It was the early 70s. I was around 30 years old and still in my first marriage. I only had one child of pre-school age at home and was determined to find an odd-job and contribute to the family income.
I scoured the ads in the local papers for an odd-job that I could do at home. My lucky day arrived. The ad read: “Wanted: Housewives interested in working at home sewing patches on jeans.” This was the perfect job for me. I already had a pedal sewing machine in my basement doing nothing. I talk big when all I ever really did in the sewing department was to hem up dresses for my girls.
I called the telephone number in the ad and my employer-to-be said I could come in that day for my interview. With three children in the station wagon, I headed for the factory in Kutztown. My young employer was clad in holey jeans, a holey sweatshirt, and dirty sneaks. Just what one would expect if he’s running a holey jeans business.
After filling out the necessary paperwork, he proceeded to tell me what the job entailed. I was to supply my own thread. I had been given all of my mother’s thread when she gave me the sewing machine, so I didn’t mind. I figured the income earned would far surpass the expenses incurred.
As we headed to my car, my employer chatted, “After all, you could earn $200 a week, if you put in the time. When the job is finished, you return the mended jeans, receive your pay, and we’ll give you your next batch of jeans.“ I thought this was great and I hadn’t even started sewing yet.
He then instructed me, “Drive to the back of the building and back up to the large garage doors. The boys will load your car.”
While the car was being loaded, I visualized a new living room rug and some new clothes for the family. After my extreme joy, I realized the back of my car was sinking from the load. When I looked around, I saw jeans bundled in round piles of at least 15 pairs each, tied together with twine. They looked like round piles of large blue hay rolls from the farm. The flat-bed of my wagon had at least six of these bundles, interspersed between giggling children (no seat belts then). I yelled to one of the men, “Isn’t that enough?” He answered, “Lady, you want to make money don’t you?” I did.
Once home, I found the bundles too heavy to lift. What would any young entrepreneur do? I rolled them ---one by one---down the sidewalk into the house, through the living room, and then shoved them down the cellar steps. At the bottom of the steps, I had to straddle the heap of bundles, tug and pull them in some kind of order beneath the stairs.
Excited about my new venture, I fed the children and put them down for their nap.
For the next hour I didn’t accomplish a thing! I first cut a patch to fit the hole in the jeans. Then I struggled to get the inside out jeans to the hole near the crotch. I tried numerous positions but couldn’t get the hole close enough to sew. The legs of the jeans bunched up and I couldn’t even see to sew around the hole. This is when the light bulb blazed atop my head. I knew that patches had to be sewn by hand and it would take forever!
I had one more task which would require man-muscle. I would have to tell my husband my odd-job position was never consummated, and he’d have to carry all the bundles back to the car. I knew he wouldn’t be happy, but he did it. I then took everything back to my one-day employer.
Today, as I write this story, I’m beginning to think God gives me these opportunities to do stupid things so I have something to write about one day.
Carole Christman Koch grew up in Berks County and has been published in numerous publications. She has a passion for writing and has many stories from growing up on a farm to raising children to humorous stories about her and her husband to everyday stories to season stories and more.