Opinion By: John R. Carpenter
I purchased my first tie when I was sixteen. I worked as a full time produce clerk for A&P Supermarket (Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company) Fairmont, West Virginia in 1976 and attended high school. I made $2.30 minimum wage an hour. This is equivalent to $10.65 in 2021 dollars. I became a member of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union in 1977. This pushed my wages to $5.30 an hour. I went on to graduate high school in 1978 with honors, but lost my job because A&P closed. Is $15 minimum wage too much?
I have been an essential worker and public servant all my life. In 1978 I went on to be a manager for 7-Eleven Food Stores. I made $800 a month salary. $800 in 1978 is equal to $3,356 in 2021. I waited in 500 Grafton B&O Railroad worker each morning. Each morning I stocked, cooked, served coffee and pumped gas for five years. We only had one person per shift back then. Most of the orange looking ties matched my ugly orange and white poky dotted smock. I was paid for a 48 hour week that ended up 80 hours per week. From 1980 -1982 I became 7-Eleven's Most Gross Profiting Store in the little town of Grafton, West Virginia. Still got the same $800 a month salary check.
I was offered a East Texas Shop-A-Minute district managers position in 1983. An old boss started a chain and asked for my help. I packed my ties in the back of my 1983 Mercury LN7 with a pillow, some clothes, a lamp and dishes. I made $900 a month salary to help build a chain of around 35 stores. Adjusted for inflation, $900 in 1987 is equal to $2,122 in 2021.
Annual inflation over this period was 2.55%. They sold the convenience store chain in 1987 and I moved my neck ties back to West Virginia.
I went on to collect more neck ties with my Payless Managers career from 1988 to 2003. My salary in 2003 was a little over $1100. Adjusted for inflation, $1,100 in 2003 is equal to $1,584 in 2021. Annual inflation over this period was 2.05%. I didn't have no time to stand around. Everyone thought that shoe salesman stood around and assisted customers in need. That's true! But we also had shipments twice a week. Cases of shoes filled our stock rooms from floor to ceiling. At times we could not move in our stock rooms. I still have nightmares of pulling rods and tissues from shoes. My wrist, back and legs are shot from 14 years at Payless. Each case could weigh in at around 100 Lbs.
From 2003 to 2005 I got my degree in Computer Programming. While attending college, I worked a restaurant in the mornings (New Moon Café) and part time at Sears. Upon receiving my degree, I moved my ties to Semi Valley California. I processed loan contracts and Texas foreclosures for 7 months at Country Wide Mortgage. I made around $1200 salary a month. Adjusted for inflation, $1,200 in 2004 is equal to $1,696 in 2021.
Country Wide transferred me to Fort Worth in 2005. I handled contractors who cleaned up foreclosed properties and their repairs. I received a $1000 a month raise to transfer to Texas. Adjusted for inflation, $1,300 in 2005 is equal to $1,779 in 2021. An extra $100 was added to my check for dealing with homeowners who lost their homes and later with contractors. I hated the sorrow of folks loosing their homes during this period.
In 2006 my ties helped friends build a restaurants. I helped design, implement paperwork, train staff, bookkeeping and customer service. It was essential that I help my friends! So I left my job at Country Wide.
My ties were retired in 2007. I opened up my own restaurants with my partner David Green.
We had the Round Pen burger joint for two years in Springtown, Texas. The building was sold and we lost the lease in 2009. Then we created Sunday Creek Restaurant that closed in 2013. I have hypertensive high blood pressure, COPD and congestive heart failure. Running the restaurant became a burden and a health issue for me. I never liked the pay as an essential worker but it gave me the smarts to achieve a life time goal of owning my own business. I felt completed with Sunday Creek Restaurant. My ties and being your essential worker helped to achieve a life time goal. But this essential worker was beaten down to just a bag of ties shoved in my closet.
Then my Aunt June asked me where all my ties was at. She wanted to know if she could have them. I figured she needed them for a craft project. So I drove 1600 miles to deliver my work ties to Aunt June. It was no problems because she always made me laugh and always makes people feel good about their day. She got me addicted to computers. She would be a fantastic essential worker but her pay would never be enough. You can't place value on kindness and a smile.
When Senator Joe Manchin stated that $11 an hour would be a proper minimum wage over the $15 increase, I just wanted to say: "How out of Touch!" How out of touch with inflation increases. "So Out Of Touch!"
I worked all my life at poverty level to help business owners take trips, buy homes, buy cars, buy yachts, and buy all the luxury items this essential worker helped you obtain. This essential worker helped you to get these items that we could only wish for. My 50 years of work has taught me to stay humble and God only ask for what you are able to contribute.
This gift is so precious to me. This quilt will never be stored in the closet. These 180 ties represents my life. 180 ties for 50 years as a public servant. I'd take it over a yacht, fancy car, and fancy home any day. This precious gift is priceless.
THANK YOU AUNT JUNE!
The time and effort you put into this quilt has got me thinking and reminiscing over years of goals accomplished. Now I finally have something to warm these old essential bones. Thank you for recognizing my efforts when the 1% never tried to really recognize my contributions to their riches.
I would also like to thank millions of customers I seen daily. I have friends across the United States. It was an honor to be your servant. Don't forget to smile at the person who serves you! That makes for a joyous career and lots of friends. Costumers are priceless compared to their Olympic size pools. Big mistake and a sure sign of disrespect.