I’m starting the New Year with what my first job was. And no, it wasn’t the military. I enlisted at 25, so I already had some jobs behind me.
But my first job was stuffing the Sunday newspapers for the Los Angeles Times, which is called a newspaper inserter. I helped out a woman named Mrs. Fisher to prepare the Sunday papers.
Mrs. Fisher was probably in her late fifties or sixties (hard to tell now; people looked older then). She was a victim of the Flying Tiger disaster in 1962. A plane crashed on a street (and was depicted in an episode of Emergency, with a plane crashing into an apartment complex). She had just grounded her son and sent him to his room, but he sneaked out. Turned out to be good timing because the plane’s engine came down his room!
Mrs. Fisher picked me up at school every Friday and took me to a building a building on Ventura Boulevard that went for $1,000 a month (in the 1970s!). It was a grungy building, always caked with paper dust and smelling of ink. The bathroom was grubby from all the dust, too.
One wall had a bench that ran along the length of it, and that was where we stuffed the newspapers. The Sunday came disassembled, the print run of each part in a bundle. So it was the front page, entertainment, sports, and the ad package.
We’d go down that line and pick up each section and then stuff inside the front page. The constant contact with the newspaper left my hands nearly black with the ink, and we’d sometimes find pinch bugs crawling around the papers.
The completed newspaper was stacked up against the wall on the benches, to the ceiling, where it would be picked up Saturday morning.
The problem came with that ad section. We dreaded spaghetti day. There was a company that periodically included a sample of instant spaghetti mix. That made the newspapers lopsided. Remember, we were stacking to the ceiling, and during spaghetti day, the stacks would sometimes tip over.
It made getting the newspapers done twice as hard, and those were often the late nights when I got out at 11:00!
Mrs. Fisher usually took me home, but 11:00 was the cut-off. If we were running late, my father came to pick me up. He was astounded one night to find a traffic jam at that time nearby…johns picking up hookers.
I don’t actually remember the job formally ending like others. This seemed to be one that just evolved away. Now the want ads advertise for inserters. A very different time.
What was your first job?