By John J. Duncan Jr.
My brother and sisters and I were very fortunate to have parents who put great pressure on us in a kind, loving, but strict, way to do well in school.
Good schools are very important, but I think it is also true that most people learn just as much or even more outside of school.
I think all the various jobs I had while in school taught me a great deal about people and about life in general.
I always felt food about earning most of my spending money, and I sold programs, cokes and popcorn at UT football and basketball games, Knoxville Knights hockey games, and worked as a batboy for the Knoxville Smokies for five and a half seasons.
My first hourly-paid job was for $1.00 an hour as a groundskeeper at the Holston-Chilhowie ballpark when I was 15.
In high school, I worked as a bag boy at the A&P grocery store on Asheville Highway. I made $1.10 an hour for the first six months and $1.15 after that, with time and a half on Sundays.
I also joined a union, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Workers, which was the union for A&P employees.
The summer after I graduated from Holston, I became a salesman at Sears on Central. I got to work full-time that summer to temporarily replace a woman who was out due to a car accident.
I was required to wear a suit and tie and was very proud of that job. I worked part-time after starting at UT and had more hours over the holidays, selling cameras, luggage and office equipment, which was all in the same department.
Because of my work at and love for UT sports, I was surprised at how many people did not go to the Tennessee games when I had to work on some of the football Saturdays.
I still have a very clear memory of the first time I was called to the office at Sears. At the escalator, I saw David Weaver, who was 18 like me and who had gone to Central High School. He worked in the paint department.
I told him I bet I had been “hit by one of those Hallmark shoppers” who were mystery shoppers for Sears.
David told me he had just gotten a very angry call from a woman to whom he had sold the wrong color of paint.
We both were scared, thinking we were in big trouble. But they had called us to the office to tell us we had been there for six months and were getting a raise from $1.25 to $1.30 an hour.
I worked two summers, 1967 and 1968, full-time in the Nixon for President campaign and will talk more about that in another column.
I then worked my senior year at UT, 1968-69, as a full-time reporter for The Knoxville Journal, our morning daily newspaper.
The Journal gave titles instead of money and I was called the Assistant State Editor, writing stories about events in the areas near but outside of Knox County. I also did the tv logs and obituaries.
I was admitted to go to law school full-time at George Washington but ended up teaching American Government and Journalism and advising the school newspaper at TC Williams High School in Alexandria.
I joined my second union there, the Alexandria Education Association. I loved teaching and will write a full column about that.
In fact, I loved every job I ever had at the time I had it and thought very seriously about making my career at each place – A&P, Sears, The Journal and as a high school teacher.