When I was just a lad, my Dad said I should learn that "money didn't grow on trees." So by the time I could handle mowing our lawn, I decided it was time to put that theory to the test.
I had never been shy when it came to talking to adults ... a trait that served me well my whole young life. I'm not quite sure how the subject came up, but I remember talking to the pharmacist who owned Geneva Drug Company — where my dad had his optometry office — about mowing his grass. It would be convenient to me since he lived just across the street and up a few houses from our home on Live Oak Street. If memory serves me correctly, we settled on $2 per mowing ... which I thought was most generous. I managed to get the yard mowed without any major incidents, like inadvertently removing any toes or fingers. I always hated when the appointed day and time for mowing interfered with something much more enjoyable — like a neighborhood baseball game.
When it came to money, I can remember begging and pleading with Daddy to give me a weekly allowance. I finally wore down his resistance and got him to agree to pay me fifty cents a week for basically doing nothing. I used the old tried and true argument that "Everybody else that I knew got an allowance."
When payday arrived, I would usually go by his office on Friday afternoon after school to pick up my half-dollar allotment. And most times it was spent by the time the five and dime closed that same day. I figured it was a great idea to support the local economy!
I remember spending my unearned funds on things like pea shooters, whoopee cushions, and disappearing ink. The necessities of life as a kid.
Occasionally, in the heat of a south Alabama summer, I would invest a dime in a super cold Coca-Cola from the Standard Oil station across the street from the public library.
If I were lucky enough, I would catch one of the local boiled peanut salesmen on the street and pick up a dime bag before they ran out of goobers. The Coke and peanuts were so good together ... well worth investing a large portion of my weekly allowance.
By the time I had given up on becoming a mowing mogul, I got a part time summer job that was — in a word — GREAT.
My parents were friends with the owners of Lake Geneva — the oasis within the great desert of south Alabama's broiling heat and stifling humidity. In addition to the lake, the dance hall built out over a part of the lake, and the picnic tables, there was the big swimming pool. The pool was fed by a huge artesian well that also kept the water in the lake full year-round.
I was lucky enough to work a couple or three shifts a week in the concession stand at the pool. It was your ordinary snack bar.
We sold soft drinks, ice cream, chips, and most anything that was cold, sweet or salty.
But the thing that separated this place from any other concession stand was that we rented swim trunks!
So if all the rest of your group had come prepared to swim and you hadn't, no problem — just rent a suit!
That summer was one of the most memorable of my young life — until I got a real job ... working at the local radio station in Geneva. It was really better than anything I could have imagined: wearing cut-off blue jeans, T-shirts and flip-flops and playing rock 'n' roll music ... and best of all getting paid to do it!
Working at WGEA radio prepared me for my first job in TV. When I went to college as a freshman at the University of Alabama, I got a job working at Alabama Public Television ...quite by accident.
I had gone over to the APT studios to look around a bit. The receptionist asked me if I were there about the job and without a moment's hesitation I answered, "Yes ... yes, I am." Within a half-hour, the job was mine and the rest of my broadcasting career is history.
Sometimes, it's not being afraid to take a chance that opens career doors for you.
I'm living proof.