My dad always seemed to have my brother and I up early on some Saturdays, hustling trying to “make that cheese!!!” Some of you know what I’m talking about! Even though daddy worked full time, he had his hustle going to that oftentimes caused me and my brother to miss some episodes of the Super Friends, and what child wanted to miss the Super Friends and all of the other Saturday Morning Cartoons, climaxed with old school wrestling? Many a Saturday morning before 6:00 am, my brother and I would have to wake up, get dressed and ride out with my dad to help him with his “part-time” business.
My dad worked for a company called Systematics, which was a data processing company founded in 1968 by Walter Smiley, who with Arkansas super businessman Jack T Stephens, built the company to be one of the top data processing companies in Little Rock, AR during that time. You know the funny thing even as I write this book, I still don’t know exactly what my dad’s job title was for the company, as it seemed he did a little bit of everything! Some kind of way, my dad had discovered the grand old concept of recycling, and this would be the money making opportunity my dad would capitalize on for years. I can remember as early as 7 or 8 up until a senior in high school helping my dad on Saturday’s on Shall Street in Little Rock, AR, separating carbon from the dot matrix paper, placing card stock in boxes, and going through the building getting aluminum cans as well. I think this is where I actually get my drive to be an entrepreneur from, as well as my strong work ethic. Can you imagine kids today waking up at 5:30 to 6:00 am going to help their parents work? The thought itself kind of makes you chuckle huh? How far we have gotten away from teaching our children responsibility! That’s another book!!
On the Saturdays that my brother and I didn’t want to get up and go, my dad usually could count on one of my cousins or uncle going to help him out while we slept in, however, the reward of an extra $25.00 to $30.00 for an eight and nine year old back in the 70’s and 80’s was like a goldmine, so we had no problem getting up to go help our dad out. We knew that we would get breakfast, a snack from the vending machine at his job, usually a Hostess Honey Bun and Andy Capp Potato Chips, and this was also the time I would get to have a cup of coffee without my mother knowing about it. My mom thought I was a bit too young to be drinking coffee, and at every chance I would try to get some at home, I was met with defeat. I knew though, since my dad was a lot more liberal than my mom, I could get a cup of coffee and not worry about mom finding out. Well, I guess she knows now!!
Not only were the small perks of extra snacks and coffee a plus of helping my dad, my grandfather had a store that he ran from the back of his house. Thompson Confectionary! Do you realize how much one dollar could buy back in 1978? Helping my dad out, almost guaranteed enough candy and snacks to last the entire weekend and sometimes up into the following week as well. Even though there were often struggles and attitudes of going to help my dad out, missing an episode of Super Friends couldn’t compare to the thrill of having some change in my pocket and going “Big Daddy’s” store.
I’ll never forget the day my “eyes became open” to the things that should have not been placed before them so early. As our custom was, after we had spent at least 3 to 4 hours at my dad’s job, separating the paper from the card stock from the aluminum cans and loading them onto the truck, we would then drive to Paper Stock dealers, who were a recycling company in North Little Rock Ar. We always thought it was neat to drive the truck on the scales for weight, then unload, and daddy would then go and “get paid”. I will never forget one particular Saturday, daddy backed the truck into the bin and we began to throw dot matrix paper, newspaper, card stock, and other mixed paper into their designated areas. We had done it so many times that we knew where each pile of papers were to be thrown. On this particular day, one of my cousins came to help us as well. There we were, slinging papers left and right until I slipped on something shiny beneath my feet. I slipped and fell but it wasn’t a bad fall because the huge amounts of paper had provided the necessary padding that I needed. I can remember my brother, my cousin and I laughing about it, and as I got up, I noticed something under my foot that I had never seen before! I always heard about it from the older boys, but I had never come face to face with it before in my life, and there it was!! After all of the hype and the talk, there it was!! After all of the imaginations that I had about it, it was there, right under my foot, and I never thought in a million years that I would actually come so close to it. I mean, we had heard about it, we had even seen them before behind the counters away from the general public, but it was there…RIGHT THERE IN ARMS REACH!
I couldn’t help but notice the naked pictures that the Playboy magazine was opened too. I mean, who wouldn’t notice that image! Though I knew it was wrong to look at it, everything in me was saying it was right. Even at an early age, there was a rush in seeing naked pictures! Instinctively, I knew better, but the satisfaction of viewing outweighed all the negativity that I knew inwardly! Crazy emotions running through my head as I’m trying to look at the pictures without my daddy noticing. I’m sharing the pictures with my brother and cousin, and here we are giggling but I didn’t realize that my innocent eyes were going bad!