Thursday, May 18, 2017


I think I may have posted this before. It's my sister Irene and me in front of "The Little Job-er"—our father's home repair business—in what was the oldest wooden building in South Orange. It had been The South Orange Hotel in the 1800s but now was a rundown, unused, except for my old man's business, cluttered old dump.

Irene's five years older than me (there was a brother, John, between us who passed as an infant). My guess is I'm eleven or twelve and she is sixteen or seventeen in this photo. The wording behind us was advertising for the "little jobs" we did. I worked there, for "room and board" as they said then, answering the phone and doing odd jobs.

The door behind my sister led to a small "store" that held an old style wall phone, some shelves for tools, a thick wood table covered in carpeting where we cut glass (to replace broken windows). On nice days like this one I would bring out a couple of wooden horses, and place a screen or window on them to replace the glass I'd cut inside, or the torn screen, with new screening, stapling it in, and in the case of the glass, hammering in those little sharp triangles I can't remember the name of anymore and covering them up with the putty that framed each panel.

The door to my left led to the rest of the "hotel"—an old, dusty, abandoned "lobby" where we kept ladders and leaders and gutters and anything else that was too long for the little store, and upstairs there was a funky old toilet we used and otherwise just junk covered in decades of dust and dirt.

There was also an old shoe shine stand that an old buddy of my father's from his youth used to make a small living, with a place to sit on top and then the old style metal show stands for the man to put his feet on so my old man's friend (why can't I remember his name?) could apply the polish and start snapping his shining cloth.

I worked there from eleven until I left home at eighteen, every day after school and on Saturdays and some holidays and parts of the summer. For decades after, right up until the advent of cell phones, I would often pick up the phone and put it to my ear and automatically say: "The Little Job-er" to the surprise of whoever was on the other end.

My sister and I are the only ones left of our five other siblings and our parents.

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