Motivating With Money

A year or so after I graduated  from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went to work for a newspaper Dad asked me to go to his warehouse in North Charlotte one Saturday afternoon and assemble some corrugated box partitions, see how many I could make in an hour.

He and Brother Dave had decided to get into the partition assembling business and he wanted to know how much they were going to have pay for labor.

So I put some together. The table I worked on –a sheet of plywood on top of a drum– was wobbly and the corrugated partition board I was assembling was crooked, but I was able to assemble 23, 24 partitions an hour.

I told Dad that, with practice, on a better table, with straight board, I could probably make 30 a hour.

At that time the minimum wage was $1.40 so I told him that he and Dave were going to have pay a nickel a piece. People would not do that kind of work for minimum wage, they were going to have to give them a chance to make a little more.

So that’s what they paid, five cents per partition.

A few weeks later Dad told me that they had a man making 40 partitions an hour. I was surprised. A little later he said the guy was making 60 an hour. I was a really surprised. Then he said the guy was making 80 an hour. I was amazed.

Five dollars an hour was good money in '67
Five dollars an hour was fabulous pay for unskilled labor in 1967, the equivalent of $37.49 in 2017 dollars.

That’s when I asked for a job, working three nights a week and all day Saturday, assembling partitions. I got to where I could average 100 an hour all day long. [I could do 120 an hour for half an hour or so.] During the day I made $3.44 an hour writing news stories for The Charlotte News and nights and weekends I made $5 a hour assembling partitions.

Post script: There’s a lesson here somewhere, about how productivity goes up when productivity and pay are linked.

Coming Monday:  The Intruder

NOTE: The Final Edition was one year old last week.  I’ve posted two stories a week and I thought you might be interested in seeing a list of the 10 best read posts.  Three of the top four are newspaper stories. Two are river stories and two are hiker stories.

Obviously, the earlier a story was posted the better chance it had to made the Top Ten but, anyway, here they are:

  1. PIZ ZA! PIZ ZA! PIZ ZA!” Padding the Roanoke – 6/23/17
  2. Those Mean Old Newspapermen – 3/20/17
  3. This Was Not A Real Job – 9/4/17
  4. Oh, Copyboy?” – 1/30/17
  5. Lost on Blood Mountain, Part 1 – 2/16/17
  6. Mind Game [Video] 11/25/16
  7. Bear Bryant Called – 3/13/17
  8. “F” – 5/8/17
  9. Are You Boys Armed- 5/5/17
  10. He Might Be A Redneck – 12/26/16  

Go Tell Daddy What You Did

When I was a boy I came within a nickel of burning down our house.

We lived on a farm near Gadsden, Alabama, and Brother Dave and I went through a fire phase, setting them, playing with them. I was about eight, he was two and a half years older. 

This particular fire, which I unwittingly built near an underground oil tank, was mine alone.  When my little stick fire got into the grass it began to spread and when it reached the oil-soaked ground over the tank it quickly became a big fire.

The farmhouse. It looks a lot better now than it did 65 years ago.
The farmhouse: It looks a lot better now than it did 65 years ago.

I ran into the house, to the kitchen, pushed past my brothers and sisters, filled a frying pan with water, rushed back outside, and threw it on the fire.  And then I ran back inside and got another frying pan full of water.  I never believed it, but a man who worked for Dad and lived in a tenant house nearby, said the flames were taller than our three-story house.

When I ran back inside to get another a third frying pan of water one of my sisters asked me, “What are you doing, Pat?”

I told her.

My brothers and sisters who were home –I had six– rushed outside and the fight was on to keep the fire from spreading to our house. Somebody called the fire department, but we had it out before the firemen arrived.

When Dad got home from Altoona, Alabama, where he mined coal, Marge, my oldest sister, ordered me: “Go tell Daddy what you did!”

So I went to him, stood by his chair, and confessed.

He asked me one question, “Did you help put it out?”

“Yes sir,” I said.

That was all. I was dismissed and he went back to reading his newspaper.

NOTE: One day, when no one else was home, one of Dave’s fires got out of hand and burned up near the house, the syrup factory, and the barn before he and I corralled it. It was touch and go for a while there. Finally, there was only one small flame left.

“Who started this fire?” Dave asked.

“You did,” I said.

And then he swept his broom across the last bit of fire and asked, “Who put it out?”

Coming Monday: Typhoon!