8 year old Entrepreneur Caught Red-Handed…
8 year old Entrepreneur Caught Red-Handed…
For those who don’t know, the F. W. Woolworth Company (often referred to as Woolworth’s or Woolworth) was a retail company that was one of the original pioneers, and arguably the most successful American and international five-and-dime stores, setting trends and creating the modern retail model which stores follow today, worldwide. (Wikipedia, F. W. Woolworth Company)
I don’t remember exactly, but my guess is that I was around 7 or 8 years old at the time of this story. Me, my oldest brother, and my best friend were coming home from the Boys Club one summer afternoon.
Now, to get from the Boys Club was quite a trek. It would take us about 30-45 minutes to get home on foot as we transited the downtown area, playing in the water fountains and stealing the coins along the way. What can I say, I was poor back then. Anyway, those coins would later serve another purpose.
Young Entrepreneur Caught Red-Handed – We Need a Manager at the Kids Department…
Our usual journey would be to hit the Sears store downtown to roam the store and borrow some of the M&Ms from the candy stand inside, until we would hear the loud speak sound off with, “We need a manager at the kids department, manager at the kids department please.” This was our cue to to get out of the store. Years later we realized that they those calls were not for us. Kids, eh?
At this point, we would usually go play on the railroad tracks, you know, so that we could “chunk” a few rocks at the hobos underneath the bridge or at a moving trains and parked boxcars.
By the way, “chunk” was a term we used back in Texas, or at least on the Eastside. I found out later in life that the correct term is “chuck.” Still, I like the word chunk. Because using that word reminds me of my youth, this particular story, and it reminds me of home.
Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to. – John Ed Pearce
Back to the story..
Final stop before heading home would be the Chicken Box, where we would pick up trash around the area for a free piece of chicken. They would give us a “chicken back” for all of our efforts, and they would sometimes toss in an iced cold grape soda. And of course, the more trash we picked up, the more chicken backs we received. We would even use some of our own money, the money we took out of the fountains along the way or the coins we found in the street gutters, to get the Chicken Box Special – “4 Backs for a Dollar.”
Now, we tried to keep this little occupation of ours a secret, because we didn’t want other kids moving in and negotiating a better deal with the owners. Entrepreneurship at its best, I guess. Anyway, after receiving our wages we’d head to the “back” side of the building (no pun intended) to consume our wages.
This particular day was out of the norm. We stopped by the fountains and Sears as usual; however, this time we decided to make an additional stop at another downtown establishment. We decided to check out Woolworth’s. Again, my mind skips me of why we did this. My guess is that big brother made the call, since he was the oldest and we tend to always listen to him. So, we went into Woolworth’s. We watched the fish in the aquarium, we looked at the clothes on the racks and we played with the toys in the kiddy department.
Kid Entrepreneur Caught Red-Handed at Woolworth’s
Then, we saw something that every kid loves more than a GI Joe with the kung fu grip, which was THE toy back then. We saw chocolate! Yep, loads and loads of chocolate candy bars. Being entrepreneurs (or plain silly), we saw this as an opportunity to feast and a means to make some extra money over the summer by selling these bars to the other kids in our neighborhood. So without haste, we loaded up.
My brother and Greg stashed candy bars into their pockets and inside their waistline. Me, I put my candy in my shoes. See, not too long before getting to Woolworth’s, we visited the fountains; so, I was still carrying my little turtles in my hand. I stuffed both of them with as much candy that would fit. Then we were on our way.
Well, we should have been on our way.. but Greg and I were fascinated by the aquariums. We stopped by for a final visit just so that we could watch the little fishy swim. My brother, he grew impatient and told us he would wait for us outdoors. After about 5-10 minutes we decided that it was time to go. However, before we could reach the door, the manager spotted us. He yelled, “hey, what are you kids doing?” Greg replied, “nothing, Sir.” He runs over to us and asked, “are you kids stealing?” We both nodded and answered, “no, Sir.”
He asked to see our pockets. I pulled out my pockets, nothing inside. Greg pulls out his pockets, and all the stolen candy falls to the floor. The manager then told me I could leave, but that Greg would have to stay and wait for the cops. I start heading for the door when Greg yells out, “He’s got candy too. It’s inside his shoes!” – Thanks Greg
Entrepreneur Caught Red-Handed & Learned a Hard Lesson
So, I was also nabbed. My brother, seeing everything through the window, took off running home. I am sure that if someone was timing him they would have precluded that he had set a world record for time and distance that day.
The manager gets on the phone to call the police station – line busy. He asked us for our home phone numbers and we obliged, because he told us that if we lied he would take us directly to the police station. He calls Greg’s house – line busy. He call my house – line busy. He then decides that he is going to let us go if we promise to never steal again. We obliged by saying, “We promise, we promise.”
Along the way home we were able to follow a trail of candy that my brother dropped as he was trying to either get rid of the evidence or to lighten his load. When we got home he told us that he ran home and immediately called Greg’s house, which must of been around the same time that the Woolworth’s store manager was trying to call our parents. Guess it was a good thing we didn’t have call waiting back then, eh?
I learned from that point on never to put my hands on anything that didn’t belong to me. In fact, I have had co-workers laugh at me or think I was crazy for some of the things I would do. For instance, sometimes while buying a snack from the vending machine it would vend me two items for my intended single purchase. Well, I would take the second item and place it on top of the vending machine in hopes that the “rightful owner” would come back for it later.
When people would see me doing this, they would tell me that someone who didn’t purchase the item was going to take it. Didn’t matter to me, I felt good doing the right thing. I’d do the same for coins found in the little coin return box. I would leave it there or put it in a place where “the rightful owner” would find it at a later date. Again, it just made me feel good to do the right thing, even when there was no one (except God) to witness my actions.
Moral of the Story:
Don’t take Greg with you on a heist.. LOL
Seriously, as the saying goes, “a hard day’s work is more gratifying than an easy day’s reward.” Not sure who said that, but it’s so true.
In some countries, they would cut your hand/arm off for stealing. But for us, we were let go with a simple slap on the wrist. And that little slap has been felt everyday since 1978.
Have you ever been caught stealing? Or, is there a lesson you learned as a kid that you would like to share? Regardless, please just comment to say “hi” and to let me know you were here. Also, “like” if you found my story of the “8 yr old Entrepreneur Caught Red-Handed ” interesting.