It must be a product of aging, or perhaps it is just something that I alone experience.
But as I age (I am already in my 60s) memories from my past become clearer and clearer. Things that I saw and experienced many years ago, come back clear as a sunny summer’s day, and I can see things now that back then I could only guess at. One of these things was my first job which was at Taco Bell.
My first job.
This Taco Bell no longer exists.
Of course the corporation still exists, having penetrated and dominated every food market in the world, but this Taco Bell, my Taco Bell, is gone forever.
It was located on the corner of 11th Ave. and Camelback Rd. in Phoenix, Arizona. They tore it down years ago. But in 1975, it was first job I ever had as a 16 year-old sophomore in High School. It was quite an experience.
The owner of this Taco Bell was Mrs. Combs: a woman who had never owned a business or even worked at a regular job a day in her life. She was rich, and so was her “boyfriend.” (Yes, she was married to another rich guy, and was having an adulterous affair with her boyfriend.) Her wealthy boyfriend, as a “romantic gesture” bought her this Taco Bell as a birthday present. (Imagine being in your 40s, having never held a job, or owned a business due to the wealth of your husband and family, and your rich boyfriend buys you a Taco Bell restaurant in Phoenix? Yes, that is what un-earned wealth and privilege is like.)
At the age of 16, this was my first introduction to the huge gap between the “haves” (those who buy Taco Bells as birthday presents) and the “have-nots” (those of us who must work at Taco Bells for $2.10 an hour.)
Yes, minimum wage in Arizona in 1975 was $2.10 an hour. Look it up.
That Taco Bell I worked at in 1975 is very, very different from the Taco Bells in 2020 that dot the American landscape. Believe it or not, ALL of the food made back then was made from scratch.
I have vivid memories of soaking huge bags of pinto beans in huge vats of water and then, after soaking them overnight, the next day we cooked them. And after cooking them, we “refried” them and mashed them: all by hand, all from scratch. Even the meat was made from scratch. Every morning, we got deliveries of raw, fresh hamburger from the butcher shop, and we then cooked and seasoned the meat there in our store. Nothing was ever frozen or microwaved. (Microwaves were just beginning to show up in the market place. I think my Grandmother bought her first microwave in 1978.)
Even the red and green sauces were made from scratch.
When we opened at 11:00 AM everything we offered was fresh and made from scratch. There was no drive through and limited indoor seating. But people came in droves because it was fresh, wholesome and cheap.
I remember those days like yesterday.
I learned the value of hard work at $2.10 an hour.
And I learned that the rich in this country have no moral difficulties exploiting your poverty for their profit and employing you with no benefits at $2.10 an hour.