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181105 November 5, 2018


My First "Taste" Of Work
by Tommy Towery
LHS '64

(Editor's Note: A Reprint from the May 5, 2003 Lee's Traveller)

          Several of you have mentioned the jobs you had while you were students at Lee.  We have never really gone into the subject in detail, so I thought I might start the ball rolling.  First of all, I have to admit that I never really worked while I was at Lee - at least not full time or for very long.  I did try a couple of things, but they never really worked out. This week I will tell you the story about my "one night" job I tried, but which didn't pan out.  I think I was in the 10th grade at the time.

          The opportunity came one evening following a scout meeting when I was having an ice cream with my old scoutmaster Lucky Sandlin. We had stopped in at a place on Andrew Jackson Way that I want to remember as Tastee Freez. This was across the street from the current Mullins' and down a little towards Five Points.  If anyone else can clear this up, that would be a help.  After working with small business for nine years,  I know know that the franchise faced many problems including they only had walk-in counter service,  the building was not a stand-alone store with ample parking, and that only a few blocks away was one of the local favorite hangouts, Zesto, that had a similar fare of goods. Basically, business was not good.

          Anyway, we were sitting there and the manager knew Lucky and he asked him if he knew anyone that needed a job. The idea of working at an ice cream store sounded great to me, and although I had no work experience and no references save Lucky, I offered myself as a sacrifice to the work force.  Perhaps the Normal Rockwellian idea of the soda jerk standing at the counter serving all the cute teenage girls played a part in this decision. The manager looked me over, and made me an offer to come try it one night (without pay I might add) and we would both see how it worked out.

          The next afternoon I showed up around 5pm, with my black pants and white shirt and hired on to work until 10pm.  Now remember, I had never worked anywhere before, so this was very scary to me.  Although I was to receive no pay, I could have whatever I wanted to eat. This turned out to be a bad idea for both me and for the owner!

          It was easy enough in the beginning, because there were very few customers.  Perhaps that is why the business did not last very long at that site. I remember having to fill up the soft ice cream machine with the half gallon milk containers of magic liquid elixir that would turn into the while soft ice cream after spending a short while in the stainless steel contraption into which I poured it.  I dished out all the toppings, and turned on the heat for the chocolate liquid that you dipped ice cream into to cover it with the hard chocolate shell. I learned the technique of swirling out the cones for the few customers that came in, and I learned how to make hot fudge sundaes and banana splits. All this was done under the watchful eye and with the assistance of the manager. Business was really slow and at 10pm when we locked the door, I learned the real work was cleaning all the instruments needed to bring in profits. The cleaning part was probably the reason that I elected not to stay, although having to stay until 11pm on a school night might have also been a factor.  I spent almost an hour wiping down the stainless steel counters, getting up the sticky ice cream spots that dropped on the floor and putting away all the containers that held the toppings and nuts for the sweets which were sold.

          Needless to say, the white shirt I wore home that night was not as white as it was when I showed up for work.  It looked like Walt Disney had thrown up on it. There were red stains from cherries and strawberries, brown stains from chocolate sauces, yellow pineapple stains, and white sticky spots from ice cream  not so soft anymore after having sat on my shirt for the evening. My shoes were sticky as well.

          I have to admit that I do not remember if I was the one who decided that I did not need to work there, or if it was the manager.  Even in my teenage brain it was obvious to me he did not really need a full time worker because he did not have the business to support one.  I think he found that it might be too much for one, but was too little for two workers, so we came to the mutual consent I would not return to work the next day or ever again.

          In the end, it cost me a lot over the years to have worked at Tastee Freeze that one night.  Before that night, I had never eaten a hot fudge sundae.  They were always too expensive for me to spend my money on.  Usually when I went to those places I would get a simple cone, or a chocolate sundae, but the hot fudge variety was always about 10 cents more.  Having never tasted one, I did not know the difference was worth the price. But that night, I had my first taste of hot fudge.  I also had a banana split, probably a pineapple sundae and a couple of dipped cones. I was like a kid in an ice cream store. Maybe the manager knew that I would eat up his profits and that was why I did not go back.

          The Tastee Freez work experience never made its way to any of my future resumes, but the taste of hot fudge became a stable in my diet from that night onward. It remains so today, even though today it is "fat free hot fudge" and "fat free yogurt" upon which it is heaped.

          Thus is the saga of my "one night" job. Later I will relay the story of  my "one week" job working at the concession stand at the Highway 72 Drive-in. The Traveller welcomes any job stories any of you classmates wish to share with us. 

When looking for "Ice Cream" songs, this is the one that I like the best:

I Love Rocky Road

        Memphis, TN - Sue and I just returned from a 12-day trip to California to babysit the 7-year-old twins while my daughter and son-in-law worked a trade show in Germany for his business. It was a rare flight on a commercial aircraft (rather than a military cargo plane) and even though we made stops in Denver going and coming the flight was not too bad. The weather in Southern California was great and I was surprised at how easy the baby sitting was for 7-year-olds as compared to the work required when they were five.  That was why I missed the latest Lee Lunch Bunch gathering.