1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Working Jello Girl

www.galleryhip.com Was this my destiny?

Was this my destiny?

Working for a minimum wage of $1.25, I quickly became rich, rich, rich. And I witnessed a scrambled cafeteria secret, now revealed to the world.

I got my first real job, other than occasional babysitting, the summer before my junior year of high school. Actually, Mom arranged it. She worked in an office at a shirt-making guild and got me a summer position as cafeteria assistant.

Mom and I rode to work together. She drove and I slept.

Oh no, years later I still have a white uniform and a hair net!

Oh no, years later I still have a white uniform and a hair net!

I wore a professional white uniform and an ugly hairnet that made my bangs vanish. My face absolutely requires bangs. I pulled random wisps out for a bang illusion.

Like me, my boss’s name was Mary. We became Mary C. and Little Mary. I was Little Mary.

Minimum wage was $1.25; just call me Miss Moneybags. I returned to the same position the following summer, and the minimum wage jumped to $1.40. My first pay raise, by default.

My small cafeteria was located in the basement.

I helped prepare mass quantities of food and washed dishes, manually, as lunch was served and eaten. Serving looked like a lot more fun than dish washing. Another cafeteria worker with seniority in experience and age usually helped with the serving and left the washing to me. I had plenty of washing experience from my stint as a milkmaid.

One day, Mary C. pulled a large pan of fruited jello from the upper shelf in the refrigerator. It fell on the cement floor, landing upside down with a shlump.

After Mary C’s initial yelp of ‘Oh shit’, the three of us silently stood looking at the jello pan’s bottom, now facing up.

“Don’t tell anyone about this,” said Mary C., while scanning around for other witnesses. “I just mopped the floor this morning, so it’s okay.”

www.sizzleeats.com Never trust messy jello.

Never trust messy jello.

Hmmm, I never thought of the cafeteria floor as being so clean I could eat off it. I scanned the freshly mopped cement. My opinion didn’t change.

Usually, Mary C. served her jello in spatula’d rectangular blocks. Today’s dessert got scooped in messy chunks. I watched to make sure Mom didn’t take any jello, and later warned her never to select messy food.

When offered, I declined the leftover jello even though it was free.

Lesson learned: The saying ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you’ is up for debate. It probably works better if you’re the one in the know who has decided not to share the knowledge.

Now it’s your turn: Let’s hear your jello story!

Related posts: Chapter Twelve: Cow Poop, Barn Cats, and a Milk Maid

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Sunni Morris says:


    Very funny story, as usual. I agree it would be better to know about incidents ike this and not share the knowledge. How clean can concrete be, even after mopping? I bet this kind of thing happens often in restaurants. That’s when “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” comes into play.


    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thanks, Sunni. The good news is the jello was skimmed off the floor, leaving the thin layer that was dirty. This was a very small galley kitchen and my dishwashing station was around a corner, making an L.

  2. Funny story. I remember working in a McDonalds in 1966. It was summer time and the freezer had gone out, the hamburger was turned green and they still served it. I quit after that. I lasted a whole 2 weeks. I was 14. Wow! Long time ago.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love your stories, Mary, but Mary C certainly did not drop them pan of jello onto the cement…since cement is the powdered stuff that makes concrete. I made that mistake once in speaking with my mother. In no uncertain words she told me, “You are the daughter of an engineer, and you should never refer to concrete as cement.” OK lesson learned…

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thanks, Anon. I can never keep the two straight; cement, concrete, all the same to me. My husband owns a building supply business, including concrete forms, so I have no excuse.

  4. In the eighties I ran a restaurant in a seaside town. this story came to me through one of my customers. He told of a dining experience he and his wife shared at a competitor’s establishment, and why he would never return there.

    Apparently the doors to the kitchen in this establishment were partly concealed behind a servery counter at the side of the seating area. After a fairly well-prepared meal our diners ordered dessert, he an ice cream and she a creme caramel. The Maitre disappeared into the kitchen and a tense three minutes of silence followed, punctuated only by the distant clash of spoons. Then the Maitre re-emerged from the kitchen, ice cream and creme caramel balanced professionally upon one hand. He emerged, he tripped. He held his balance, stopped himself. The creme caramel kept going.

    Immediately aware he was now balancing an ice cream and an empty dish, the Maitre descended behind the servery as though a flight of stairs had magically appeared there and just as swiftly, just as seamlessly, re-ascended. The creme caramel was once more in its dish, looking a little shaken, but otherwise uninjured. It was served.

    It was not eaten.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Fred, this sounds like it should be a sketch on Saturday Night Live or Fawlty Towers. On the other hand, ‘Waste not, want not’. The crème caramel was not wasted and was not wanted.

      • I was told it was squelched in the dish like a curdled blancmange. Worse, it had ‘bits’ in it. I have other restaurant tales, but I hesitate to share them. On the other hand, as its you……

  5. kriskkaria says:

    I don’t like it anyway and after your story I will never ever eat it.

  6. spunkybong says:

    Enjoyed reading this one, Skinny. 🙂

  7. chsuresh63 says:

    Hahaha! Mary! Keep going like this and you will have us all hankering for the days when we were jumping around trees, anchored by our tails, and plucking fresh fruit off the branches 🙂

  8. Elle Knowles says:

    Oh my goodness! I’m glad I don’t eat jello. I’ll be on the lookout for messy food from now on too!

  9. […] posts: Chapter Thirteen: Working Jello Girl; Chapter Twelve: Cow Poop, Barn Cats, and a Milk […]

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