days at minimum wage (or less)

Two creamers, four sugars, 6 ounces of acidic coffee in a cheap styrofoam cup.

I learned to like coffee at Tuscarora Inn & Conference Center when I was 16.  I worked there as a waitress during the summer of 1996 and we served hot coffee at every dinner.  It was cool amongst the waitstaff at Tuscarora to drink coffee.  I know that it’s common for teens to drink coffee nowadays (thanks, Starbucks), but it seemed like such an adult thing to do back in the 90s.  And there I was, away from home for the entire summer, drinking coffee. 

The first line of this entry was my recipe for drinkable coffee in 1996.  If I were to make coffee that way today, I’d be more inclined to call it “coffee candy.” 

When I was a junior in college, I worked at the local coffee house in Houghton.  It was called Sweet Attitudes.  The tacky name alone could have been the reason that the business failed, but that’s besides the point.  For the years that it existed, Sweet Attitudes was the place to be and work if you were a student.  I was paid $5.15 per hour.  It was the going rate.  I didn’t even question it.  I think was paid under $4/hr the first summer of ’96 at Tuscarora.  (Current day teens must make more money because Starbucks lattes are are least $4 a piece.) 


One of my favorite memories of my father is the look of absolute incredulity he had when I told him that I had saved $50 saved from the entire summer of work.  The week before going home I bought a volleyball which I thought was an entirely valid, if not important, purchase.  The volleyball was 1/3 of my entire savings from the summer.  Pre volleyball, I had $75.  My dad probably would’ve been disappointed with  that income too, but at least I had a volleyball to play with!

I met his disbelieving look with a defensive one.  I hadn’t been told to save money over the summer.  I’m afraid he thought that I was more conscientious than I really was. 

 So maybe I wasted money on a volleyball.  That was kid’s stuff.  But I also learned to like coffee that summer, which was very adult.


3 Responses to “days at minimum wage (or less)”

  1. 1 Kristin
    December 4, 2007 at 2:44 am

    You saved $50 after a summer at Tuscarora???? Even after Rockaway Mall night? I don’t think I ever left summers there with ANY money!!!! 🙂 I think you are a brilliant money manager! 🙂

  2. 2 Becca
    December 7, 2007 at 4:36 am

    I distinctly recall looking at my Tusca-Paycheck during my first year there (YEAH, 1998!) and noting the wage listed on the stub. All of $2.63 an hour. I wish I were kidding; even back then I had a feeling that was a little on the low side. Then there was the snack shop tab to be deducted, and someone named FICA taking their cut, too. But of course, we had high-quality room and board deducted, so who was I to complain?

  3. February 15, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Oh the sweet attitudes days…

    I remember one of the days that I was working by myself and I was making a blended coffee drink which they may have called a frappe- who knows. The top was not on all the way and it exploded all over me, all over my white fleece turtleneck, and all over the ceiling of that joint!

    I sat down on the floor laughing, I think that the customer was mortified. I had to mop the ceiling.

    Ahh the good old days.

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