As the ol' one was making the transition from shaver to young buck and he became of legal working age back toward the middle of the last century, the need for spending money and work experience crossed his path.
Mom and Dad had noticed this development as a rite of passage in their son's life. One day Mom suggested, "Why don't you go over to the car wash?"
Hmmm...The Nu-Look Car Wash had become a neighborhood icon (and still is to this very day) there at the corner of the Roosevelt Boule-vard and Loney Street, up there in the northeast section of Philadelphia.
The ol' one's ancestral home was literally just around the corner from what was soon to be known simply as "the wash."
Apparently, the idea of working at "the wash" on weekends caught on with the other young bucks in the neighborhood. Whether it was for just a couple weekends or a couple years, nearly every kid in the neighborhood had work-ed at the wash.
Starting pay, after we had secured our working papers, was 85 cents an hour.
We were counted on by the Parisis, Bing, Tony, and Junior, owners of "the wash," to work every weekend (weather permitting) and sometimes after school if volume warranted.
Bing, slender of build yet wiry, had a chiseled face and always seemed preoccupied with something or other and to be in a hurry. He usually wore a plaid work shirt, which complemented his graying hair and wasn't too often without a cigar.
Tony, a rather large man, had a wide, fatherly-like face, always wore khaki work clothes, took measured steps, and sometimes looked like he was in pain about something or other.
Junior, a powerfully built man of medium stature, had jet-black, slicked down hair, was always snapping chewing gum, and seemed to be everywhere at once, especially out on the sloping driveway where we young bucks were honing our trade.
If we could put titles to these entrepreneurs, Bing would be CEO, Tony, Chairman of the Board, and Junior, Vice-President of Operations.
Junior had mastered the art of running, at times, three wiping crews simultaneously out on the driveway. He would also detach cars from the conveyor track as they cleared the blowers, and furiously begin wiping the dashboard and interior windshield as he guided a car on its way to us wipers waiting about 30 feet away on the sloping driveway.
That's where we applied the final touches. Each crew had a leader and a right front-quarter panel man. These were the full-time employees. We broke in as front and rear bumper men and gradually worked our way up to rear quarter panel wipers.
The ol' one worked many times for Tucker's crew, which usually included Rodger over on the right front quarter-panel. Tucker, a tall, slender man, chewed on a toothpick and didn't say much while Rodger, a short and stocky man, was his direct opposite: always smiling, cracking jokes, and overall lightening up the driveway.
With solvent bottles at the ready, we would jump into action the second Junior and sometimes Bing would bring a car to a halt on the driveway. As time went on, Tom, who was an upper classman at Father Judge High School, would bring the cars down.
The reality was that Junior couldn't supervise the crews by himself on the weekends. Nu-Look had built a reputation for being one of the best-if not the best-car wash in Northeast Philadelphia. The waiting line for cars would stretch for two city blocks on the weekends. Cars would begin lining up as early as 7:30 in the morning and the line wouldn't start shrinking until about 5 p.m. Quite often, a sign would be placed on a car in line announcing that it was the last car to be washed for the day.
To help with traffic control, there was mysterious Nate. He always wore dark reflecting aviator-style sunglasses and a dark blue, roll-up woolen hat. While he didn't say much and kept to himself, he was always out in the street directing traffic either into the "in" driveway or motioning cars to go down a block and fall into the line, which was growing longer by the minute.
So, to help Junior manage all this activity, Jimmy, a family relative, would pitch in on the weekends. A short man who smoked short cigars, Jimmy had a light supervisory touch which, while maintaining the quality of the crews, made him a favorite of us wipers.
And, how we would wipe whether it was bitterly cold or oppressively hot to give cars that "Nu-Look." We would remove road tar and stains by squeezing the liquid content of the solvent bottles onto the affected area and wipe it clean. The solvent didn't harm a car's finish.
If we missed a spot, Junior or Jimmy would be right there to point out our oversight.
It wasn't unusual for Junior or Jimmy to determine that a car, fresh from the blowers, did not meet Nu-Look standards. So, Junior or Jimmy would jump into the car and take it back to the front of the line for another run-through.
We used terry cloth hand towels to do our job. Stan, a short, wiry character from the Port Richmond section of the city, would keep us supplied with fresh, dry towels that he would process in the industrial-size dryer and deliver to us in hampers.
In the winter when the temperature would be around freezing, those warm towels became mittens to keep our hands warm for a bit before they froze in the cold.
It was hard work but it was a way to make spending money, especially for the senior prom. After dinner, we would gather on the curb on Loney Street where we once played box ball and recall the day's happenings at "the wash," as though we were seasoned veterans of the working force.
As the ol' one started college, he took his leave of the wash (making $1.05 an hour) and took a part-time job selling shoes for Thom McAn down the boulevard at Cottman Avenue. However, John of Griffith Street became a wiper emeritus and was promoted to car-detacher, a position he held during his first year or so in college. Ray of Audubon also left the wash for a part-time gig frying hamburgers and chicken at the Gino's, just up the boulevard from "the wash." The other young bucks also took their respective leaves of "the wash" to go onto other part-time jobs.
But none of us will ever forget working for the Parisis and Nu-Look, where as the 1976 hit tune "Car Wash" by Rose Royce said, "Let me tell you it's always cool, and the boss don't mind sometimes if ya act the fool," as long as you "keep those rags and machines humming."
Here's a cup o' joe to Bing, Tony, Junior, Jimmy, Tucker, Rodger, Nate, Stan, and Tom "workin' at the car wash."
Ol' Morgan rails about life and the coming hard times about four times a month on the porch. Contact him at email@example.com.