Child Labor

Paul Morrone |

By Thomas Morrone, CFP®, CPA

It is funny where a friendly conversation can take you. Even though snow is only a distant memory as the weather turns warmer here in CT, a friend and I were rehashing childhood memories, specifically those around snow days. We both laughed about the example of snow days off from school. Most kids loved snow days so they could get back in bed, sleep the morning away and then sit in front of the television all afternoon. Nope, not us.

We would put on our snow pants and all the layers of clothes, hats, and gloves. We would also put on our hand-me-down, one size fits all galoshes with the steel clasps on the front with our heavy wool socks and a plastic bag wrapped around our socks to keep our feet dry. But we were not getting all bundled up to go play in the snow. We would grab the snow shovel from the garage and trek through our neighborhood, knocking on doors to see who wanted their driveway and walkways shoveled, for a fee of course. I don’t remember how much we charged to do the snow shoveling but whatever we earned was more than we had at the beginning of the day. It was the beginning of respecting the value of a dollar, the meaning of work ethic and my introduction to the concept of entrepreneurism.

My repertoire wasn’t limited to snow. We would rake leaves in the fall, do spring clean ups, clean out garages and just about anything that someone was willing to pay us to do. Many times, we charged way too little for the work performed, only to be rewarded by the homeowner with a “tip” for a job well done. This was my introduction to the concept of providing a high level of service. We became known in the neighborhood as the hard-working kids. Better to be known for that than for being a troublemaker. The irony is that we just thought it was the smart thing to do. Our fathers worked so hard, day in and day out, that it was just an extension of how we were raised and was all we knew. 

As I got older, my dad would drag my butt out of bed at 6:00 on Saturday morning and bring me to his gas station. We would stop at the diner and get a hot breakfast on the way. I did not do anything complicated or anything that required much knowledge, but I worked. I swept floors, emptied trash cans, put away tools, stocked shelves, cleaned restrooms or whatever needed to be done. I never complained about working Saturday mornings, even knowing that many of my friends slept in and watched cartoons. 

Spending all those snow days and Saturday mornings working as a kid taught me lessons I wouldn’t know the value of until much later in life and has helped me identify those that just didn’t share the same respect for a hard day’s work. From corporate America to Main Street, USA, there is always that Eddie Haskell type that would try to get away with everything. While those looking to take advantage may have short bouts of success, karma usually prevails. Those of us that had to earn our strips the hard way didn’t have to worry as much about that. After all, Eddie Haskell “interviewed” well with Ward and June Cleaver.

Until the Next Tom’s Take…

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