Today's Bethpage State Park bike trail has come a long way...

Today's Bethpage State Park bike trail has come a long way for riders since the 1950s' dirt road behind the pickle works. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

After the Korean War, it was almost impossible to find part-time work in the 1950s.  All of us kids had a few temporary jobs for pocket change. Here are a few of mine:

Drug store delivery boy. A few times a week, I’d stop in at Moby Drugs on Main Street in Farmingdale to see if Mr. Kanfer had any prescriptions to deliver. He usually did, and I’d get paid 10 cents each plus a customer tip. I knew every back road, and it took no time to ride my bike to the houses.

Post office sandwich delivery boy. I played in the back room of the post office when I was a kid, and all the workers knew me. On paydays, they’d order sandwiches from a deli, and I’d get them. They were generous with tips, mostly because they liked my dad, a senior letter carrier.

John’s Bargain Store. Mr. Cohen, the owner, would occasionally buy closeouts and ask his son, Frank, and me to help load the new merchandise into his Studebaker.  He’d buy us dinner and then work us till dawn arranging and sorting the new goods.

Bottle collector. At new construction sites, I collected workers’ empty beer bottles and returned them to a deli. Big bottles were worth a nickel, the small ones three cents.  The change added up. Sometimes, there was a swallow of warm beer left in the bottle (hygiene was not a concern).

Brickyard sorter. For 25 cents an hour, the Nassau Brickyard across from the Bethpage Riding Stable hired me to sort old and damaged bricks and then crush them with a sledgehammer.  It was pocket change and a nice bike ride.

Fashion model. My mother, an excellent seamstress, would make dresses from Simplicity Patterns, sold at local stores, for town residents. If I got hooked, I had to wear them while Mom did the final adjustments.  I’d hope one of my friends didn’t walk into the house and see me, an embarrassed 13-year-old. One friend finally did, and I made him swear never to talk about it. Ronnie kept his word. It cost me four pizza pies at Sorrento’s, the best pizza place in town.

Norman’s Stationery on Main Street. Every Sunday morning at 4:30, I’d insert supplements into Sunday newspapers, be it Newsday, Long Island Press, or the World-Telegram & Sun, among others, while reading the comics.  I was covered in newsprint when I finished but was paid $5 for four hours’ work.  Back home, I left a ring around the bathtub of newsprint that took an hour for me to clean.

Ball-hawking at Bethpage State Park. Clearly, this was the most dangerous but well-paying job.  If I biked along the dirt road behind the pickle works, I’d come to the chain-link fence that surrounded Bethpage’s Green Course. The water hazard was right there.  I’d wade into the water that was covered with a bright green scum and feel around with my toes for golf balls.  When I had about a dozen, I’d dry my feet and stand on the edge of the fairway, advertising my new wares to passing golfers for half a buck to a dollar -- before a park ranger would take them while lecturing about trespassing. 

It wasn’t a lot of money, all totaled, but it kept me in pocket change and a Classic Comic Book or two.

Reader Fred Marks lives in Wantagh.

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