Selling pretzels at high school football games
Remember the pretzel kid at those Saturday games
By Anthony Buccino
It was a terrific job. They sent me out from under the concrete bleachers
s the Indian Summer bids a hasty retreat while eventide arrives sooner and sooner, the novelty of the new school year quickly wanes.
The fall fashions have already made their flash in the school hallways, children wonder will this outfit be too warm for school or that outfit too cool?
This is the time of the school year when the older kids look forward to the big game on Saturday.
Nowadays, families struggle to be everywhere for each child’s Saturday games. That is why there is so much talk about cloning. First we start with sheep, then cattle, then mom and dad. It’s the only way to be everywhere at the same time.
In simpler times, like when I was in high school, there was only one game in town on autumn afternoons. First, we’d shoo the terrible terra-dactyls and dactylettes, then the field would be ours.
The big kids of the senior class and selected junior varsity guys would take to the field and roll around on the grass trying to do gym class routines in padding and uniforms so tight, we wondered how they could move at all, let alone play football. In the course of inter-school athletics, both teams had to wear the same restrictive uniforms to keep it all even.
For some of the younger players, this pre-game exercise was the only chance they would have to take the field, let alone get any dirt on their clean bright uniforms.
It was not simply for the sport of play on the field that we gathered. For the high school kids, this Saturday football game was as much a part of social life as any debutante ball or junior promenade.
On autumn Saturdays through those treacherous teen years the different age groups would appear at the high school game for sundry reasons. Most pre-teens actually went to watch the game and root, root, root for the home team.
The pubescents sought out their own, and like strange dogs meeting for the first time, they spied, sniffed and checked each other pubescent and gathered under the Saturday sun.
My best friend Teen Angel worked at a local bakery-deli for a few years. His uncle Harry pushed and pulled and got him in with Ed Strat at Belle Maid on Joralemon Street near the Rec House in Belleville.
In our junior year Teen Angel asked me if I wanted to make some money. At a time when it cost five bucks to fill the old VW Bug, a little cash came in handy. Teen Angel’s boss needed young men with weak minds and strong backs to hustle his wares at the Saturday football games.
It was a terrific job. I got to wear a harness that held the pretzel basket and a carpenter’s apron for my money and change.
They sent me out from under the concrete bleachers into the crowds and I yelled, “Pretzels! Pretzels!” and people would call me up the rows and rows of bleachers to buy a pretzel or two.
As first jobs go, there were lumps that tagged along.
There were always some smart aleck kids who timed it just right so that when you turned away, they could pelt you with a chunk of pretzel from your blind side. There was never any way to know who threw it. Such was the yoke of working in the real world.
And, of course, every sleazy classmate I spent my academic career avoiding suddenly professed undying friendship – now, if only I could sneak them a few free pretzels, my boss wouldn’t mind. After all, what are good friends for?
These guys would have been the first to clobber me with a chunk of pretzel.
When the game was over, Teen Angel and I headed back to the bakery-deli where he would work a while. I would wait around to get paid.
In the meantime he showed me around the empty back room. That’s where the bakers used the giant mixing bowls to make the dough to make the donuts. Teen Angel didn’t work in the kitchen, only at the counter, but he showed me what they used to make the crumb topping on coffee cake and crumb buns. It was a trade secret, more or less.
And I waited to get paid.
It wasn’t much of a pay, but it covered an LP or two. And at other times it filled the tank for my friends and me to make merry in those puerile days.
But after a season, I turned in my carpenter’s apron and the basket harness and left the concrete bleacher steps to others with weak minds and strong backs.
By my senior year I was much too sophisticated to hawk pretzels. It was all about image in the bleachers. I called the kid to come up a few rows. I bought a pretzel or two, for old time’s sake.
Original published Sept. 18, 1997, in Worrall Community Newspapers.
Adapted from RAMBLING ROUND Inside and Outside at the Same Time
Also appears in Greetings from Belleville, New Jersey collected writings by Anthony Buccino
Essays, photography, military history, more
New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
Permissions & other snail mail:
PO Box 110252 Nutley NJ 07110