Ad Est Virum

Chrsitmas TreeIt’s all about who you know. My friend’s mother Adeline knew the people at White Drug, and she knew that I desperately needed money for college. I don’t remember who she talked to, but they gave me jobs during all the breaks throughout my freshman year of college. Some of the skills I learned ended up being useful, others not as much. One week I worked in the pharmacy. They had only one job for me. Count pills. Hundreds. Thousands of pills. Put them into jars of 100 each. Using a little tray, I’d count by fives. Five … ten … fifteen … all the way to a hundred. Put a lid on the jar. Repeat until lunch. Once again, I learned that my choice of an engineering career matched my personality.

Another week I worked in the general merchandise part of the store. Right after Christmas Day it was time to clear the holiday aisle for the new things. White’s sold a myriad of types of Christmas light bulbs. Tiny ones. Small ones for tree decorations. Larger ones to use along the roof. Red ones. Blue bulbs. Green. Every color, every size. These were the days before plastic bubble packs; all the bulbs were loose. Just pick out the few that met your needs and pay the lady. Thank you.

My job was to collect all the light bulbs into one large box and move them to storage. It was a huge box. Maybe a cubic yard? Three feet on a side, but light bulbs are light, so it wasn’t a big deal. Except for the little stumble I took going down the stairs. I dropped the box.

What a magical sound; hundreds of glass bulbs shattering.

I didn’t open the box, and didn’t hesitate to pick it up and shelve it properly, but didn’t bother to let anyone know what happened.

If you know anyone who worked at White Drug over the holidays in about 1969 or ’70, do they remember a box of glass splinters?

Looking back on those days I’m amazed how little I knew about life and business. The realities of wholesale and retail eluded me. I didn’t take Economics 101 until the next year.

Universal Product Codes (UPC) hadn’t been invented yet, so every item in the store (except Christmas light bulbs) had a paper price sticker on it. The best thing I learned in my weeks at the drug store was how to read their price tags. I learned how, but not why.

The price tags had the name of the store printed in red across the top, and the price, in black ink, through the middle. On the bottom, in the same typeface and color as the price were some letters that didn’t make a lot of sense. Not words. No real order. Just seemingly random letters.

Why anyone would do this is a mystery, but those letters were a coded version of the cost of the product! If you knew the code you knew the cost of anything in the store.

That was a useful skill.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

One thought on “Ad Est Virum

  1. Other useful skills learned: showing up for work every day, taking direction, interacting with customers, putting your paycheck in the bank, and working at a job you don’t like. While these may seem mundane, I’ve come to realize that we don’t do as good a job these days teaching kids these “life skills”. Instead, we take them to soccer 12 days a week where they earn participation trophies. Perhaps we should forgo the trophies in favor of life skills…

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