I've been working since I was 13. My first job was at a repertory dinner theater company called the West Abbey Theater in Soquel. I did everything from serving bowls of snack mix, to working backstage, to acting on stage. We'd share tips and sometimes the audience would throw money on the stage during the curtain call.
My second job was at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Canfield Concessions. Canfield ran all the games that you find along the walk beneath the rides and between the corn dogs. I was essentially a carny. $2.85 an hour. On my first night, I was assigned the milk bottle game. Three balls to take down a pyramid of heavy metal milk bottles. But you didn't have to just knock them all down, you also had to knock them off the platform. It was next to impossible.
It was tradition to get the new guy to do the worst job. At the milk bottle game that meant to crawl under the game on your stomach and find the stray baseballs. The joke is that there never is any. But you had to look everywhere just to make sure.
The milk bottle game was the worst. This was a time when the Fort Ord Army base was still in action and every weekend every jarhead around the bay went to Santa Cruz to get some aggression out. For some reason this meant paying to throw baseballs at bottles. The problem was the inebriation... and when an Army Private on leave is drunk with baseballs, the guy working behind the counter looks an awful lot like a milk bottle. I've been beaned more times than Craig Biggio.
While there, I worked the dime toss game, Skee Ball, hoops, clowntoss, a machine BB gun game, some weird game where you try to knock down a wall of cats with balls, the roller bowler, and a bunch of others that I forget. The one constant between all the games is how black my hands got handling the money. We wore aprons for the change and would constantly squish our hands in the pouches of quarters.
The gig paid for my first scooter; a blue Honda Aero 50. It took the entire summer to earn the $600 to buy it. I'm not totally sure it was worth it.
What I remember most about the job... the mix of low tide, fried artichoke hearts, grease, and beer aroma. The stick of the sea air on my skin. Gang violence. The constant mistrust by the Canfield management of me and my teenage sub minimum wage earning co-workers with bags and bags of cash around us. Free rides on the Giant Dipper.
I took the kids to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History today. Since the boardwalk is celebrating its 100th anniversary, they have a great exhibit featuring art and relics from and about the place. It brought back some memories.