Working in Paterson

Narratives of Work:
Stories Told by Retired Workers and Their Children

Early Lessons of Work

All the retired workers I interviewed described ways their parents shaped their outlook on work. Retired textile union executive Sol Stetin, for example, emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1921. He recalls contributing to his family's income as an eleven-year-old, not long after he arrived in Paterson.

I came to Paterson in January '21. I think that by the end of the year I was on the street selling newspapers. . . . So I began selling newspapers early. I always worked. I would sell papers right after school until eight- nine-o'clock at night. In those days you'd buy the papers and sell them. You'd get them wholesale. Either the Paterson News or the Paterson Morning Call or the Press Guardian. There were three newspapers in Paterson at the time. . . . And so I earned money to help my family. . . . At one time, I recall, I was somewhat of an entrepreneur. I used to also sell the New York papers, those were popular papers. . . . When the pink edition of the New York Daily News first came out — it was called the "bulldog edition" — I would go to New York, buy up 600 copies, bring them back. I'd go on the Erie Railroad, Chamber Street ferry to the New York Daily News, on Chamber Street, and bring them back and I'd have six or seven boys waiting for me to take the papers to sell.3

Recollections like this one not only provide facts about children's work in Paterson during the 1920s and 1930s, they also suggest how chores performed by children for the benefit of their families trained them to accept responsibility, learn skills, take pride in work, and cooperate with others.

3. Interview, Sol Stetin, Paterson, New Jersey, by David Taylor, August 4, 1994. ( Return to Text )



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