Right after I graduated from high school, my family moved to Texas. I got a job driving a truck hauling eggs. I saved about 95 percent of what I earned (around $700). It was a staggering pile of cash for an 18 year old who was used to getting along on meager fare. It amounted to about a sixth of what the average worker earned in a year in those days. The major temptation was to buy a fairly good and sexy used car. I could have used it to pay half down on a used '55 Chevy V8 210 post, which could be had for $1200-1500. Like most '50s teens, I loved cars; they symbolized freedom and unlimited possibilities. Believe me, that Chevy, or something like it, was very, very tempting. But that would have meant delaying college and working to pay off the payments.
The next summer, 1959, I worked at Nashville Electric Service, on one of their construction crews laying conduits in new substations. I operated one of the most important technical inventions in the history of mankind. A shovel.
But that year, there were other sirens calling me as well. One was to hit the road. Travel around some, see what's over the hill. Again, I think most young men feel that urge. Some go on an extended trip with friends, just driving around the country and raising a little Hell. Others, with money, go to Europe, or at least they did in the old days. Still others join the service. I believe the drive that gets in the heart of a young man is a basic, instinctive urge to roam, to go to strange places, to see the world, to have an adventure. But I guess maybe I'm not the adventurous type...I suppressed that urge and stayed on course.
In the summer of 1960, I again worked for the electrical utility, this time in a pole setting crew. It too was hot, hard work. I again used a shovel, a small one this time, to remove the dirt and rock from the deep cylindrical holes being dug for new poles.
I worked at the electrical utility from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. I got home around 3:30, bathed, and made it to work at a local grocery store from 4:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m.
I worked 13 hour days M-F and then on Saturday, worked at the grocery from 2:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. I again saved almost all the money I earned. I had no free time but I loved it. This time I had a little added motivation for being careful about those summer wages...I was getting married in mid August.
After all these years, I can still remember the strong temptation, especially in '58 and '59 ('60 not so much) to throw caution in the ditch, forget my plans, and spend that summer money, the most I'd ever had in my pocket in my life. I felt a strong desire to take the risk, to blow it all, or maybe gamble the whole stash on some wild, off the wall, crazy undertaking.
But somehow, someway, I kept my head down and didn't give in to the temptations to spend those summer wages. I'm not criticizing anyone else who took the risk, rolled the dice, hit the road, or perhaps followed some wild dream. But I don't envy them either.
People take different paths and the lucky ones make the one they choose their own. I'm comfortable with my choice and glad now that I didn't blow those summer wages.
Ian Tyson's..."Summer Wages, sung by Tyson, Emmy Lou, and Sylvia."