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Multiple jobs necessary

September 4, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

Ever since humankind chose to live in Adirondack country it has been the practice to purse many tasks to make a living; you might call it multijobbing. Those who tried to make it with just one job had to leave for greener pastures or to seek charity. Cash money was always scarce and neighbor helping neighbor was a way of life. And, "living off the land" kept the wolf away from the door.

Viola Whitman Handy, my aunt, and Allie Handy, my uncle, grew up in the Adirondacks and lived their adult lives in the southern Adirondacks. She was the one, who upon meeting a bear on the way home from school on West Hill near Wells, yelled to her father, "Grab the baby and run." Luckily for her, the bear did the running and she lived to be 94.

Viola was a great recorder. She liked to record dates and events in small dairies and booklets, and to wrap things in brown paper or place in jars, and write a note on the contents. She kept running diaries placing several years in the same booklet to record their daily lives. In 1932, she recorded their work from January through May. It is a good example of "multijobbing." In keeping with the main occupations of that region, the world-renowned glove and leather industry, Allie cut gloves in the glove shop and Viola sewed gloves at home and in the shops. Other sources of income to supplement their erratic industry paychecks included selling fishing bait, raising pheasants and foxes, selling tropical fish and canaries, selling chickens and eggs, charging power batteries, and selling antiques and collectables.

Each task in the "multijobbing" lifestyle required an outlay of time and energy, and sometimes a financial investment. It was not easy. Viola's journal on the fish bait business tells the story. On Jan. 4, they picked up bait in Troy and on Jan. 13, "am selling quite a lot of bait." On the 14th, it was back to Troy for more bait and on the 18th to Schuylerville "hunting up live bait." The bait business continued through January with "selling a lot of fish" and taking several trips to Troy. On Feb. 18, 1932, she noted "I am selling a lot of fish bait." On Feb. 20, "We went to Troy after a load of fish;" apparently, Troy was the main supplier for bait. They went to Troy again on Feb. 27 in a "terrible snow storm." Periodic trips to Troy, and sometimes Cohoes, were made throughout the rest of the winter and into spring.

The fish bait business was a good source of supplemental income. Viola recorded on Feb. 22, "sold 100 fish." On Feb. 25, "the fish are going fast," and on Feb. 26, "sold $9.50 worth of fish. On the 27th, "sold $28.00 worth of fish." On the 28th, $32, and on the 29th, $17.60 of fish was sold.

Other sources of income had their "ups and downs;" on Feb. 19, "my hens have slacked up laying eggs; they are now 35 cents per dozen." By March 5 they were enjoying a big business in eggs, "we delivered eggs to the city." Delivering eggs to Gloversville continued on March 19, April 2, April 22, April 29, and on April 30, "Allie gets some new egg customers." Allie delivered a battery to Frank Hares on Feb. 21. They went into the ice business on Feb. 20 and had their ice house filled with ice.

Their regular jobs never required full-time work. On Jan. 20, Viola noted, "Lou Jerome brought me some work, the first I have had since before Christmas; it is inseams at $1.15 per dozen." February must have been a little busy because "Mother is helping me with some gloves." When glove workers sewed at home it was never known who was working on the machine; sometimes children were called upon while mother was getting supper. On March 17, Viola recorded, "I have quite a little work." Again, on March 31, it picked up a little with "I have some work." On April 1, she was sewing "samples" for her employer.

Allie went "back to work" on Jan. 7 and on Jan. 19 "Allie goes back to work again." On Jan. 25, "Allie has nice work" but on Jan. 26, "Allie has no work tomorrow." It was not until April 18 that Viola recorded, "Allie goes back to work today." Fortunately, Allie was also a good musician and picked up some cash money playing for dances at "Deckers" and other places.

So it was, and is, in Adirondack country, "multijobbing" makes life possible and residents get to enjoy life in one of the best places in the world!



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