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Choosing the right path in life

In the eyes of my parents, I was a strange boy. When vacation time came around I was out looking for work while my friends sunbathed at the swimming pool, played tennis, went to movies, or fooled around doing nothing.

For me, a moneymaking job was a must. My mother and father couldn't understand why I wanted to be like the poor kids in our town, who needed to make money to help their families.

Explaining my excitement, to them, at gaining money. and partaking in life in the real world was beyond my ability. Generous loving people as they were they couldn't grasp why a well cared for child should want to find a job like the sad children of poor parents.

I wanted extra things, however, but viewed the money required to buy them as a burden on their cash. I didn't want to waste their hard-earned money. Mommy and daddy toiled to provide for me and my brothers. Dad often made a speech about how their whole life was dedicated to giving us a comfortable life. I sat by my mother's side as she wrote checks once a month to pay the household bills.

Being made aware of how much they were suffering for us I was ashamed of begging for money to buy my gadgets.

A Donald Bradman cricket bat, for example in Shimwells display window, Pat Boone and Glen Miller records in Jerry Lang's music shop, funny papers, and boys magazines in the CNA in Ockerse Str, things considered unnecessary by my parents made me want to acquire some cash.

Working for a boss in my youth would also be practice for the day when I'd have to stand on my own two feet; mother and father wouldn't be around forever.

But as each vacation came around and I started searching the help wanted section of our local newspaper. Dad stepped in, arguing with absolute logic against my plan to work for someone who was unrelated to me. He had a household utensil and wood store and if I wanted to make money he'd use me for R10 a day (equal to R70 today).

Taking up his offer would mean a job without going around to the various stores, getting one turndown after another until finally working for an impersonal employer who would insist on steadiness and skill or I'd be discharged.

I had the opportunity to avoid the hardships facing poor kids. A life without problems was dangling before me like a tempting morsel at the end of a fishing line and I was a fish refusing to be tempted.

Dad wouldn't dismiss me even if I stayed away for a whole day, lying around the swimming pool instead, or if I made a terrible mistake in giving change, as I often did.

Once I mistakenly gave an old man change from R10 when he'd given me R1. I worried about what my father would say in the evening when the time came to "cash up". I waited anxiously as he and uncle Ben counted and recounted the money but couldn't find the missing R9. I bit my tongue and sweated, but didn't own up. My old man didn't suspect me or if he did he didn't let on and my mistake has remained hidden for all these years.

I was aware of the correctness of my intuition. I would derive benefit from the effort of searching for a vacancy and working for a demanding employer. My mind and my body would be stimulated. But going my own way would be interpreted as rebellion. After giving the matter much thought I chose to follow Dad and suppress my inclination. I obeyed him rather than doing the right thing, which in this case was to stand up against him as I wanted to but I was a coward and docile. I had no chance of rebelling.

My mistake in life was allowing my old man to dissuade me from looking for gainful employment in a stranger's establishment.

One Christmas holiday I did oppose him and found a job, by my own efforts, at the OK Bazaars. I announced my success at the dinner table in the evening. I'd dropped an atom bomb in the soup, the folks were shocked but Pa diplomatically, quietly turned to me and said "you did well my dear Leon" (his way of turning me down). On the spot, he offered me R10 a day and promised to teach me the ins and outs of his business and I would be helping him.

I never learned any sort of commercial activity, not the OK Bazaars, because I didn't work there nor in Dad's store, because I was mostly at the swimming pool, with cash in my pocket and not at his shop.

Life's paths smoothed for me by Ma and Pa led me into adulthood unprepared. The result wasn't too bad. I found my niche in life at an older age than I would have had I confronted the difficulties of life in my youth.

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