GAYS MILLS - During my late teens and 20s I had several different jobs.
The very first, official paycheck job I had was working for my neighbor, who ran a pro-life religious organization.
She had just had her first child and needed extra hands to stuff envelopes and type things that she would dictate to me. That second skill, more so than the envelope licking, came in quite handy later in life working at the Crawford County Independent. There, Charley would help me work through my poorly written headlines by pacing back and forth through the office rattling off suggestions.
As my teenage years continued, I also had your standard dishwashing job, gas station job and even a short stint at an orchard bakery.
It wasn’t until much later in life that I actually get a job that was doing something I was truly passionate about (aside from writing for the Independent-Scout of course). When I was about 23 or 24, I started working at the St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) Distribution Center in Madison.
I saw the job on the internet and although I was already gainfully employed working my beloved second shift as a ‘lead’ in a group home, I immediately applied.
I was called for an interview shortly after that and I could hardly contain my excitement. Because, you see the distribution site is like the Mother Ship for all of the amazing thrift store goods in the greater Madison area.
In my typical fashion, I was way too excited for the interview and talked way too fast and probably was too loud. Luckily for me, my talking wasn’t pointless space filling jive. I told the two women who were interviewing me that I actually had selected my little apartment on the corner of Jennifer Street and Baldwin, partly because of its ridiculously close proximity to their Willy Street store. I also shared with them my years of experience going to rummage sales with my grandpa, sharp eye for interesting objects and motto of one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.
The passion I felt for crap that people didn’t want anymore must have came through because they hired me on the spot.
I worked in a couple different spots, one of them being pricing and packing to go to the stores, which was cool but not nearly as exciting as pre-sort, which I requested to transfer to after another girl departed.
In Madison, the SVDP offers a free pick up service to anyone who wants to give away all of their stuff but cant transport it. The things people give away is incredible!
Over time, it seemed to me that families would have someone die, move out, or just disappear in some way that they would never again need every worldly possession they had owned. So, the next natural progression would be to call St. Vinnies. Frequently, it would appear that people never even looked through the boxes themselves to remove odd things like gold teeth and stuffed toads, illegal things like bags of weed and enormous glass smoking devices, gross things like dirty underpants and x-rated material, and sad things like love letters and family photo albums.
And I was on the frontlines of all of this glorious trash/treasure.
The truck drivers would load everything up in these gigantic cardboard boxes that would be stacked carefully to the ceiling awaiting pre-sorters like me to tackle the inventory.
I would push the enormous box over to my station with the pallet jack, oh so careful not to run anyone over. It became a source of great entertainment for all of the men I worked with watching the 5’2” me push along a six-foot plus box through a warehouse.
The next challenge became getting into the boxes to dig out the treasure and continue to sort. There was only one occurrence where I fell into the box, face first. This mostly elicited more laughter than help.
Working there though became a tough on the old paycheck, as I found all sorts of delightful treasures to drag home each day.
Although I ended up moving back here and retired from the world as a professional junk sorter, the fond memories of my days as the Queen of Trash remain.