For awhile our dad was a bankruptcy trustee attorney, which meant that when a business went bankrupt, Dad had to get the maximum amount of money out of it in order to pay the creditors. One summer, Dad had a drugstore in bankruptcy. That gave him a wonderful idea for keeping my sister Lindy and me away from our mother the better part of the summer.
I was sixteen and Lindy was fourteen, and we both were dying to enter the world of work, having had our fill of babysitting jobs for fifty cents an hour. Dad hired us at the magnificent rate of one dollar an hour to work at Nirider’s Drugstore. This drugstore was an old-time drugstore, which was probably the reason it was going out of business. It had a pharmacy (which of course we were too young and too unqualified to run) and a soda fountain (which we took great delight in running).
To maximize income, Dad didn’t want to spend any money (other than the necessary wages) to run the drugstore, and so he came up with the idea of “Low-Cal Milkshakes” which were made with soda water instead of milk. He claimed people would love them, but instead many people informed us that they were not on a diet and wanted the original milkshake which, of course, we had no way to provide.
Our hours of work were 9AM to 9PM. Ironically, for a lawyer, Dad didn’t pay a lot of attention to Child Labor Laws and he certainly didn’t pay overtime. Nonetheless, my sister and I were thrilled to be left in charge of a “fun” drugstore where we were allowed to make ourselves Cherry Cokes and Green Rivers all day.
We both did a certain amount of shopping since the drugstore had all kinds of lipstick, perfume, and other beauty products. Lindy spent a lot of time calling a place across the street that was called “Phone a Feast” and ordering massive quantities of food for us. Dad had to remind her that she was using up all the money she was earning buying food.
One day a man came in when I was in the drugstore alone. He asked if there was anyone there who could “help him”, a druggist or “even another man.” I said
No, I’m in charge. How can I help you?
When my dad came to pick me up that night, I told him about the man and the mysterious product that was kept behind the counter. After explaining to me that the man was looking for condoms (and what they were) and that they were kept behind the counter, he laughed his hearty laugh.
The experience of running a drugstore made me even more responsible. Dad allowed us to have friends in the drugstore, but they had to pay for whatever they consumed. The store had to be cleaned every evening before we left and, of course, Dad pitched in with the broom.
During the day, customers had to be greeted with a smile and hopefully talked into buying more than they had originally planned to buy. Our summer was not only a vacation from Mother, but it was an education in the real life of work.