By Joe Rector
As soon as Joe South began singing “Games People Play” on my Sirius radio, I flashed back to 1969-1970. I was driving home in the snow after a work shift at Burger King. I hit the top of Andes Road and prayed my old ‘54 Chevy wouldn’t slide in the ditch. That was just one of the memories that are part of that job.
I was hired by a manager named Harry to work double shifts. The first was from noon-2:00 p.m.; the second was from 4:00-10:00. My duties included taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms and dining areas, cutting tomatoes and shredding lettuce. During lunch hours, I filled drink orders, at least until I spilled a large drink on the counter and floor. Then I was banished to the cooler with a cigar and bucket of ammonia and water to wipe down the walls. The stogie was supposed to help with the smell of the cleaner in a confined area.
Other jobs were more difficult. Harry drove his vehicle to the back of the restaurant and instructed me to change the plugs. I’d never done that before but managed to complete the task without too much damage. On my eighteenth birthday, Harry sent me to the roof with a mop and bucket of water. My job was to clean the red plastic shingles that hung over the side of the building. By the time I finished, my skin matched the shingles. On another occasion, fellow worker and Harry’s nephew, Kenny Edwards, and I drove the boss’ truck to the Sears outlet on Central to pick up something for the store. On the way back, we were involved in a fender bender. Thankfully, I wasn’t the one who would have to tell Harry.
My hourly pay rate was $1.35, the most I’d ever made. Workers were expected to pay for food they ate, but making any money would have been impossible if we did. I made food to take home at the end of each shift. It always was a double whopper with double cheese, lettuce, pickles and mayonnaise, I’d eat one after the first shift and share the second one with my brother Jim.
I enjoyed the folks with whom I worked. One girl spoke broken English but was a whiz at filling orders. I always liked working with a girl named Gloria. She was a bit of a wild child. We’d take smoke breaks together. Her laugh was contagious, and her “bad girl” image was appealing to all the males at work. Linda Mayshark was a beautiful girl who worked occasionally. She went to West High School and had a twin sister. I had a tremendous crush on her. She visited me in the hospital when I had ankle surgery. I asked her if she would go out, but she told me she had a boyfriend. No one ever turned me down so gently. Of course, I was embarrassed at the silence, and Linda said her good-byes. I never saw her again.
The worst memory I have of Burger King came on my last day there. Harry had hired me to paint the ceiling tiles in the dining area. I couldn’t start the job until after the restaurant closed. I arrived at midnight with Cousin Charlie. I don’t remember if anyone else was present. Prior to my arrival, I’d been doing the regular Friday night thing: driving between the Copper Kettle and Shoney’s and drinking beer and felt good by the time midnight arrived. I climbed the step ladder and began rolling the tiles. Back and forth I moved the roller in an easy rhythm. Suddenly, wooziness and dizziness struck. I climbed down from the ladder and ran out the back door. The rest of the night was spent on my hands and knees while I vomited and told God I’d never drink again if He made the world quit spinning.
I’m glad I had a part time job that left me with so many memories. I was young and stupid then, the same as most teens who worked part time during those years. We enjoyed life whether we were at work or play.