Minimum Wage Wasn’t Always $9 an Hour – John’s Minimum Wage Jobs
I just found out that Washington state has the highest paid minimum wage in the United States. $9.04 an hour. Over nine bucks an hour! Not that I’m that old, but in my day, my first minimum wage job paid four bucks an hour. Basically, what I’m saying is if you’re working a minimum wage job and complain about how much you’re paid, shut it! It did get me thinking about my previous minimum wage jobs. Here’s where I used to work – who knows, maybe we met here once upon a time and didn’t realize it.
My first job (not including having a paper route when I was 12) was being a bus boy at Italiano’s Pizzaria in the Nob Hill Plaza. Can’t find it? You won’t. It closed down several years ago. I was 15 years old so the fact that I was making $4 an hour, I thought I was living large. I only helped out during busy times – mostly weekend and the occasional weekday if the dishwasher was sick. My job was simple enough. I literally stood in the corner, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, drink free pop and, when someone was done with their plate, I’d go over and take it off the table for them. Once they left, I cleaned off the table, made it sparkle, nice and shiny for the next customer, then go stand in the corner once again until I was needed again. I liked working here very much. The waiters and waitresses got tips, then they would all give me a tip from their tips at the end of the night so I’d always go home with about $10 which, to me at 15 years old, may as well have been $100. It was enough to rent a Super Nintendo game from Crazy Mike’s and buy a loaf of french bread with a 44oz Mountain Dew so I was good to go. I still run into my old boss periodically and he still remembers me.
What is now known as Xochmilco on 24th and Nob Hill used to be a Skipper’s restaurant. I was considered seasonal – they needed an extra hand or two during the Summer and I had a friend who worked there at the time so one day when I went to grab him after his shift so us, as 16 year old’s, could hang out, the manager said, “Hey, you want a job?” $4.15 an hour. Again, like at Italiano’s, only as needed so a lot of nights and weekends which was good enough for me. I didn’t cook the food, I merely cleaned up the tables once the customers left, took out the trash. Stuff that 16 year old food employees do, without actually touching the food. It gave me a look behind the scenes of what most fast food restaurants are like – in a positive way. I only worked the Summer, then I was back in school.
For one whole day I was a ‘Sandwich Artist.’ Though the art form had much to be desired. I cut the white or wheat bread (that’s all that was available at the time) in a v-cut which I wish Subway’s still used. Then I went through the ingredients as the customer would either approve or disapprove. Lettuce, Olives? Onions, Pickles? Mustard, Mayonnaise? ect. I only worked there for one day because I didn’t really want to work there. I was just looking for any job, they hired me first and the day I was filling out my application, an employee came over to me and said, “when you’re done filling that out, can you fill in for me today?” I jumped at the opportunity. Only when I was there, working, I received a phone call from another place that was hiring where I wanted to work more.
Rite-Aid (then, Pay-Less) called while I was working at Subway and left me a message saying they need some new employees and that they were interested in hiring me. This time I’d be making $4.50 an hour and, now that I was 19 and out of school, I could work the oddest hours there to accommodate for all of the other employees. At the time, there were a group of full time ‘moms’ who worked the morning shift and got off at 5pm. Then, at 5pm, that’s when the high school aged kids could work from 5pm to close. I worked from 10am – 7pm Tuesday through Thursday and then on the weekend. Much like how I’m a multitasker in radio, I was a multitasker there, too. I was strapping enough to carry large objects like tying Christmas trees to cars. I could also cut keys and had a steady enough hand to change watch batteries, free of charge (just pay for the battery). Being younger, they put me in charge of electronics and toys so customers who came in asking about a specific toy from a cartoon or what kind of RF jack is needed to plug their TV into their new video game, I could help. I worked there for about 2 years and loved it there. I recommend to anyone young to work as a cashier for at least a year when they get out of high school, or even during school. It will make you a better person and respect store employees when they’re having problems. Not to make myself sound like the coolest guy ever, I liked working there, but I didn’t need the job like the moms and other people who were working to support their families. When Rite-Aid decided to cut everyone’s hours, I opted to find another job so the established employees could work my hours instead of having them cut.
Like Italiano’s and Skippers, Video Update is no longer on 24th and Nob Hill where Subway is now. Once upon a time, it was a video store where the employees all work Star Trek inspired polo shirts and was one of the few places in town that rented porn. At this point in my minimum wage career I was making $5.50 an hour and got all the free movie and video game rentals I could ever want. I liked working here just fine. I was kind of knowledgeable with movies, but video games where my specialty.
Before I started being on the air and helping out with all of our radio stations, I was a board op. Basically, the coolest job in the world up to that point. They paid me to sit and listen to the radio – usually a sports game like the Yakima Bears or Seahawks. When it was time for a commercial break, I pressed a button to play the commercials. Pretty sweet! And it got my foot in the door of where I am now, but when I started, it was still a minimum wage job.
So, although $9 is more than I made for minimum wage. In fact, my first salary job didn’t break down to $9 an hour, don’t think of it as minimum wage. Just think of it as that’s how much you’re getting for the work you’re doing and you can always find other benefits to working any job. For instance, at Subway I got a free sandwich per shift (my one shift), Video Update I got free rentals so I never had to pay for renting movies that entire year I worked there. Make the best of it, get your experience and don’t burn bridges, you need all the references you can get.