The next summer, shortly before my sixteenth birthday, I was hired as an usherette at a movie theater. The now defunct State Theater in downtown Marysville even supplied employees with a uniform—maroon slacks in shiny polyester and jacket with a black stripe running down the outside of the pants, black shirt provided by me. All decked out and equipped with a large flashlight I began checking tickets to see if they were general seating or loge, and showing customers to their seats. The loge seats cost a little more and were in the balcony where smoking was allowed. I had friends who smoked, mostly guys, so naturally I let them sit in the balcony whether they paid for loge or not, which they never did. But, after watching the same movie three or four times, I frequently became bored and entertained myself by spotlighting couples making out in the back rows. People complained and transportation to and from work became problematic. Most evenings my mother dropped me off on the way to her waitressing job at the Uriz Hotel. Then someone from the hotel (restaurant) would pick me up and take me back to the kitchen where I feasted on tidbits the cooks prepared for me until my mother got off work. All in all, it wasn’t a bad job, but for some of the aforementioned reasons, I didn’t last through the summer.
I spent my last summer in California working the hop harvest at the E. Clemens Horst Ranch outside Wheatland. I had become a married woman four days after graduating from high school and needed money to join my Navy husband in Millington, Tennessee where he was stationed at that time. Tom had lived with his Uncle Howard and Aunt Eunice in company housing on the Horst Ranch since leaving home at fourteen. Howard, a full-time employee of the ranch, managed to get me and Tom’s sister, Betty, on the payroll that summer. Betty and I are the same age, and she and Tom were the oldest of twelve siblings from deaf parents. If I considered my childhood tough, I only need to think about theirs for about three seconds.
Betty and I worked in the hop house, a two-story building of which the upper story had a slatted floor covered with burlap. The hop flowers were poured onto the second floor, and our task was to rake them even so that heating units on the lower floor could dry them before they were pressed into bales. Hops are prickly and itchy, summers in northern California are hot, with heaters, even hotter. Not a cool job.
Uncle Howard and his brothers celebrated payday with a trip to town for cold cuts: bologna, sliced American cheese, Wonder Bread, chips and sodas. Several members of my husband’s family worked the hop harvest, and when they returned from town we sat on the tailgates of pickup trucks to eat fat bologna sandwiches, drink Coca Cola and commiserate about broken tractors, long days and low pay. Howard’s wife, Aunt Eunice, was a terrible cook. After days of her beans and hockey-puck biscuits, bologna sandwiches were a feast.