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Lessons from a First Job

Trump's nominee to lead the Labor Department is fast food CEO Andy Puzder. His words remind me of the opportunities I had to work at a wage that matched my abilities at the time.

  • Roger Oliver,
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In my senior year of high school I wanted a job so badly that I accepted a job at a local dairy farm for $2.00 an hour and got paid for 2 hours a day of work, whether it took me two or four. That's what the dairyman, Mr. Scut, could pay me and it was a concession to give me a job. I had to be there at 5:30 am and 4:30 pm every day, 7 days a week. I had so much time to get the work done and would not be paid for more. Seriously, how much can you pay a kid to pitch hay and clean out the manure trap?

I loved the farm and was a Future Farmer living in the middle of the Los Angeles metropolis, Buena Park to be precise. Sure, I wished I could make more money, but was a happy camper to be allowed to work with animals. That was for Mr. Scut, a Dutchman who sold his milk to Wilsey Dairy, about a half mile from Knott's Berry Farm. One of Mr. Wilsey's main customers was Knott's Berry Farm. He sold them a bunch of cases of quart bottles of buttermilk that the Chicken Dinner Restaurant used in their famous buttermilk biscuits. That was a different California, let me tell you.

I saved every penny so that I could buy my first car and get a license to drive. My father had told me that if I wanted a license I had to buy my own car. He would not let me drive the family car. I resented it at the time, but secretly was exhilarated by the challenge to make it on my own. I praise him for it now because it taught me the value of money and established a work ethic.

Just before Easter break that year, 1966, I bought my brother-in-law's 1956 Chevy 210, 2 door sedan for $150. Chrome valve covers on that pretty V8 no less. I was in hog heaven. By that time I was working for Mr. Wilsey at his drive in dairy. Yes, a drive in dairy, and for about the same pay, as I recall. Learned all about how to handle irate customers, spot quick change artists, make change, balance the cash register drawer and a bunch of other real life stuff.

That 56 Chevy was the start of a whole other class in life -- better than anything I learned in public school. This was the lesson: owning a car is like owning a dead horse, it's expensive and they just get worse every day. (Credit for the dead horse simile to my Granddad Steward, born in 1880.) You want to drive to school or take your girl to the movies? You have to buy gas (about 14¢ to 25¢ a gallon in those days but at a wage of $2.00 an hour!) And maintenance! You mean I have to change the oil and all that stuff? Yep. If the car broke down I had to fix it. Couldn't drive without insurance and that cost money, too.

I have no confidence in the central government, but if this guy (see video link below) manages to roll back the nanny state rules of employment so young people today can have the same opportunity I had, my hat will be off to him.

Watch video of John Stossel interviewing Andy Puzder

  • Roger Oliver

Roger Oliver serves as a missionary in Puebla, Mexico. He and his wife, Marcy spend most of their time at the Pierre Viret Learning Center, a Christian academy, preschool through high school. Their local church meets in the Learning Center. They sponsor a web page to promote Christian reconstruction in Latin America. Roger is a partner in a furniture manufacturing company. The business exists to provide employment to the families in the community, to help the community become independent, to generate capital for other family businesses and as a venue for vocational discipleship. He retired from the US Army in 1992. He earned his MBA at Syracuse University for the Army and completed a ThM in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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