I coasted down the hill leading to our house, quite fast, slowing down a bit in order to negotiate the driveway, which ascended – no mean feat. To the left, up the dirt driveway and into the front yard, hittin' the brakes and doin' a fast dismount, like in the movies, then dropping my bike and running in the front door. Mother liked me home before dark.
The bike had been a wonderful gift from my parents and although I treated it roughly, it was my "horse" and primary mode of transportation. I used it to deliver papers early in the morning and take me everywhere. We were in the Depression and although I cared nothing for economics, I did know that money was scarce. I guess I was about thirteen or fourteen and not yet into music. I liked roaming and adventure and playing with my pals. Shouting "I'm home. Mother," I went to my room to figure out what I needed to prepare for school the next morning. -
A few minutes later I was aware that Dad had come home – was he early? – and was talking to Mother in the front room. My attention became focused when she cried out, "Oh! My goodness! What are we going to do?"
Dad began laughing and saying something like, "I told that sucker where he could get off. Oh, don't worry, I'll find another job tomorrow." His confidence was calming and details came out as he told the rest of the story.
He felt he'd been treated unfairly and with disrespect, so he simply terminated the engagement. My memory doesn't include exactly what job he had at that time. Dad was a salesman and changed jobs a lot. There was nothing he wouldn't or couldn't do in order to feed his family. I think his forte was cars and/or insurance. He'd done house-to-house sales in earlier times and even delivered ice during the period of which I speak. You see, refrigerators weren’t yet common in the 30s and people had iceboxes, so the iceman cameth. He wasn’t afraid of work, and always did work. If he worked for you, he'd work his hand to the bone but, you had to treat him "right" – or else.
I would say that this scene repeated itself a time or two during my youth: Dad suddenlyquitting a job that we needed. He always asserted his right to be a man as well as an employee. I, on the other hand, had a little trouble in asserting myself in the work force. Although it was quite painful for me to resign from my paper route, I finally did. The next year found me working at Hart’s Pharmacy in Plainview, Texas. I served as an apprentice soda jerk under an older lad whom I admired greatly. He showed me how to make coke syrup and run the ice cream freezer and, in general, gave me the lion's share of the dirty work. For instance, we did curb service and when some old couple wanted a coke at the curb he'd send me out. But if a car full of high schoolers came by, he'd take it: in a long white apron, balancing a tray full of drinks out to the curb with great panache, where he'd flirt and collect the money at the same time. He was admirably handsome and glib and I did his every bidding....."Better wash up some glasses, squirt, we may have a rush hour soon."
Hart's Pharmacy prided itself on its milkshakes but the price was high. I was embarrassed when someone ordered an "extra thick" shake without asking the price and then, after drinking it, asked, "How much do I owe you?" All I could do when they howled with disbelief was glance toward the back part of the pharmacy as though Mr. Hart would back me up if necessary.
I'd also accepted the job without asking Mr. Hart what the job paid. After a couple of weeks went by, I mentioned "pay" and he dismissed me with, "Oh, we pay by the month here." During the rest of my month I dreamed about the wages I was gonna get, occasionally adjusting up or down, depending on my mood. Money is so relative that I can recall neither the price of a thick shake at Hart's nor the miserable (I thought) pay I finally got when payday came. I swallowed my pride and kept working for a year or two, maybe till I got out of High School. I quit that job with a good excuse – 'I'll be going off to college, Mr. Hart." It was another year before I left town but Mr. Hart didn't care. The job had been an education – and an awakening. But more of that later.
Now, I’ve been a union musician for many years and have learned a thing or two about the funny events that ensue between employer and musician. Usually we determine the pay before the service and we hopefully collect that pay after the service is completed in a satisfactory manner. If we have to be absent, we send a sub. And if we quit a steady job, we give two weeks notice, etc., etc. There are notable exceptions and many unscrupulous acts on both sides, but mostly on the employer's side. Believe me, I've been burned a few times, and disappointed too. But the beat goes on and I always attempt to do my job well, expecting recompense in a timely manner, while maintaining a mutually respectful relationship in the work place.
Recently, I quit a job that I'd had for almost three years, a once-a-week musical engagement. I liked the job and the pay was alright. but there came a sudden lack of that respect that is required, a lapse on the part of the boss. I had no choice. Remembering my honorable father, I simply quit. I can hear Dad laughing aloud and reassuring his family: "Oh, I'll find another job tomorrow. Don't worry."
It was my first visit to Colorado since Mother died (see “Colorado & Oklahoma: Some Downs, Some Ups”), even though my sister and one of my brothers still live there, not to mention the presence of Mydar Kroom in the mountains above Denver. I didn't get to see Mydar, even though the weather was superb throughout my eight-day stay. I did, however, see A.J. and Lew and their families.
It all started with a bid from the Peek View Jazz Society in Greeley. They pool their resources and sometimes invite traveling cats to spark up their programs. I was one such cat. Having agreed to play for them on January 21 (though it didn't pay that much, the sweet idea appealed to me), I set about getting another area gig or two. With assistance from Peter Poses of KRFC-FM (“Home-grown Radio in Fort Collins”), I contacted Dazzle, a newish Denver jazz club that I’d visited in 2003 but had never played, and their booker offered me the night of January 20.
That satisfied me, too. But then a young friend called me about a publishing matter. He’s Dr.Mark Davenport, son of the late La Noue Davenport, who was an early music specialist in New York with whom I’d played and sang (yes, early music) and also recorded a jazz record which featured a consort of recorders. La Noue and me handled the "hot" choruses on alto and tenor recorders respectively. When I told Mark of my upcoming trip to Denver, he proceeded to get us – I was working with a quartet that included several of Denver's finest – a concert date on the campus of his school, Regis University, which has lately become a hotbed for early music. That concert was scheduled for January 24.
Wow! Now this was really getting good. Then KUVO-FM, the jazz radio station in Denver, asked us to play live in their studio on Saturday afternoon, January 22. Hey, four gigs in five days. I spent the rest of my time visiting with my kin and with old pals at KUVO and also with jazz aficionado Mitch Feldman, who wrote the liner notes for Right on My Way Home and has recently relocated to Denver, after a long sojourn in Italy, to head up INDIEgo Jazz promotions.
In the meantime. Sally flew on to the southwest corner of Colorado where she visited with her son and his family, including three yummy granddaughters. She rejoined me in time for the Regis concert and some family visiting.
As I said before, the weather in Colorado was fine, with sunny days and as temps as high as 60 degrees. In fact, it was so good that we totally forgot our overcoats (accidentally left ‘em at Sis' house) and flew home to find that two feet of snow had fallen in the East during our absence!
© Bob Dorough (January 2005)