The Good Old Fashioned Work Ethic

photo I have a friend, Jeff Mihalsky who laughs at me and says,” McCloskey, sometimes when you are on a roll, you remind me of an old man coming out on his stoop in his bathrobe and yelling at the kids to get off his lawn.” Now at the risk of such accusations and probable half truth, I will temper what I have to say with that image in mind. Yes, I am taking a little breather from the skiing, cycling, and hiking commentary and giving a little social commentary on this post. I hope you don’t mind and for most of you, it will ring a little truth bell inside you.

One of the more interesting, zany, stories and experiences of the 58 year old kid has been raising a teenager. A lot of you who follow this blog have been down this rocky path and there a a lot who will face it in the near future but teenagers today can be challenging to say the least. My son Jack decided that his competitive basketball days are over and much to my chagrin, I have been fretting over this decision but realize that it is his life and no matter what time, effort, money,coaching and instruction his mother and I have put into this activity over the last 7 years, we must move on because this is no longer his passion. However…………we have insisted that if this is the case, he must look for employment over the summer to learn about earning a buck and not just getting $20.00 leaves from the proverbial endless money tree. To Jack’s credit, he got a job at Shenot’s Farm Market in Wexford and also moonlights as a sitter for the two young boys down the street. He is learning what it is like to work and that is very important to us as he marches his way towards college and life in the next year and a half.

I have always appreciated what work experience as a young guy has brought me in later life. I will never forget my first bonus from our backyard neighbor who presented me with a very professional letter at Christmas time with a $5.00 bill in it. He said that in the working world, great effort is rewarded at the end of the year by way of a bonus. I was thrilled and so were my parents that he would do this for mowing his lawn. I had 11 lawns in the neighborhood when I was 12. I also shoveled their driveways when it would snow. Not to sound like the old guy on the stoop but do you ever see that type of effort today in any of your neighborhood kids? We live in an entitled society, I am afraid, and a lot of what is given to young people today is expected and not really appreciated. That is it for the social commentary.

I went on to caddy and park cars at my dad’s golf club and also did stints in the kitchen. I learned a lot about people in the club setting and became real worldly when I caddied for a group of real good golfers who drank hard at the turn and told some pretty sordid stories out on the course. Needless to say, if I wanted a good tip I laughed and always made sure their balls were never out of bounds if you know what I mean. “Wow Mr. Sutherland, that ball is barely in bounds and you have a good lie!” My summers in college were spend as a laborer at St. Joe Paper Company in McKees Rocks and working all three shifts you saw all kinds of people and faced a lot of interesting situations in the labor environment. My son who is starting to pontificate about his working experience cannot match the times I spent with a long wire brush routing out boiler tubes in 120 degree heat. All of this was good for me in later life as I was comfortable in labor situations and making my way around manufacturing plants and mills. I like to think that working as a young guy prepared me to deal with all kinds of people from labor to management with respect and a good work ethic. This is the experience I hope that Jack enjoys as he makes his way through the working world of summer and after school employment. There is so much to learn if you pay attention.( I am still in the bathrobe a little bit.)

Take a look at the sign above. Shenot’s Farm Market- since 1854. This establishment was in business before the Civil War. I pointed this out to Jack on the first day of his employment and said to him that these are the types of people who work hard and are really successful. They could probably buy and sell most of the posers in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and most places for that matter. They presented him with a manual that said among other things that he was to treat the produce like eggs. The Shenots value each and every piece of fruit and vegetable that they sell and they count on the workers there to engage the customer with respect, befitting the ethic that they wish to project. I told Jack he will learn a lot if he keeps his eyes open and works hard. This is his first job seeing that sports have taken up most of his time up until now.

I have seen a change in Jack where he is becoming a little more responsible. When he has berry picking duty before 7:00 AM, he goes to bed early and makes sure we leave in time for him to begin bright and early. He seems enthused when he tells me that he learned something new that day. Whether it is running the cash register, bringing in the kale( his name badge says,”Jack- King of Kale”), or running with the truck to get watermelons and place them in the bins for the day. He seems to like it and it is a new adventure for him and getting that first paycheck was a proud moment for him. I am a firm believer in kids working. They have to learn like we all did that money doesn’t grow on trees and that you have to save some for a rainy day. Have I missed any popular sayings of the time? I don’t tell him that in my day I walked up hill to school both ways but I do tell him stories of my past that included summer jobs and college employment. Teenagers need direction and sometimes a summer job with responsibility is just the ticket.

My dad was a child of the Great Depression. The stories he told were amazing and life during the great war was never easy. I always admired my dad for his work ethic. His generation was extremely exemplary and I make sure that Jack knows the history of his Pop Pop and why he was such a good man. My Uncle Jack( my dad’s brother) was a B-24 pilot in WWII and flew 52 missions over the Anzio Beach head. He used to tell us that every day, the mechanics would patch up the flak holes in the body of his aircraft and send him back out again the next day. He was shot down over Burma,and spent a year in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp. The British bombed the camp, he escaped and made it back to Bellevue,Pa. alive. When I was his age, I was looking for my next cheeseburger. Read Tom Brokaw’s book,” The Greatest Generation” to see what our parents and grandparents went through and how hard work honed their amazing successes in life. We all have or will raise teenagers. We were a teenager once and understand. But it is so important in my mind to make sure that our young people appreciate the value of hard work. We can’t support some of the current ideas of entitlement in this country. We are not built that way and our country was not founded that way. Help your kids and tell them of your experiences. They will relate when they have to ………..bring in the kale. Thanks for reading and time for me to get off the stoop.

5 thoughts on “The Good Old Fashioned Work Ethic

  1. Pete hilton says:

    Good stuff Pat – think my problem with raising the girls is I never had the backbone to follow through – we know what will be good for them like working a summer job but don’t tell them that’s how it’s going to be. It’s easier not to push it when they resist – I know my parents didn’t really care what I thought, you were expected to do what you were told to do. Guess we’ll have a lot to talk about on our next mtn bike ride – or as JR says, our next therapy session.

  2. Cuz says:

    Well said Paddy Mac, and job well done Jack! Slainte! Cuz-I-L

  3. mark hutch says:

    Great post pat! I think that most kids learn work ethic lessons by watching what their parents do! I was thrilled this year when my daughter Annie said in a fathers day card that she learned the value of hard work from her dad! Sounds like Jack is learning that lesson by watching and listening to his dad too. As Durf would say, never do anything halfway!

  4. Bill says:

    Pat, you must be reading my mind … the work mind of younger people in my blue color world is just not there.. they rarely want to know how things work or do anything on there own ….but mostly lack any ambiition to work for the pride of a good job , like you grass cutting was my money making machine my mom got tired of answering the phone for all the people calling for work to be done .

    My opion parents wanted the best they could give there kids and forgot the word no ! when they all have 2 of everthing .

    Here is a thought ..In my mom and dads house you wanted to have something my parents would pay for half and the other half was on me to earn … this day i still have the baseball bat we bought together ! and you could bet you life i would not forget it !

    Good for you Pat and Janet for getting Jack out in the real world and making him understand the working world , Jack you will be very glad your parents guided you the right way!

  5. Art Bonn says:

    Looks like you and Janet have done a good job with Jack. That work ethic example from your dad has now passed through your example the same way. nice work.

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