I was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York City. My parents moved east further out onto Long Island in increments.
They bought their first house when I was 4 years old. It was in a development of single-story, modestly sized homes. There were two bedrooms, one for my parents and one I shared with my brother, George. One bathroom served us pretty well.
The development had been built on land that was vacant except for one home. In that home lived a man who seemed ancient to me. He had what looked like 50 chickens in a variety of coops and 50 cats that were all over the neighborhood.
At some point relatively early in our lives there, this man got sick and went to the hospital, never to return. My parents commenced caring for the chickens and the cats.
When it was a day to have chicken for dinner my father would grab a chicken, which would make quite a racket at being caught, and chop its head off. The headless chicken would careen around the yard before it ceased all movement. My mother would then remove all the feathers, butcher it and prepare it for dinner.
Remember, we were 50 miles east of New York City in the early 1950s. Not a lot of our neighbors were doing this.
A contractor bought the house next door and started working on it with a couple of men. I remember sitting on a pile of dirt watching the work happen, completely entranced by the activity. This is what I wanted to do.
So I asked Mr. Svoboda for a job. I was 4 years old.
Mr. Svoboda said that I should come back and ask him for a job when I was older.
When I was 10, Mr. Svoboda built a new home for my parents about a mile away. The home was not that much bigger than our first home. However, it had more land and it was on a dead-end street a block away from our school.
I can still smell the fresh cut lumber that the house was built from. I remember standing on the floor deck after the 1X decking had been laid down diagonally and nailed off (this was before plywood became the norm). It was incredible to watch the house come together. I would try to guess what part would be built next.
When I was 15 I went to Mr. Svoboda and asked him for a job. He hired me as a carpenter’s helper. Some things were just meant to be.
Consider asking the potential employees you are interviewing when they knew what they wanted to do for a living. The earlier they knew, the more likely they will be to have more experience and a higher level of commitment than other candidates.
Plus, you will hear some pretty amazing stories!