It wasn’t my first job. (My first job was church janitor.) It wasn’t my best job. (I kind of like preaching.) But it was a cool job: concessions at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
One of the perks of being a Douthwaite in South Phila? My uncle Jack Nilon had the concessions at Veteran’s Stadium, home of the Phillies and Eagles in the early 1970’s when I was in high school and college. My Aunt Catharine, whom we called “Aunt Smim,” pretty much ran the place and made sure I had a job there every summer through late high school and college. She also made sure I got to work one of the best concessions stands, right behind home plate on a level where I could watch most of the games. If we were busy, I could at least see the scoreboards and know what was going on. Those were good years for the Phils, who hosted the All Star game in 1976 and won the World Series in 1980. (Names from that year: Mike Schimdt, Steve Carlson, Tug McGraw, Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski, Gary Maddox, Pete Rose, Larry Bowa.)
I worked as a cashier, standing at a register just outside the booth where a host of other workers boiled and “bunned” the hot dogs, wrapped up hamburgers, and poured drinks. These were the days before some of the upscale food you pay big bucks for at professional sports complexes. Some games were really busy; others I spent most of my time watching the game.
Even though more than forty years have passed, I still have vivid memories of these days:
- A gentleman carrying a cardboard tray with six beers ($6 each back then) set them down on a fold out table to pay. The table collapsed, dowsing his pants with all that beer! It was impossible for us not to laugh, so we (we always had two cashiers outside each stand) got in big trouble because we did.
- Before the stand opened each night, I would help wrap hot dogs to stay ahead of the initial lines when the gates opened. Yes, we would deliberately wrap up empty buns, just to see the reaction when people went to put mustard or ketchup on their hot dog. At least it was funny back then.
- We got to eat whatever we wanted. The problem was, once you had a hot dog, some chips and a soda, you didn’t want all that much. Hey, keep in mind, this was the 70’s. They didn’t wear gloves to handle food. I couldn’t tell you how often new water was put in the hot dog boilers. Bones in a hamburger? Hey, I’m just the cashier.
- It was cool to be there for the All Star game as the nation celebrated the bicentennial in 1976. It as really cool to go to one of the World Series games in 1980. (I think I went to game 2.) I didn’t work any of the games, but I used my ID to get in and watch one of the games against the Kansas City Royals.
- I got to work a few other events during that time. I worked a few Eagles games when I was home from college. I also got to work a few Army-Navy games when they played at JFK Stadium. Boy that was an old dump of a stadium. You got into some of the concession stands by crawling through a hole in the wall to unlock the door from the inside. In the late 70’s, I think I worked a few Peter Frampton concerts there, too. One occasion, I was summoned from the concession and taken to an office because there was some kind of threat against my uncle. I don’t remember how that all turned out, but obviously, everything turned out OK.
- My Uncle Jack always had a bottle of Mylanta on his desk. Apparently, it was a stressful business. He took frequent sips from it. Yuk.
- Some of my friends also got jobs working concessions. On one occasion, as my Uncle Jack commented on his sizable schnoz to one of my friends, he said, “How’d you like to have this nose full of nickels?”
- I got in big trouble one summer. The Phils didn’t win the World Series every year, so some years, attendance was low and business was slow. One game, my cashier partner and I were taking turns bouncing a rubber ball against a wall and catching it. One of us missed a catch and it bounced past a customer who complained to someone. We got called onto the carpet, were chewed out, and then had to work a concession stand out in centerfield for a few weeks. Lesson learned. We didn’t do that anymore.
When I applied for a job at Subway in Ft. Wayne, during my seminary days, I think I put my concession – “food service” – experience on my application. I got the job. And it got me through seminary. Thanks, Uncle Jack.!