It occurred to me the other day that it was thirty-nine years ago this month that I first joined the ranks of those who are gainfully employed. It was just about the time that I was beginning my senior year at Meadowdale High School when my Dad came home from Sherer’s with a couple of hot fudge sundaes and a scoop about a job. He told me that there was a sign taped on the cash register at Sherer’s that they were looking for help. Now if there was ever a job that I was destined for, this was it! I got up right then and went to talk to Mr. Sherer. I came back ready to join the work force at a whopping $1.30 an hour. I still have my first pay slip and a $1 from my first pay. For some reason, Mr. Sherer did not have ice cream sodas on his menu board, so I guess technically I was not a soda jerk. I guess I was just a plain jerk.
I always enjoyed going to Sherer’s as a kid to get a cone or a malt or a sundae or to bring home a half-gallon of his ice cream that was made on the premises in a ten gallon freezer. Sherer’s stood on North Main Street in Dayton for sixty years as a constant in an ever-changing world. Many other businesses came and went, Forest Park Shopping Center cropped up and crumbled down, but Sherer’s was always there. It was the place to go in Dayton for real home-made ice cream.
We pretty much always have some Ice Cream around my house these days and the stuff you buy at the grocery is pretty good. But as a kid, the stuff at the grocery store tasted more like fluffed air than ice cream. So, it was a treat to go to Sherer’s for two scopes of chocolate ice cream on a cake cone, back before my first job opened my eyes to the wonderful world of flavors that existed beyond chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
I learned a lot of things working at Sherer’s, skills that have come in handy at just about every job I have ever had: to listen and be polite to the customer, to make change (without a screen telling me how much the change was), answering the hard questions like “What does the root beer ripple taste like?” (Gee, it tastes like vanilla ice cream with root beer mixed in.) I also learned how to put whipped cream on a sundae so that it doesn’t immediately slide down the side, a skill that I can still use to impress friends and family. I learned that the ice cream business is a little slow when it is twenty degrees below zero as happened that winter. I learned that you have to work a little faster when it is eighty degrees outside and you have a room full of people waiting to order ice cream.
I learned that hot fudge is good on just about any ice cream flavor with the possible exception of rum raisin. I leaned that marshmallow topping should be part of any ice cream fan’s topping arsenal. I did not make a lot of money, but I learned what it was like to have a job, to show up on time, to help keep the store clean. Perhaps I did not realize it then, but I also learned that it is a tremendous benefit it is to work for good people.
One thing I am pretty certain of is that I will never again have a boss who every time he comes in after his dinner break his first words will be “Why don’t you make us a chocolate malt and put a little whipped cream on top.”