Can you believe it? I was fourteen. Seriously.... fourteen! Noyes Men's and Boy's Clothing Store sat right there on Main Street, between the Merchant and Miner's Bank and The Elite Pool Hall (pronounce E...Lites by regulars. "Where are you going to shoot today, Clays or E...Lites?") and right across the street from The New River Supply Company. Somehow, I found myself selling clothes for Mr Noyes at age fourteen. I got a Social Security card. So I know I started paying into the system which is now paying me at a very early age.
Did my dad encourage Mr. Noyes to hire me? Did I go out and get the job on my own? Did Mr Noyes go to our church and feel as if he had to somehow help supplement the paltry salary the church paid to my dad as pastor? I have no idea. I wish I did.
What I do remember is a brown suit with thin greenish strips in it and brown wing tip shoes which I usually wore. I remember somehow hovering over a customer and Mr Noyes gently intervening and talking to me about "high pressure sales techniques" and that was not what we wanted. I remember racks of sweaters, suits and hats. The hats were on a higher rack and I remember feeling quite pleased with myself that, at fourteen, I was tall enough to reach up and retrieve a hat for someone interested in trying one.
I wish now, as I write this and try to dredge up more memories of that job, that I could find some more. Why was I working at fourteen and not playing basketball? What were my parents thinking? How long did the job last? Did I ever sell anything? All answers are lost, lost in the mists of time.
I went back to Oak Hill, my little town 30 years after I ws fourteen, eagerly taking my wife and daughters back to my childhood so they could see my past. Main street was not too much different 30 years later. The bank was there. The store building was there, but was no longer Noyes. But E...Lites was open. Dark. Smelling of beer and something else. The tables crouched in the dark, waiting to awaken to the crack of the balls. That E...Lites was still open made me happy.