Senior bag boy

Jeff Reeves

Guest Columnist

When you first got hired at Zack’s Grocery Store you would start in the Bag Boy Department. You were usually green, with no work experience at all, but glad to be employed. You would look up to the older and more experienced boys for guidance, and hope to learn the ropes quickly.

First of all, you were told to go bag a certain customer’s groceries. It didn’t take long to figure out why: some people tipped and some didn’t. You quickly learned which customers did. In 1970, minimum wage was $1.40 an hour, so with some good tipping involved you could usually make around $2.00 an hour. Not bad for your first job!

To climb the corporate ladder from the Bag Boy department, the older boys would advance to putting up stock, produce, or working in the meat department. All the other positions were good ones, but you did not receive any tips or get to go outside on a regular basis to talk to the girls who had come to the store with their mothers unless you were a bag boy.

I made the decision that I liked doing what I was doing and I would proceed to try to become “Senior Bag Boy.” Why not? You could pick and choose your customers, and the newer boys did not dare to bag groceries for your customers.

Time went on, and I was getting closer to the spot I wanted. Adair Dickerson, Jr. was Senior Bag Boy and I knew he had made plans to go off to college, which put me next in line. Fall came, Adair left, and I became Senior Bag Boy – the moment I had waited on for over a year!

One of my responsibilities as Senior Bag Boy came at the end of the work day. The cashiers put the contents of their cash registers in a cloth bank bag with a zipper and lock, and my job was to lock the bank bag into the store safe in the floor of the office. On this particular night when we closed the store and it was time for me to deposit the money bag in the safe, wouldn’t you know it: the safe would not open. I tried everything I knew to get it open, but nothing worked.

I tried to call Melvin and Bennie Carmichael, the managers. There was no answer, and remember back then there were no cell phones, no answering machines, and no beepers. When the phone rang and no one answered, all it did was ring. My next call was to Daryl, our assistant manager. No answer. The next and last call was to Zack, the owner of the store. No answer.

We were all ready to go home, but this had never happened before so there was no precedent for what to do. I had to make a corporate decision, and quickly! I decided I would take the money bag home with me where it would be safe, and take it back the next morning. Now there were a thousand places in that store I could have hidden it, but I knew that I would be held responsible if it came up missing.

We closed the store, and at the time I was not old enough to drive, so I put the money bag in a paper sack so you could not see what it was and walked home. Once at home, I went straight to my bedroom and placed the bag under my bed and did not breathe a word to anyone about what had happened.

The next morning I was to go in at 10 a.m. The person who was supposed to leave a note taped to the safe forgot to do it, and Bennie and Melvin had gone to open the safe that morning. When they finally got it open, they found no money bag.

They called our home and spoke with my mother, who of course knew nothing about the bag. She told Bennie that she would find out and call her back. My mom came back to my room and told me about the call and wanted to know what I knew about it. I said, “Oh sure, it is safe under my bed.” Well, I didn’t have to walk to work that day! When my mom drove me back to Zack’s, everyone was sure glad to see me! Zack himself had caught wind of what had happened and came to talk to me about the incident. He told me he was proud of me and that I made the right decision, and he rewarded me with a ten-dollar bill – half a week’s pay at the time. He thanked me and said I could be Senior Bag Boy for as long as I wanted. I thanked him for the reward, and I continued working as Senior Bag Boy until I left for college.

Jeff Reeves is a lifelong resident of McDonough and works at the Times as an advertising sales representative. He and his wife Betsy have one son.