Sometime in the summer of 72, I guess it must have been, I got a call from the State College asking if I wanted to be a Teaching Assistant. The pay was freaking pathetic. But who was I to complain. I was maybe 26 years old and had never had a credit card, though they weren’t around as much back then. But I didn’t have a checking account either. I had a savings account. I would put money in it, and when I needed some I would go to the bank and check out some hard cash.
I would put this money in a Prince Albert can and dole it out to myself. I got pissed when the bank started charging me for withdrawing cash more than a couple of times a month from my savings account. So I doubled the amount I took out and stashed the money in the Prince Albert can.
The most money I had made at that point had been working as a brick mason tender. I got about a 1000 a month for that; only about 650 for being an Assistant Manager at a Newberry’s Department. They would actually hand me a little pay envelope with cash in it down to the penny. When I worked the punch press I would go to the bank on Friday and cash the check. One day I got upset; that was hard work and it didn’t feel like I was getting paid enough. So I asked the woman at the window if it was maybe possible to get paid in gold. I wanted something heavy, not this light as air paper stuff. But she said no that was not possible though she could give me a roll of quarters if I wanted something heavier. I said no because I didn’t what use I would have for a fucking roll of quarters.
Still, even though the pay was piss poor, being a TA at the State College would give me enough to fill my minimal needs. While I kicked in some money time to time for food, I wasn’t paying rent for the room in my parents’ basement. So all I needed was money for some clothes now and then, for gas, for car insurance, for an occasional cup of coffee, a very occasional movie, and cigarettes. Now I would have to buy books, but I could check most of those out of the library and gas would be less since I would be TA-ing only three days a week. And to top it off, as long as I was TA-ing, I would get my graduate student fees paid for me. Right before fall quarter I quit my job on the loading docks of the Broadway Department store.
I figured I should dress up to teach, so I bought a couple of new pairs of jeans and some new blue work shirts that I wore all the time but not tucked in, and a new pair of work boots of the kind I had been wearing for years. Thankfully, when we had our first meeting, I saw the other TA’s must have been about as broke as I was because I didn’t feel out of place sartorially.
Our supervisor came in wearing an embroidered blue work shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He put his feet up on the table, kicked back, and said mostly, “The students here are politically alienated, intellectually stunted, and emotionally damaged. Don’t make matters worse.” That was our orientation to the teaching part. After that we learned where to get our parking stickers and where our offices were.
I didn’t have exactly what’s called an office. I didn’t have a desk either but a table located in the kitchen of what had formerly been an aparment building. I could dig it.