by Rev Robert Wendel
Every school day morning during my high school career, I ate oatmeal for breakfast. Many of those same nights, I enjoyed a piece of homemade apple pie. Some bitter cold mornings as the shafts of light illuminate my bedroom, I imagine that I hear my mother saying “Come, finish your dad’s oatmeal.”
Beginning in the late 1930’s, as soon as he married mom, before and after his hitch in the Pacific Theater in WWII, dad used the GI Bill and worked the 7AM to 3PM shift as a machinist in the steel mill on Neville Island in Pittsburgh. In 1958, Pittsburgh Screw & Bolt relocated its operation south to Mt. Pleasant, Pa. Our family set its roots down an hour south of the “Burg”. So, morning after morning, without fail, days started with hot oatmeal cereal.
For her part mom was a hospital trained nurse, working the 3PM to 11PM turn, doing what was later called ‘private duty’ home care for the wealthy home bound patrons first for $16 a night and later $21.00. As for dad, the most he ever took home from the mill was $7,000 in 1966. There they were, a hard working couple raising six children and a pet or two, all without extra help from grandparents or any “babysitters.”
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. I easily remember the big steel strike of 1959-60, before Federal Food Stamps, when things got so bad that dad and guys from the plant hard to stand in line for federal surplus canned pork and gravy, flour, sugar, lard, cheese and more beans than we kids could count. That pair of Christmas’ Santa’s sleigh made only a whistle-stop at our house.
Even during the rough times, mom continued her nursing duty while dad made dinner, many nights, remembering to “surprise” mom with a fresh made pie once she arrived home. So, there I’d be ready to hear her predictable, frequent question, “Bobby, do you want a piece of apple pie?”
This month we have celebrated another Labor Day holiday. What are the lessons my parents taught me around the virtue of honest Christian wage earning? As we kids were often reminded, “To get a good job, get a good education.” No matter what your work, be faithful to the tasks before you. Your most important job may well be raising the children the Lord brings into your life.