|It seems like
yesterday when having decided to go to work in April, 1881, I walked up
Washington Ave. and stopped at the corner of Ninth St. The Simmons Hardware
Company had just moved into their new building, coming up all the way from
Main Street. Ninth and Washington Ave. was then away out of the business
district. I have since heard that the house was very much criticised for
moving so far away from the business center. I remember when I reached this
corner, walking home because I did not have five cents in my pocket, I saw
them moving a lot of goods into the building and it all looked very lively
and active, so I thought I would step in and see if they did not need the
services of a husky boy of seventeen. I was shown into the private office
of Mr. E. C. Simmons, then about the center of the main building. It was
the first time I had ever seen him. He was just in the prime of life. He
motioned me to a seat beside his desk. I glanced at the wall and saw a glass
sign with gold letters reading – “THIS IS MY BUSY DAY”.
If I had seen that sign first I think I would have backed out, but I was
already in – it was too late. Mr. Simmons in his very quick manner
asked me – “What can you do?” I answered – “Nothing
– I have been going to school.” He wrote my name and address
on a pad of paper on his desk and said – “We will let you know”.
The next thing I knew I was out on the sidewalk again. I do not remember
just how gracefully I made my ‘get-away’. A few days afterwards
I received a postal card in the wonderful handwriting of Mr. Frank Wyman,
reading – “Mr. Simmons wishes to see you”. Again I called,
and Mr. Simmons took me over to see Mr. J. E. Smith, who was then a young
man in charge of the House Furnishings Goods Department. Mr. Smith looked
at me and shook his head. My heart dropped into my shoes. The Mr. Simmons
escorted me up two flights of stairs to Mr. Perrett’s department,
and before I could realize it I was placed in one of the stock departments
under Mr. Niccolls.
After Mr. Perrett decided he would take a chance on me, Mr. Simmons remarked “Your compensation will be Twenty Dollars per month”. I will never forget the size of the word “compensation” and incidentally the amount of the salary.
Next door to our building at that time there was a one story warehouse and when the men in this warehouse got behind they some times sent us over to help out in piling nails and barbed wire. I remember when I first tackled a one hundred pound reel of barbed wire and attempted to place it on top of a stack six reels high – I though it was an impossible job but one of the warehouse men showed me how it could be done. As in everything else, “there’s a knack” – even in piling barbed wire. I remember I was working in this warehouse piling barbed wire and nails when one of the boys came in and told us that President Garfield had been assassinated.
It was our custom to go down in the cellar in the annex and bring up duplicate stock to the third floor when we would open the cases and put the goods in stock. We used a hand truck to truck the goods back from the cellar to the elevator in the rear.
One day after a few months I had a case of goods on the truck and rang for the elevator to come down. Then to conserve my valuable energy I lay down on top of the case. While I was resting in this manner, Mr. E. C. Simmons stepped into the basement and looking at me remarked “You look very independent, sir.” I was so frightened I did not know what to say, so I replied “Anybody can be independent on Five Dollars a week.” A few days later he called me into his office and asked what I meant by that remark. I explained to him, with the courage of desperation, that if he lost his job he could not get another one like it, while I could. His gray eyes twinkled, and he raised me from $20.00 to $35.00 a month, not he explained for what I had done but for what he hoped I might do in the future.