High School, Boeing, and the War Years
At age 12, I entered the workforce unimpeded by child labor laws and minimum wages. I was the third breadwinner in the family. My father worked full time. My mother baked cakes and pies that she sold to restaurants. In addition, I worked for the West Side Drug store delivering to customers on my bicycle, much as Amazon and UBER are starting today to deliver groceries and sundries to homes by auto. My pay: 8 cents per hour. I learned to operate an old-fashioned soda fountain. At age 14, that skill landed me a better job at the OK Drive-In, managing a fountain. Here I learned to fry-cook. Pay now grew to $8 per week. With a record as a reliable employee, supplemented by high school shop courses in electricity, I landed a job at Boeing, 1943, age 16, starting at $5.60 per day. During these years, I became an activist member of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), working to break down local discrimination against African Americans (Negroes, or “Colored” in the politically correct language of the day). The theaters, confronted with mixed race sit-ins would concede. Under the Kansas constitution, all forms of discrimination are illegal. But theater policies were not changed, and black peoples were predominantly passive in accepting inferior treatment.