One of the often-repeated phrases from my grandfather (that can be typed into a blog without upsetting those with an aversion to profanity and innuendo) is “the kids need to work in retail”. Growing up my cousins and I had a common tie: we all did our time working at Weaver’s of Wellsville. We were not a farm family, so I will not be making outrageous claims like “we worked sun-up to sundown through sloppy mud and pounding snow seven days per week,” but every one of us chipped in where needed. One place that was particularly well-suited for child labor younger than usual employees was our Farmer’s Market stand in York, PA.
The Farmer’s Market was hard work consisting of early mornings, extreme temperatures, and heavy lifting, but more than anything it helped us all to learn to interact with people and solve problems. Our customers were rich and poor, young and old, delightful and rude, and any other spectrum of characteristics you could think of. We had to learn to adapt, communicate, and assert ourselves when needed even at ages as young as 14. Two cousins who were vegetarians at the time even made hamburgers and cut steaks!
More importantly than the work, we were able to build a relationship with our grandfather, Pap. Some of our fondest memories were working alongside of him. At the end of his career the market was his main focus. On the drive into market and the drive home Pap would take interest in our sports teams, activities, and even -to our annoyance- our love lives. He would rehash the day, complain about some customers, and speak with admiration about others. We may not have realized it, but we were learning how to navigate the world around us from a man who had lived through the incredibly consequential 20th century. And it worked! Our Pap, who did not graduate high school, produced the following:
- Grandchild 1: Master’s Degree holding Registered Nurse
- Grandchild 2: Master’s Degree holding Guidance Counselor
- Grandchild 3: Sales Director for a major oil company
- Grandchild 4: Licensed Physical Therapist
- Grandchildren 5 and 6: Licensed Occupational Therapists
- Grandchild 7: Food distribution extraordinaire
- Grandchild 8: Slightly smarter and more attractive food distribution extraordinaire
- Grandchild 9: MBA holding manager in supply chain with a major supermarket chain, before turning 30.
Beyond their success in their careers, my cousins and siblings are all kind, caring people. I think we all owe a bit of gratitude to our Pap and our days working with him for who we turned out to be. The next generation behind us is beginning to enter adulthood, and while the older ones were lucky enough to meet Pap before he passed, all of them will benefit from his guidance and take their lives beyond anything our generation could imagine.