I was sixteen when I got my first job, a typist at a radio station for fifty cents an hour. I got the job because Lewistown, Pennsylvania, was a small town where everybody knew everybody and my dad, a businessman, knew the manager of the station.
My job was to make copies of the commercials that were being run on the air; I think it was a government requirement. In the process of copying them, I learned what a commercial was supposed to be, and after a couple of weeks, my boss suggested that I try writing some of the ads myself. If Wolf Furniture was running a special on dining room sets, I’d get the information from their newspaper ad. By the end of the summer I could knock out an acceptable advertisement for almost any client who bought airtime.
The job ended when school started, but the next summer I was back at the radio station. A woman named Rita had an afternoon program in which she reported birthdays and anniversaries and other bits of small town news; she also called on sponsors and collected the information for their ads. When Rita went on vacation, I took over her job—visiting the customers, writing up the birthday news, and then reading the news and the ads on the air.
The summer I turned eighteen a new radio station opened in a nearby country town. I was hired to write all the ads for the new sponsors, who turned out to be businesses that catered to local farmers. I wrote ads for manure spreaders and egg washers and chicken feed. That fall I left for college, certain now that my future lay in advertising—maybe in television!
The following summer I decided that I didn’t want to hang around Lewistown or my home. Instead I went to Ocean City, NJ, and got a job as a waitress in a diner near the boardwalk. It seemed exciting and possibly romantic, until the first morning when the cook loaded my arms with platters of bacon and eggs and side dishes of toast and sent me flying through the swinging doors from the kitchen to the table where my first customers—my parents—waited. Crash! End of job, end of excitement and romance, and back to my hometown, and another summer of working in radio.