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