|| Grandfather Harry
|| Grandfather Father Harry
l plunged into the business world early. My first taste of the "entrepreneur lifestyle" came in grade school. I created and sold cinnamon-flavored toothpicks that I made by dipping regular toothpicks in cinnamon oil I purchased from the drug store. Hey, it was a great idea! I also sold Bazooka bubble gum, Charms pops, Wacky Pac collector stickers and anything else I could think of.
My locker at school was always mobbed as a growing crowd of sugar-hungry fifth graders shoved their way toward me, and my locker, number 1248, fighting to hand me their quarters before the bell rang. I adored collecting all their nickels, dimes and quarters. Already I was hooked on this funny thing called “being in business for yourself.”
A scan of three my original Wacky Pac collector stickers
I liked working for myself. And I really liked earning money. So I didn’t mind working the usual low-paying jobs reserved for teenagers. My first paying job was as a counter person at Dipper Dan's Ice Cream Shop on the corner of Rowell Road and Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs, Georgia. The owner was Chinese. His son was training me as a soda jerk. I really did feel like a jerk. I was making $2.85 per hour. I had a hard time figuring out how to give proper change from the cash register and how to work the milkshake blending machine. I remember once, the blender shot the milkshake all over my face and a customer’s freshly laundered dress shirt. The Chinese owner was yelling at me in Chinese, the customer was upset. I said to myself, “this job stinks!”
Then I bounced to an even more horrible job at a racquetball center called Court South. It was in the same shopping center as the ice cream shop. I'll never forget this. Every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM, the owners held aerobic classes inside two of the racquetball courts. Have you seen the size of a racket ball court door? It's about three feet tall. It was my job to drag this huge, heavy, rolled up padded carpet three hundred feet down a long hallway.
Then I would have to make a sharp 90-degree right angle turn and squeeze my load through the short, narrow racket ball court doorway. I remember even more vividly, cleaning their filthy dirty bathrooms and toilets. Another required task of this job was to wipe down the benches in the men's sweaty locker rooms every hour. To my teenage mind, this was utterly disgusting stuff. I knew there had to be a better way to earn money.
I tried many other jobs as a teenager in need. I held multiple “bus boy” jobs. I was also a waiter and a clam shucker at a seafood restaurant called the Crab Shack. I also worked in a great hamburger restaurant called Around The Corner. This place served over 26 kinds of hamburgers.
I quickly moved up from burgers to steak, landing a job in a fine-dining restaurant called Bank's and Shane's. But that wasn’t enough. Not for me. I cut grass on the weekend, I painted address numbers on curbs, I cleaned gutters, I cut wood, I painted, I picked weeds, I raked yards, I sold greeting cards, I sold Cutco cutlery, encyclopedias and even women's perfume.
It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve seen a time clock, but I saw so many as a teenager that I can hear the sound now. I’d punch time clock after time clock to earn those pitiful pay checks that were handed out every two weeks. No matter how many times I hit the clock, those biweekly checks never seemed to add up to much. On top of that, the huge chunk of my money taken out --without my permission ---for taxes was startling to me.
Somehow I sensed this tax thing might be an unnecessary rip off. I had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that working hard for someone else was leading me down a dead end road.
I looked for alternatives to “hourly wage” jobs, and found one. While I was still in high school, I took a job at a rib joint called Tony Roma's Ribs. My best friend’s older brother worked there and he brought my friend and me onboard as bus boys.
This was my first experience working for tips. At last, I actually felt I had some control over my income. I learned very quickly the amount of tips I received from the bartender, waiters and waitresses was directly related to how much help I gave them during the shift. I figured out fast if I made their job easier by promptly clearing their tables, filling water glasses and having hot bread ready for them to take out to their tables, they’d be able to provide better service to the dining customer and make more tips. I was a fast, dependable team player. The waitresses loved working with me. They handed me more tips then they doled out to the other bus boys because of my excellent service I gave them.
Man, this job was fun. I had about ten of my high school friends working with me as bus boys, dishwashers and line cooks. Did we have a blast! And money! I was pulling in good cash money for a kid in high school. Best of all, Uncle Sam did not have his hand in my bus boy tip pocket. These jobs toughened my determination to call my own shots in business.
After I graduated Riverwood High school in Sandy Springs, I set off to pursue a more formal education. I was no straight A student. I could not wait to get out of school. I knew these classes on history, math and science would have no benefit for me. I applied to two southern universities:
The University of Georgia and the University of Alabama. I was accepted into the University of Alabama, so off I went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a small college town an hour north of Birmingham Alabama. I joined the only Jewish fraternity on campus, ZBT. Yes, it was fun. Let’s face it, attending college is not only about books and classrooms. It’s about segueing to adulthood, living on your own and testing your independence. This was my first experience living away from Mom and Dad. I met great people from all over the country and had a blast.
When the school told me I had to choose a major, frankly, I was stumped. I had no earthly idea what direction I wanted to go in. When they pressed me, I said, “Fine. I'll major in Home Economics. I found myself in classes with nothing but girls! Sure, I knew baking cakes and learning how to vacuum was probably was not a good direction for me if I wanted to be financially independent, but I liked those girls…….