The minimum wage of my youth

Published 5:28 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

First of all, “Thank You, Lord” for the rain that we received this week. We really needed it, but You knew that, didn’t You?

Summertime was a great time when I was growing up on the farm. I never went to bed asking the question of what I was going to do the next day. There was always something to do.

One of the changes between my youthful years and currently is that jobs are not so plentiful for our youth. I wish it were different because working is important to growing up. Plus, the saying “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is true.

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Money is different these days, too. It takes so much money to make it and that doesn’t pertain only to individual lives, but also to businesses. A business is not as free to hire summer help as it used to be.

One of my church members, whose family grows peas for shelling and selling, asked a young teenager at church Sunday. “Would you like to help us with peas this year?”

The teen, a young lady, seemed excited about being asked and I could see the dollar signs twinkling in her eyes. It’s about a three week job of six or seven hours a day and she will probably get minimum wage.

I think that wage is $7.25 per hour now. Oh, how I would have jumped for joy at making that much money when I was thirteen.

The wages of my youth were not figured in an hourly fashion, but in a daily manner. If a neighbor needed labor in our community it would probably be to fill a slot in the tobacco patch. You’d have to know that crop to understand how hard that day’s work would be. Just take my word for it.

Still, we all looked forward to summer and work. It was different from school and we were ready for something different by the time summer rolled around. In addition, there was the moo-lah! That’s slang for money.

My teenage friend who will help in peas might make as much as $35-40 dollars a day. That’s just a little more than we made per day when I was her age. Believe me when I say we boys and girls who were working in those tobacco patches 50 years ago could never have imagined that much money. Times have changed.

Most of the time, my brother and I were busy on our own farm and to say the wages were depressed would be speaking very kindly. The wages were nonexistent. When we questioned the boss, our daddy, about wages he told us that we were the most expensive labor he had to pay. We never went on strike either.

We worked at least two days a week for pay. That was with my Uncle and Aunt. They helped us and we helped them. They paid us and we paid them, but we didn’t pay ourselves when we worked in our own fields.

So what were the paid wages for farm labor back in those days? Four dollars a day! A day was from about 6:30 in the morning until late afternoon. It was about a nine hour day and, when figured on an hourly basis, about 45 cents an hour.

When I see the protests these days for an increased minimum wage, it doesn’t bother me. I think people should be paid fair wages.

At the same time, a dollar more a day would not have made me work harder. I’m not sure that can be bought.